EXCLUSIVE: Morgan Freeman will star in the true story of showman Dr William Key and his trained horse.

Morgan Freeman will star in The Mark Gordon Company and Revelations Entertainment’s Beautiful Jim Key, which Cargo Entertainment is shopping to buyers in Cannes.

Cargo is financing with Two Ton Films. CAA, which represents Revelations and Freeman, packaged the project and represents US rights with The Gersh Agency.

Based on Mim Eichlar Rivas’ book Beautiful Jim Key, it is based on the true story of showman Dr William Key and his trained horse of the title.

When racism relegates the showman to carnival sideshows, he recruits former PT Barnum promoter Albert Rogers, now a washed-up drunk, and the pair turn the horse into a nationwide sensation and centrepiece of the 1904 St Louis Exposition.

Robert Rodat makes his feature directorial debut from his own screenplay and previously collaborated with Mark Gordon on The Patriot and Saving Private Ryan, for which both men earned Oscar nods.

Production is set to kick off in early 2015.

Joining Gordon on the producer roster are Revelations’ Lori McCreary, Cargo’s Marina Grasic and Rogers Hartmann. Clay Pecorin and Russell Geyser from Two Ton and Michele Wolkoff from The Mark Gordon Company are executive producers.

“Bob and I have had a long and fruitful collaboration over the years and I am so excited to be working with him on his directorial debut,” said Gordon.

“The story of Dr William Key, his horse, Beautiful Jim Key, and their partner, Albert Rogers, is one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever come across,” said Rodat. “The key element in my vision for this film is that we see both the light and the dark, that we have a wide, emotional, tonal and visual spectrum.”

“Every once in a while a story comes along that is the perfect confluence of real events and profound truth,” said McCreary. “And every once in a while there is a character that is written so well, that it deserves Morgan Freeman’s presence. Beautiful Jim Key is both.”

Cargo CEO, Marina Grasic said: “I’m thrilled to be working with such great talent on one of those rare pictures that will inspire and entertain audiences worldwide.”