Colin Firth, 'Shakespeare in Love' Director Team for WWII Drama 'Operation Mincemeat'

Colin Firth in 2017 - H Getty 2018
Han Myung-Gu/Getty Images

John Madden will direct the Cannes-bound project from a screenplay by 'Masters of Sex' creator Michelle Ashford.

The 2019 Cannes film market has landed itself another prestige project with multiple Academy endorsements. Colin Firth, who won the best actor Oscar for 2010's The King's Speech, is teaming with John Madden, who directed 1998's best picture winner, Shakespeare in Love, for Operation Mincemeat, billed as a "stranger than fiction" true story set across WWII Europe. 

Emmy nominee Michelle Ashford (Masters of Sex) wrote the screenplay, based on Ben Macintyre's bestselling book. 

Set to go into pre-production later this year, Operation Mincemeat is set in 1943 as the Allies are determined to launch an all-out assault on Fortress Europe. But they face an impossible challenge: to protect a massive invasion force from entrenched German firepower and avert a potential massacre. It falls to two brilliant intelligence officers, Ewen Montagu (Firth) and Charles Cholmondeley, to dream the most inspired and improbable disinformation strategy of the war, a lunatic and dangerously precarious undertaking centered on the most unlikely of secret agents: a dead man.

See-Saw Films, reuniting with Firth for the first time since The King's Speech, co-produces with the Cohen Media Group in association with Archery Pictures. Operation Mincemeat is being produced by Charles S. Cohen, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Kris Thykier. FilmNation Entertainment alongside See-Saw’s in-house sales arm, Cross City Films will be launching international sales at this month's Cannes, with CAA Media Finance co-repping U.S. rights.

“In the context of WWII narratives, the story of Operation Mincemeat is unique – a bizarre and seductive cinematic blend of high-level espionage and ingenious fiction, where the stakes could hardly be higher," said Madden, who alongside Shakespeare in Love, which won seven Oscars, directed The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, plus Mrs Brown, Proof, The Debt and Miss Sloane. "Michelle Ashford’s script fuses multiple strands and moods: tense, romantic, thrilling, unexpectedly funny, and endlessly surprising. It tells a richly human story of the soldiers we seldom see, who fight a different kind of war in shadows and deception, haunted by the knowledge that certainty and guarantee of success are nowhere to be found."

Added See-Saw's Canning and Sherman: "Operation Mincemeat is an incredible portrait of wartime Britain and how unconventional minds were able to shift the course of the war from the shadows. John is the ideal director to bring Ben’s book and Michelle’s stunning adaptation to the screen. Colin is the perfect re-imagining of Ewen Montagu, a man of substance, swagger and sensitivity. We couldn’t be more excited to be bringing this extraordinary team together."

Producer Charles S. Cohen said: “After optioning the acclaimed book by Ben Macintyre and assigning talented screenwriter Michelle Ashford, we are thrilled that Academy Award-winning actor Colin Firth, will join celebrated filmmaker John Madden in bringing this extraordinary, fantastic and true story to audiences around the globe.” 

Simon Gillis, See-Saw’s COO of film, will serve as executive producer.

Madden is repped by CAA in the U.S., Casarotto Ramsay & Associates in the U.K., and Bloom Hergott Diemer Rosenthal LaViolette Feldman. Ashford is represented by CAA and Gendler & Kelly. Firth is repped by CAA in the U.S. and Independent Talent Group and Prosper PR in the U.K..