BREAKING: Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn has been selected to direct The Equalizer for Sony Pictures and Escape Artists. The film, loosely based on the 1980s TV series, has been a hot ticket for directors since Denzel Washington agreed to play the title role. A number of directors had been considered along the way. Negotiations toward a deal will begin immediately with Refn.

Production is set to begin in late spring 2013. The script was written by Richard Wenk, and Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, and Steve Tisch are producing through Escape Artists, along with Alex Siskin, Mace Neufeld, Tony Eldridge, Michael Sloan, and Washington. David Bloomfield will executive produce, and Andrea Giannetti and Hannah Minghella are overseeing for Columbia.

The  TV series, originally created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim, starred Edward Woodward as a mysterious former covert operations officer who helps people in trouble. The film has that basic premise but takes off in its own way, tailored to Washington’s skills. He’ll play a solitary, monastic figure who hates injustice and devotes himself to helping people who are being victimized. It seems a strong match for Washington, who’s in the Best Actor Oscar mix for his performance in the Robert Zemeckis-directed Flight.

Refn, repped by WME and Anonymous Content, most recently helmed the incredibly violent Only God Forgives with his Drive star Ryan Gosling.