Jewish comedian Sacha Baron Cohen is to take on perhaps his most controversial role yet.
Having played the fast-talking Ali G, the Kazakhstani businessman Borat and the fashionista Bruno, he will now play Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Mr Baron Cohen, who was just eight years old when Saddam took control of Iraq, will be the star of a Hollywood love story about an Iraqi leader’s illicit affair with a poor subject trapped in an unhappy marriage.
“The Dictator” is an adaptation of an Iraq-set romantic novel published under a pseudonym 11-years-ago. A best-seller, Zabibah and the King is widely believed to have been written by Saddam Hussein himself, or at least by ghostwriters under his direction.
Critics said it was intended as an allegory, with Saddam as the king and Zabibah’s abusive husband representing the western forces during the Gulf War in 1991.
The film, set to be released in May 2012, is a third collaboration between Mr Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles. It will be written by Jeff Schaffer, Alec Berg and David Mandel, who have previously worked on comedies Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
A Paramount spokesman said: "The film tells the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed."