Exclusive Media Group and newly launched Cross Creek Pictures will finance and co-produce political drama The Ides Of March with George Clooney and Grant Heslov’s Smoke House Pictures and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions.

Clooney will direct and star alongside Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood.

Exclusive Films International, under Exclusive Media Group co-chairman Guy East and president of international sales and distribution Alex Walton will commence pre-sales at AFM next week.

Clooney and Heslov adapted the screenplay with playwright Beau Willimon, based on his award-winning play Farragut North, which debuted on Broadway in 2008. Further casting announcements are anticipated and the film will begin photography in February 2011 in Michigan and Ohio.

The Ides Of March is billed as an “intense tale of sex, ambition, loyalty, betrayal and revenge” and follows a young press spokesman who falls prey to backroom politics, the treacherous manipulations of veteran operatives and the seduction of a young intern.

Clooney plays Governor Morris and Democratic candidate in the presidential primary race. Gosling, drawing awards heat for his performance in BlueValentineand is currently shooting Drive in Los Angeles, plays his press spokesman, Giamatti plays a rival campaign manager, Tomei plays a reporter for the New York Times, and Wood plays an intern for the campaign.

Smoke House and Appian Way will produce The Ides Of March and Exclusive and Cross Creek Pictures are financing.

“We are thrilled to partner with such strong creative talents as George and Grant. This has been a long-gestating passion project of theirs and we are thrilled to help bring it to the fore,” Cross Creek president Brian Oliver said. Cross Creek is one of the backers of Fox Searchlight’s Black Swan.

“This is such a powerful project, the marriage of great material with huge talent behind and in front of the camera,” Exclusive Media Group co-chairman Nigel Sinclair said. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Cross Creek, Smoke House, and Appian Way.” 

“George Clooney has a proven track record for making and starring in commercial films of the highest quality,” East added. “He and Grant are a world class creative team. We are excited to bring their next film to our distribution partners, and ultimately to audiences around the world.”

CAA packaged and raised the financing for the project and is representing domestic distribution rights.

Cross Creek Pictures is a film fund formed by Timmy Thompson and a consortium of private business investors from Louisiana and Texas.

The company finances its films through equity, tax incentives and international sales. The goal is to finance up to five films a year with ranging budgets. It is also producing The Woman In Black, which Exclusive is selling overseas, and has more than ten projects in various stages.

These include the comedy Bathing Suits written by Buck Henry, a Steve McQueen biopic written by Jesse Wigutow and the Boston-set Irish mafia tale Black Mass that was previously set up with Michael Cerenzie and Christine Peters.