EXCLUSIVE: Dome Karukoski, here in Toronto with Heart of a Lion, is now set to direct his first English-language film, a biopic of groundbreaking artist Tom of Finland.

This will be the only authorized biopic of the artist as cleared by the Tom of Finland Foundation.

Tom of Finland was famous for his groundbreaking sexually explicit drawings of muscular men; his work is in collections at MoMA and LACMA.

Producers Helsinki-filmi have secured exclusive rights to the entire archives and all images from the artist. “We are working quite closely with the Foundation,” producer Aleksi Bardy told Screen. “It was very important for them that we wanted to respect the copyrights for his work. He has been pirated so much over the years.”

“I think it’s a story of liberation, it’s a very universal story,” Bardy added.

Casting of an international actor will be announced in early 2014 and the film will start shooting in December 2014. “We don’t want to make a niche film,” Bardy said. “This is a universal story and we need an actor of a certain level.”

The film will shot in Finland, Germany and North America.

The story will be about his background where he suffered with anti-gay police brutality in Finland, his life during World War 2, how he conquered American and how he influenced the gay community worldwide.

“Helsinki-filmi share our vision of how to bring Tom’s life and work to the screen”, says Durk Dehner, president and co-founder of the LA-based Tom of Finland Foundation. “We are very happy to work with them on the first and only authorized portrayal of this groundbreaking artist”.

Karukoski’s films also include Lapland Odyssey.