EXCLUSIVE: For his next film, Jim Sheridan is seizing upon a true story about the Maze Prison escape, which was known as the Great Escape when the story unfolded in Northern Ireland. The three-time Oscar-nominated writer-director behind such superb films as In the Name of the Father, My Left Foot, The Field, In America and The Boxer has just cast Cillian Murphy (Dunkirk, Inception) and Fifty Shades star Jamie Dornan to lead the cast, with Pierce Brosnan in talks to also join H-Block. The script originally was written by Tony Devilin and Gavin McCloskey, and Sheridan and Nic Sheff are working on a shooting script. It’s about an escape from the maximum-security prison that became a source of propaganda used by the IRA.

Jim Sheridan
Chris Chapman

Thirty-eight prisoners escaped from H-Block with only 19 recaptured. In the escape, one officer died of a heart attack after being stabbed (one of four injured that way). In all, 20 Twenty were injured including being stabbed or shot; one prison officer was shot in the head but survived. The escape was a violent breakout that included hostage taking and ended up being the biggest in both British and Irish history.

The film is being produced by Dylan Sellars, who is the former president of TWC and oversaw such wonderful films as St. Vincent and Southpaw. His credits now include Laurence Fishburne’s The Alchemistthe Keanu Reeves-Isla Fisher starrer The Starling, which is being directed by Tom of Finland helmer Dome Karukoski whose latest was just acquired by Kino Lorber), The Replacements; and The Cinderalla Story feature series. Dan Halsted is the exec producer.

Murphy next will be seen in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, footage of which wowed exhibitors at CinemaCon last month. Murphy stars as the head of the ring of IRA prisoners who has earned the respect of the prison guards but now just wants a life of peace.

The gritty role for Dornan is a decided turn from what the actor has been doing and gives him a chance to really let loose and show his acting chops as an IRA prisoner and orderly who starts discovering weaknesses in the prison. He also is one of the last IRA prisoners to agree to the escape — but leave he does and with a vengeance on the way out.

The role for Brosnan would be a good one for him for the same reasons as he would play the antagonist — warden of the Maze Prison who is pitted against the escapees.

Mister Smith Entertainment will be handling sales in Cannes for the film, and Brad Feinstein’s Romulus Entertainment is producing and fully financing the film with his partner Joseph Ingrassia. WME and UTA are repping the film rights in North American.

Sheridan is repped by WME, Richard Cook at the Lisa Richards Agency,  Halsted at Manage-ment, and Schreck, Rose, Dapello; Murphy by ICM Partners and attorney David Weber at Sloane Offer; Dornan by UTA and attorney Jason Sloane at Sloane Offer; and Brosnan by CAA and attorney Tom Hansen at Hansen, Jacobson.