EXCLUSIVE: He shall fight on the beaches. Gary Oldman is in talks to play Winston Churchill in Brit production powerhouse Working Title’s Darkest Hour. Joe Wright is directing the epic drama, which takes place in 1940 as Churchill becomes Prime Minister in the midst of World War II and faces a moment of truth. Anthony McCarten, who wrote Working Title’s award-winning The Theory Of Everything, writes and produces here alongside Lisa Bruce and Working Title co-chiefs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.

The heavyweight filmmaking talent assembling here puts this Churchill project at the very top of the tree. Oldman seems an inspired choice to play Britain’s greatest wartime leader. The actor has a string of memorable performances in his illustrious career, not least as John Le Carre’s iconic intelligence agent George Smiley in Working Title’s big screen adaptation of classic novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. While Oldman’s Smiley was a masterpiece of subtlety and hidden emotions, the actor can do explosive too. Just witness his unhinged NY cop in Luc Besson’s Leon or his memorably baroque, romantic performance in Dracula for Francis Ford Coppola.

Production is set to start in July.

Days into his new job as Prime Minister as Britain was getting pounded and on the verge of losing to Germany, Churchill was under pressure to make a deal with Hitler that would have established Britain as a puppet state of the Third Reich. His army stranded in Dunkirk, Churchill instead summoned the courage to fight on. The film is about his decisions, and the actions and immortal speeches in those critical days that defined his place in history and changed the destiny of the world. The prospect of having an actor the calibre of Oldman recreating Churchill’s iconic speeches, when he galvanized a country in the face of appeasement of Nazi Germany, is tantalizing.

The pic has been a passion project for McCarten, whose The Theory Of Everything grossed $125 million worldwide on a $15 million budget and won numerous awards, including the Best Actor Oscar for Eddie Redmayne.

As ever, Oldman has a number of films in the can and the pipelines. Ariel Vromen’s Criminal, where he stars opposite Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Costner comes out this weekend domestically via Lionsgate. Oldman has also completed Peter Chelsom’s The Space Between Us with Carla Gugino and Asa Butterfield.

Oldman is repped by longtime partner Douglas Urbanski’s Douglas Management Group, Agency for the Performing Arts and Special Artists Agency.