American actor Ryan Phillippe (Cruel Intentions) is in active discussions to take the lead role in the first ever NorthAmerican production to shoot entirely in Korea.

Unveiled on Saturday at the Pusan International FilmFestival, Expats tells the story of ayoung American who comes to Korea on an English teaching contract, looking tostart his life over again.Settling into the expat community in Busan (Pusan's new officialspelling), he gets mixed up with the local underworld and hatches a plan toswindle the Korean mafia.

Executive producer Henri Kessler (Slam) and producer Pliny Porter (Stepmom) have assembled 80% of the film's $6.5mbudget, and are nearing an agreement with a Korean distributor to come on boardfor the remaining 20%. NewYork-based Korean director and writer Chin Wonsuk (Too Tired To Die) plans to shoot for two months in Busan beginning inMarch 2005.

Other cast members attached include Jeffrey Wright (Basquiat) and Jared Harris (Resident Evil:Apocalypse). "We also hope to recruit well-known Korean actors once we have a local partner in place," said Chin.

The project marks a major coup for the Busan FilmCommission, which despite taking a leading role in the region, had yet to hosta major international production.

"I think they have a real diamond in the rough here inBusan," said Kessler. "Once the rest of the world sees what'savailable [for location shooting], it will be something special. I call it the Korean Monte Carlo."