France's StudioCanal is close to finalising a deal to fully finance and handle worldwide sales on Roman Polanski's next project, The Pianist, a $35m adaptation of the novel by Polish writer Wladyslaw Szpilman.

Polanski's own outfit, RP Productions, is producing the project which is scheduled start shooting either at the end of 2000 or beginning of 2001. StudioCanal France and Bac Films have co-acquired French rights. Polish partners are also likely to be involved as the film is to be shot in Poland.

Set in the Warsaw ghetto, The Pianist is the true-life memoirs of pianist Szpilman who managed to survive the World War II concentration camps. It describes the dehumanisation of the Warsaw Jews while showing Szpilman's humanity and courage in the face of the atrocities around him.

The film marks the first time that Polanski has tackled the holocaust. The Polish-born director lived in the Krakow ghetto as a child and although he escaped his entire family was wiped out. He was offered Schindler's List, which was set in the Krakow ghetto and the city's concentration camp, but turned it down because he didn't want to revisit such hideous memories.

No cast is yet attached to The Pianist. Ronald Harwood is writing the adaptation.