In the first movie being made under his Neverland Pictures banner, Michael Jackson will play a werewolf in a project he will also produce called Wolfed. Rick Baker, Oscar-winning makeup expert who created the werewolf effects for An American Werewolf In London and Thriller, is already on board

Neverland's financing and sales partner Mark Damon and his MDP Worldwide is introducing the $30m project to buyers in Cannes.

The film will be a Gothic thriller faithfully adapted from the little-known Alexandre Dumas novel The Wolf Leader. It tells the story of Thibault, the son of a shoemaker in 17th Century France, who is nearly beaten to death by a group of aristocrats and is saved only by making a pact with the devil which appears as a large black wolf. The devil offers Thibault the power to harm or kill anyone he wishes, but the more evil acts he commits, the more he starts turning into a wolf and becoming one of a pack of killer wolves.

Jackson first became fascinated by werewolves after seeing John Landis's 1981 movie An American Werewolf In London and he subsequently hired Landis to direct the ground-breaking 14-minute music video Thriller, which is often voted best video of all time. Ironically Damon handled international distribution of An American Werewolf In London.

No director is yet attached to Wolfed, although a screenwriter is currently in negotiations to begin work on the adaptation. Jackson's partner in Neverland Raju Patel is co-producing with Jackson, who, said Damon, will supervise all script development and casting decisions. Sammy Lee, Damon, Lawrence Mortorff and Ron Moler are executive producers.

Baker's other credits include Planet Of The Apes, Dr Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas, the upcoming The Hulk and Mike Nichols' 1994 hit Wolf which starred Jack Nicholson as a werewolf. He has won six Oscars for The Grinch, Men In Black, The Nutty Professor, Ed Wood, Harry And The Hendersons, and An American Werewolf In London.