Alex Pettyfer, Maria Bakalova, Frank Grillo and Tom Hopper will lead the cast of Kieron Hawkes’ crime drama Branded, based on an article by David Grann, a writer at The New Yorker magazine

The film is in pre-production ahead of an autumn shoot. HanWay Films has acquired international sales rights and will debut the film at Cannes; CAA Media Finance is selling for the US.

Hawkes will direct from a screenplay by Alessandro Camon, who received an Oscar nomination and won the Berlinale Silver Bear for The Messenger in 2009. 

Based Grann’s 2004 article ‘The Brand’, Branded tells the story of organised crime gangs in the US prison system. A once-promising footballer player serving a life sentence is taken under the wing of the leader of the dominant white gang in San Quentin prison. The footballer finds himself at the centre of a growing empire through which he can support his pregnant wife; but is forced to question his choices as the violence escalates.

It is produced by the US’ Identity Media in association with Dark Dreams Entertainment. Producers are Anthony Matromauro, Grillo and Camon; Pettyfer and Ash Avildsen are executive producers.

Branded is a second feature for UK director Hawkes, after 2012 horror Piggy. Grann’s articles have previously inspired films including David Lowery’s The Old Man And The Gun and Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Killers Of The Flower Moon starring Leonardo DiCaprio.