Cannes: Morgan Freeman to Star in Period Drama 'Beautiful Jim Key'

Morgan Freeman AFI Awards - P 2012
Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Morgan Freeman AFI Awards - P 2012

Screenwriter Robert Rodat ("Saving Private Ryan") will make his directorial debut with the drama.

Morgan Freeman has signed on to star in Beautiful Jim Key, a drama from Cargo Entertainment, the company said Friday.

Robert Rodat, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter who wrote Saving Private Ryan and The Patriot, is making his directorial debut with the project, whose international rights Cargo is selling in Cannes.

Jim Key tells the true story of ex-slave, Civil War veteran and self-taught veterinarian Dr. William Key who trained a horse named Beautiful Jim Key to read, spell and do math. Because he is black, Key is relegated to carnival sideshows until he recruits Albert Rogers, a one-time promoter for P.T. Barnum, who is now a washed up drunk, to be his frontman. Together they make Beautiful Jim Key a national sensation and become the centerpiece of the world famous 1904 St. Louis Exposition.

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Mark Gordon is producing with Lori McCreary of Revelations Entertainment, Freeman's production banner. Also producing are Cargo Entertainment's Marina Grasic and Rogers Hartmann. (The drama will mark the third collaboration between Gordon and Rodat, as Gordon produced Private Ryan and Patriot).

Clay Pecorin, Russell Geyser from Two Ton Films and The Mark Gordon Co.'s Michele Wolkoff are executive producing.

"The key element in my vision for this film is that we see both the light and the dark, that we have a wide, emotional, tonal and visual spectrum," said Rodat in a statement.

Rodat wrote the script based on a book by Mim Eichler Rivas.

"Every once in a while a story comes along that is the perfect confluence of real events and profound truth," said McCreary. "And every once in a while there is a character that is written so well, that it deserves Morgan Freeman's presence. Beautiful Jim Key is both."

Freeman was just seen in Transcendence and will appear with Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson's Lucy.

Freeman and his Revelations Entertainment are repped by CAA, which is repping the film with Gersh for domestic rights.

Rodat is repped by Gersh.