Tom Hardy will star as Elton John in Rocket Pictures' "Rocketman" and Focus Features has come aboard to give the film a "major" U.S. release.

The film be co-financed by AI Film with a shoot set for fall next year. "Rocketman" will be directed by Michael Gracey from a screenplay by Lee Hall ("War Horse").

John plans to re-record many of his hit songs for the film.

The decision by Focus to come on board is the first major move since Universal restructured Focus earlier this month and brought in FilmDistrict's Peter Schlessel as CEO in order to place more emphasis on mainstream offerings.

"Rocketman" is produced by Steve Hamilton Shaw and David Furnish of Rocket Pictures and Lawrence Bender on behalf of AI Film. That production-financing company has been created out of the acquisition of Icon by Len Blavatnik's Access Industries.

FilmDistrict acquired U.S. rights to the project in June. Good Universe came on board to handle international sales for the biopic at Cannes in May.

SEE ALSO: Cannes: Elton John Biopic 'Rocketman' Being Shopped by Good Universe

The project has been in the works since 2011 with commercials director Gracey having signed to helm in March. "Rocketman" will trace John's life story, starting with his childhood as a five-year-old musical prodigy.

John and Blavatnik are executive producing, along with AI Film CEO Aviv Giladi and Schlessel.

UTA Independent Film Group arranged financing for the project and negotiated the project's sale to FilmDistrict.

Hardy broke out last year as the villain in "The Dark Knight Rises." He will next be seen in Steve Knight's "Locke" and in the reboot of the "Mad Max" franchise for Warner Bros. and George Miller.

"Tom is quickly becoming known as one of the world's most versatile actors, and like others at the top of their craft, he has proven his ability to transform himself completely into the character or subject found in the material," said Schlessel. "We are confident that Tom will embody the physicality and spirit of Sir Elton. This, in conjunction with the creative team led by Michael and Rocket Pictures, will provide the foundation for something that will be a unique cinematic event."

Gracey directed Fox's upcoming "The Greatest Showman On Earth," starring Hugh Jackman, and Disney's "The Muppet Man."

Hardy is represented by CAA, Lindy King at United Agents and attorney Jason Sloane.


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