Pathe Pictures and Lions Gate Films have boarded Menno Meyjes' directorial debut Max, formerly known as Hoffman, which will start principal photography in Hungary on Nov 5 with a cast headed by John Cusack, Noah Taylor, Leelee Sobieski and Molly Parker.

Pathe International will handle international sales and Lions Gate domestic rights on Max which is an Alliance Atlantis/Andras Hamori production in association with JAP Films and Natural Nylon Entertainment. Pathe will itself handle distribution in the UK, France, Benelux and Switzerland.

Alliance Atlantis, which has always been involved in the project through its relationship with producer Hamori and his H20 Pictures, is handling Canadian rights and the company's Seaton McClean (president of Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Production) is producing with Hamori.

Co-producers are Andrea Albert, Damon Bryant and Bradley Adams. Executive producers are Jonathan Debin, Francois Ivernel and Cameron McCracken.

Meyjes, whose screenwriting credits include The Color Purple, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, Empire Of The Sun and The Siege, has also written Max which tells the story of Max Rothman, a celebrated art gallery owner (Cusack) who meets fellow war veteran Adolf Hitler (Taylor) in Munich shortly after the First World War. Max takes Hitler under his wing and encourage him to paint but the young Hitler fails at art and transfers his talents to politics.

"It's a study of evil as it relates to art and politics," explains John Cusack. "It's a very responsible piece and I'm thrilled to be doing it."

Max is the fourth film to be be produced by Hamori in the last two years after Ronny Yu's The 51st State, Lynne Ramsay's Morvern Callar and Richard Kwietniowski's Owning Mahowny.

The film will shoot for nine weeks in Budapest, followed by post-production in London and Toronto for delivery in Summer 2002. Among the behind-the-camera talent are director of photography Lajos Koltai (Malena, Sunshine), production designer Ben Van Os (The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover, Orlando) and costume designer Dien Van Straalen (The Pillow Book, Orlando).