By Joey Nolfi
August 02, 2016 at 05:51 PM EDT
Laurent Viteur/FilmMagic; Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

The Professor and the Madman

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Fresh from showing his latest directorial effort, The Last Face, at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Sean Penn is in talks to star alongside Mel Gibson in the upcoming historical drama The Professor and the Madman, EW can confirm.

Penn is currently in negotiations for a role in the adaptation of Simon Winchester’s book of the same name (originally titled The Surgeon of Crowthorne), which follows the true story behind the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. If cast, the actor will play Dr. W.C. Minor, an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane, who submitted more than 10,000 entries for inclusion in Professor James Murray’s early literary compilation that would eventually become the OED.

Mel Gibson acquired the rights to develop Winchester’s book all the way back in 1998, after winning Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director for his work on 1995’s Braveheart, though he opted to direct 2004’s The Passion of the Christ as his follow-up directorial effort instead. Gibson is also set to star in the film as Murray.

Though he initially took on the rights to adapt The Professor and the Madman as director, the Mad Max star will reportedly hand over the duties to Farhad Safinia, who previously co-wrote the screenplay for 2006’s Apocalypto with Gibson.

The Hollywood Reporter, which first broke news of Penn’s involvement, also reports Voltage Pictures, the company behind Oscar players like The Hurt Locker and Dallas Buyers Club, will likely sell the film to international buyers this Sept. at the Toronto International Film Festival ahead of production kicking off in Oct. in Europe. Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, which Lionsgate is relesing domestically on Nov. 4, will screen at the upcoming Venice Film Festival.

This post has been updated.

The Professor and the Madman

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