Fresh from the success of his WWI epic Passchendaele, Canadian actor Paul Gross has signed for the lead in writer-director William Phillips' Gunless, a fish-out-of-water tale of a US gunslinger in the distinctly unwild Canadian West.

The project will be coproduced by Toronto's Rhombus Media and Vancouver's Brightlight Pictures. Rhombus chief Niv Fichman will produce alongside Brightlight's principal Steve Hegyes in the Ontario-British Columbia co-venture. Fichman told Screen International the film will be budgeted in the C$8m range. Rhombus produced Passchendaele with Gross' Whizbang Productions. Having earned over $4m, it is the highest grossing Canadian film of 2008.

Gross will play a six-shooter packing cowboy who finds himself in a slightly more civilized Canadian frontier town. Fichman said the project, which he compared with Bill Forsyth's classic Local Hero, is aimed at the international market. 'It's a quirky comedy. It plays with the Canadian brand. It makes fun of us and the Americans. This guy is trying to make sense of a gun-less society.'

Fichman said Phillips has been developing the project with him for the past three years. His previous credits include the 2003's crime caper Foolproof and 2001's Treed Murray.

Backers include Telefilm Canada and the tax credits courtesy of the governments of British Columbia, Ontario and Canada.

Shooting is set for the spring in the semi-arid British Columbia interior.