EXCLUSIVE: Will Ferrell has been set to star in comedy Tom’s Dad for Oscar-nominated director Lasse Hallström. The news was announced today by producers Joni Levin and Keith Clarke of Point Blank Productions (Ben Hur); Christi Dembrowski and Johnny Depp of Infinitum Nihil; and Arsenal’s John Ptak (The Way Back). Principal photography is slated to begin early next year, with further casting underway.

Fortitude International, the sales, finance and production outfit co-founded by Nadine de Barros, Robert Ogden Barnum and Daniel Wagner, has foreign sales on the project that’s being introduced to buyers here in Cannes. UTA is repping domestic.

The story is set in 1960s Nevada, where Arthur (Ferrell) is a struggling nightclub performer hoping to make it big with his stage act that involves circus animals. When his ex-wife departs on a three-week trip, he’s forced to reconnect with his estranged 12-year old son, Tom, leaving the pair to rekindle their father-son relationship. Martin Casella (One Night Stand) wrote the original screenplay with revisions by Clarke.

“When great talent like Will Ferrell and Lasse Hallström connect so personally to great material, you have to believe the Movie Gods are on your side,” says Levin.

De Barros adds, “Will Ferrell is one of the most in demand actors working today who drives audiences to theaters given his likeable and charismatic persona. Combined with the sensibility and artistry of director Lasse Hallström, Tom’s Dad promises to be both entertaining and delightfully heartfelt.”

Ferrell is coming off of Warner Bros’ comedy Get Hard which has grossed over $100M worldwide. He’s next up in Paramount’s Daddy’s Home with Mark Wahlberg and is currently shooting sequel Zoolander 2. He’s repped by UTA and Mosaic.

Also repped by UTA, three-time Oscar nominee Hallström last directed charmer The Hundred Foot Journey. His other recent credits include Salmon Fishing In The Yemen and the Swedish-language The Hypnotist. He previously directed producer Depp in Chocolat and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

Peter D. Graves (Terminator Salvation) is exec producing Tom’s Dad, as well as providing marketing and distribution oversight. Emmy Award winning production designer Thomas A. Walsh (Desperate Housewives) will co-produce.

De Barros is supported by her sales team including Katie Irwin, VP of International and Samantha Peel, Director of International Sales and Marketing.