Increasingly active UK distributor Contender, backed by Entertainment One, has taken UK rights for Mr Nice, sold by UK-based sales company Independent.

Another sister company owned by E1, Seville Pictures, has taken Canadian rights.

Independent's Luc Roeg is producing the film with Independent also handling worldwide sales.

Mr Nice is based on Howard Marks' autobiography, about his criminal activities in the 1980s before he was busted and sent to prison in America. Rhys Ifans will play Marks.

Bernard Rose will direct and the film will shoot at the end of 2008.

The deal was negotiated by Independent's head of sales Abigail Walsh and MD Andrew Orr with Contender Films director Alex Hamilton and acquisitions manager Jo Sweby.

Walsh of Independent said: 'Contender are fast becoming one of the most important companies in the UK and we firmly believe that their ambition and enthusiasm will maximise the potential of this hilarious and touching film.'

Alex Hamilton of Contender added, 'Mr Nice is a fascinating commercial project and we are delighted to be in business with Independent. Contender are setting themselves up to be one of the 'go to' places for commercial British films.'

Independent is also selling Rose's The Kreutzer Sonata. Their sales slate also includes Richard Jobson's New Town Killers, Duncan Jones' Moon, and Noel Clarke's Adulthood.