Shekhar Kapur will direct the project for STXfilms.

David Franzoni has come aboard to do a rewrite of the biopic STXfilms is developing about Sheikh Zayed, the first president of the United Arab Emirates.

Ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Zayed was instrumental in the formation of the UAE in 1971. During his reign as the nation’s first president, the sheik used the country’s massive oil revenue to build hospitals and public housing and to further urban development. He was considered a liberal ruler for the time period, serving as president for 38 years and becoming a big promoter of environmental protection.

Shekhar Kapur, who helmed Elizabeth: The Golden Age, will direct the film and also produce with Courtney Noble. Entourage writer Cliff Dorfman penned the project’s original draft.

“Patterned after great movies like GandhiSelma and Darkest Hour, this project will tell the story of a dynamic, powerful personality who helped create historic change,” STXfilms’ Adam Fogelson said in originally announcing the project.

Franzoni, whose credits include Gladiator and Amistad, is repped by Paradigm.

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