Oscar-winners Mel Gibson and Sean Penn will join forces for the first time to star in the film adaptation of Simon Winchester’s bestselling novel, The Professor And The Madman: A Tale Of Murder, Insanity, And The Making Of The Oxford English Dictionary.
The film follows Sir James Murray (played by Gibson), who served as the primary editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for nearly 40 years, and Dr. W. C. Minor (played by Penn), a deranged killer who for 20 years was one of the OED’s most reliable contributors. Minor, a former surgeon, was forced to contribute posts to the OED from an asylum, where he’d been committed after murdering a man in London.
Gibson acquired the film rights to The Professor and the Madman in 1998. The film marks the first time that Braveheart Oscar-winner Gibson and two-time Best Actor winner Penn have appeared together on-screen in their careers, though both began working in Hollywood at around the same time, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Farhad Safinia, who co-wrote the Gibson-helmed Apolcalypto, has been tapped to direct The Professor and the Madman.
Producers are looking to begin principal shooting for the film in September in Europe.
Gibson’s last acting gig was in 2016’s Blood Father, which saw the 60-year-old play an ex-con who has to protect his his estranged 16-year old daughter from murderous drug dealers. His latest directorial effort is the World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge, which opens in theaters in November.
Penn last starred in this summer’s animated blockbuster, The Angry Birds Movie. His latest directorial effort, The Last Face, was eviscerated by film critics following its world premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.