Downton Abbey star Maggie Smith will reprise her stage role in TriStar Productions and BBC Films’ screen version of The Lady In The Van.

Nicholas Hytner will direct the story from Alan Bennett’s adaptation of his play about an eccentric woman who parked her van in Bennett’s driveway and stayed there for 15 years. Alex Jennings will play both Bennett and his alter ego, AB.

Principal photography is scheduled to begin in October in London and the parties have earmarked release for the second half of 2015.

TriStar will distribute worldwide through the Sony pipeline while the BBC has taken the first TV window in the UK and made an additional investment in production costs. 

Damian Jones and Kevin Loader will produce with Hytner. Miles Ketley and Charles Moore serve as executive producers.

Hytner and Bennett previously collaborated on The History Boys and The Madness Of King George.

Tom Rothman’s TriStar Productions nascent slate includes Ricki And The Flash, in which Jonathan Demme directs Meryl Streep from a screenplay by Diablo Cody, and Robert Zemeckis’ untitled film based on Philippe Petit’s memoirs To Reach The Clouds starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Rothman said: “The Crucible, The Madness of King George and The History Boys are among the films in my career of which I am the most proud. 

“Nick is rarely gifted and the chance to work with him and Alan again is sweet indeed. They make brilliant things. And Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings bring such intelligence to glorious life.”

Hytner said: “My collaboration with Alan Bennett has been at the centre of my creative life and this true story is perhaps his most compelling and remarkable. Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings are two of Britain’s greatest actors, and they – like Kevin Loader and Damian Jones – are old colleagues.

“And it gives me particular personal pleasure to be working again with Tom Rothman, my longest standing friend in the American film industry.”