EXCLUSIVE: Cillian Murphy to co-star opposite Bryce Dallas Howard in thriller.

Memento Films International (MFI) has acquired international rights to Jason Lew’s directorial debut The Free World.

Actor and writer Lew previously wrote the screenplay for Gus Van Sant’s Restless, about the relationship between a terminally ill girl and a boy obsessed with death, which opened Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2011.

Irish actor Cillian Murphy, soon to be seen in Transcendence and Ron Howard’s Heart of the Sea, is set to co-star opposite Bryce Dallas Howard in the thriller. Howard’s upcoming credits include Jurassic World.

Murphy will play Mohamed “Mo” Lundy, a man trying to re-adjust to civilian life after a brutal 20-year stretch for crimes he did not commit.

His world collides with Doris Lamb (Howard), a mysterious woman with a violent past. Mo will do anything for this woman include risking his newfound freedom.

The film is scheduled to begin principal photography in the autumn. Pre-sales will begin at the EFM in Berlin next week.

Laura Rister of Untitled Entertainment is producing the project. Her recent credits include Robert Redford-starrer All is Lost, Lovelace, The Iceman, Margin Call and Lawless. She is currently completing Matt Shakman’s debut feature Cut Bank starring John Malkovich, Liam Hemsworth and Bruce Dern.

Emilie Georges and Nicholas Shumaker are executive producing for Paris-based MFI.

“We’re excited for Jason to join MFI’s well curated line-up. He is an incredible storyteller,” they said in a joint statement.

“The script caught us completely off guard, it’s original and fresh and a warm look into readjusting into society.”

“Laura Rister’s eye for new talents is amazing and we’re sure that Jason’s film will be a great addition to our slate of ambitious and talented directors from the US,” added MFI sales and acquisitions chief Tanja Meissner.

The deal was negotiated by Georges and Shumaker with Rister and WME Global. WME Global will handle North American rights.

Murphy is represented by CAA, Lou Coulson Associates and The Lisa Richards Agency. Howard is represented by Management 360 and ICM.