Joshua Michael Stern's broad political satire Swing Vote, which opened through Disney's Touchstone label on Aug 1, is about as timely as it gets.

With Barack Obama and John McCain both campaigning to take control of the White House in November, Stern's tale of a hapless single father who through a quirk of fate holds the key to the presidential election works as light entertainment, family drama and provocative speculative fiction.

'The story came from a sense my writing partner (Jason Richman) and I had about politics, complacency and where the country was headed,' Stern says. 'Two years ago we felt the next election was going to be a really important one because so many things had gone wrong. We couldn't have predicted the relevancy at the time.'

Stern believes Kevin Costner, who stars in and produced the story, is 'the best I've seen him in a while', as the everyman struggling to do the right thing.

Stern's first film was the 2005 fantasy Neverwas and he is busy preparing an adaptation of King Lear in the $35m budget range that will star Anthony Hopkins, Keira Knightley, Gwyneth Paltrow and Naomi Watts.

Stern says he is driven by 'a lack of fear' and has no qualms about being a non-Englishman venturing into hallowed Shakespeare territory: 'I don't take the material lightly and I believe Shakespeare is like any mythology and open to many interpretations.'

The cast will speak the original language and the story will be set in Roman times shortly before Julius Caesar invades England. 'It's such a visual time. It was a desperate time - a time when land meant so much - so the notion that the king divided his land becomes so much more significant and explains the actions of the daughters.

'There's nothing lofty about it. Take the anxiety of Naomi Watts in 21 Grams and transpose it to that world where she poisons her sister, and you'll get the idea.'

There will be two big battle sequences including when Cordelia returns to England with the French army, which takes place off stage in the play. 'My vision for this,' Stern says, 'is extremely raw and very bloody.'

London-based Ruby Films chief Alison Owen is producing and the film-makers are scouting locations in Scotland and Yorkshire ahead of a possible early 2009 shoot.