Jonathan Rhys Meyers has been tapped for a starring role in Damascus Cover, a true life spy thriller set to begin shooting this week in Casablanca. Rhys Meyers plays an undercover agent sent to Syria in 1989 to smuggle a chemical weapons scientist and his family out of Damascus. John Hurt, Olivia Thirlby, Igal Maor, Jurgen Prochnow and Navid Negahban also star.

Produced by UK-based Big Book Media, the film is based on the best-selling 1977 novel by Howard Kaplan. Daniel Berk (Public Enemies) will direct, based on a script he wrote with Samantha Newton. Hannah Leader (Gosford Park) is the producer.

“I’m enormously excited about this role,” said Rhys Meyers, fresh from filming Stonewall. “This was a hugely significant time in the conflict in the Middle East, post-cold war and with the collapse of the Berlin Wall when spies were redeployed to the Middle East, where the theatre of covert operations would now take precedence.”

Berlinale 2015 will mark the official sales launch of the film, with London-based Carnaby International handling worldwide sales.