EXCLUSIVE: Josh Hartnett and The Deuce‘s Margarita Levieva have been set to star in Inherit the Viper, a crime thriller revolving around the timely topic of the prescription drug epidemic ravaging the U.S. Swiss-born Anthony Jerjen is making his feature directorial debut on the pic, which is based on an original script by Andrew Crabtree. Elle and Toni Erdmann producer Michel Merkt is producing, with Benito Mueller also producing and Wolfgang Mueller executive producing via their Barry Films (The Whistleblower).

Set in West Virginia, the plot follows siblings Kip (Hartnett), Josie (Levieva) and Boots as they try to escape the spiral of violence that has held them captive since their father’s passing. In these regions left behind by the economy, selling drugs has become their way of survival. A business that is very hard to quit – at least not alive.

Inherit the Viper is a visceral story of a family fighting to escape its destiny,” Merkt said. “I am thrilled to be able to tell it on this third collaboration with the incredibly talented director Anthony Jerjen, whose career I have been following since its very inception.”

Added Benito Mueller: “The opioid drug epidemic has become an extremely relevant topic and we hope that Andrew Crabtree’s touching story will resonate with audiences worldwide, as a great thriller and also as a cautionary tale.”

Hartnett, coming off Showtime’s Penny Dreadful and next up in James Franco’s The Long Home, is repped by UTA and Management 360. Levieva, who plays Abby Parker on HBO’s ’70s-set New York City drama The Deuce, is with UTA and Silver Lining Entertainment.