EXCLUSIVE: Oscar-winner Colin Firth is set to star in the Pat O’Connor-helmed Benjamin’s Crossing, based on the novel by Jay Parini. Firth will play Walter Benjamin, the real life Jewish philosopher who made a daring escape from Nazi-occupied Europe through the Pyrenees Mountains in 1940. Fortitude International is financing and launching sales at Cannes. Production is set to go in the fall of 2017.

The political thriller reteams Firth and O’Connor who worked together on 1987’s Un Certain Regard entry A Month In The Country. O’Connor’s other credits include 1984’s Cal, which won Helen Mirren the Best Actress prize at Cannes, and 1998’s Dancing At Lughnasa.

Benjamin’s Crossing is being produced by Carl Effenson of Artimage Entertainment, Sally Jo Effenson of Joule Films, and Lucas Jarach along with Fortitude’s Robert Ogden Barnum and Nadine de Barros.

Parini and Devon Jersild adapted the script from Parini’s novel. Based on a true story, in 1940 Benjamin finds himself forced to flee his home in Paris on the heels of the Nazi invasion. With nowhere else to turn, he meets Lisa Fittko, who is helping refugees escape to Spain through the Pyrenees. Despite his weak physical condition, Lisa reluctantly agrees to bring him along, leading an unlikely group of refugees on a daring adventure that will change their lives forever.

The Last Station, Parini’s novel of Leo Tolstoy’s final year, was made into a critically acclaimed film starring Mirren, Christopher Plummer, Paul Giamatti and James McAvoy in 2009. It received two Academy Award nominations, four Golden Globe nominations, and five Independent Spirit Award nominations.

“Jay and Devon have written a beautiful script, which the producers are honored to support, with Pat O’Connor at the helm. The worldwide refugee crisis makes Benjamin’s plight as timely now as it was during WWII. It is a great, untold and truly heroic story that must be told,” say Carl and Sally Jo Effenson. They recently developed and produced the Sundance hit Mudbound, which Netflix purchased for $12.5M.

Firth, who reprises his Harry Hart role in Fox’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle this September, is represented by CAA and Independent Talent Group. O’Connor is represented by United Agents. Parini and Jersild are represented by Intellectual Property Group and The Writer’s House.

Fortitude’s Cannes slate also includes The Medusa starring Jesse Eisenberg, Pierce Brosnan, and Vanessa Redgrave. David Dinerstein’s new Aviron Pictures recently acquired Fortitude’s Alec Baldwin-Salma Hayek comedy Drunk Parents.