chiwEXCLUSIVE: New Regency has acquired the nonfiction book Marching Powder and will develop it as a star vehicle for Chiwetel Ejiofor. He is coming off an Oscar nomination for 12 Years A Slave, which New Regency produced with River Road, Plan B and Fox Searchlight released. Pic will be based on the Rusty Young and Thomas McFadden book Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America’s Strangest Jail.

Related: Cannes: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Gwyneth Paltrow To Keep ‘The Secret In Their Eyes’

Ejiofor will play McFadden, a convicted English drug trafficker who ran tours inside Bolivia’s notorious San Pedro prison. Young, an Australian journalist, heard about McFadden’s prison life while backpacking in South America, and he bribed the guards to allow him to live in the prison and share a cell with McFadden. The two went on to chronicle one of the strangest and most compelling prison stories of all time. Basically, the inmates ran the place. They were expected to buy their cells from real estate agents. There were shops and restaurants, and hundreds of women and children live with imprisoned family members. Corrupt politicians and drug lords lived in luxury apartments. While kids ran around during the day, some of Bolivia’s busiest cocaine laboratories percolated at night.

marchinJerry Kalajian will be executive producer. It’s about time Hollywood began building projects around Ejiofor, who has been fine in everything from Children Of Men to Love Actually, Kinky Boots and Redbelt. Leading the cast of a Best Picture Oscar winner has given Ejiofor the boost he needed. Ejiofor, who next stars in the ensemble of the John Hillcoat-directed action thriller Triple Nine, is repped by CAA and Alex Irwin of Markham Froggatt and Irwin.