According to the Hollywood Reporter, Gibson bought the rights to the bestselling novel The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Wordsby Simon Winchester and will play Professor James Murray, who started to compile the dictionary in 1857.
Penn is in negotiations to play retired army surgeon W C Minor, who submitted more than 10,000 entries to Murray while imprisoned at an asylum for the criminally insane.
Gibson had originally intended to make it himself but the film will now be directed by Apocalypto writer Farhad Safinia, who also wrote and produced the TV show Boss, starring Kelsey Grammer.
Later this year Gibson will appear in front of the camera in the revenge thriller Blood Father and behind for the second world war drama Hacksaw Ridge. In June, it was announced that he is working on a follow-up to The Passion of the Christ.
Penn’s recent offering as a director, the aid worker romance The Last Face, was met with largely negative reviews at this year’s Cannes film festival. His voice was also recently heard in The Angry Birds Movie.
This article was written by Benjamin Lee, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 2nd August 2016 15.22 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010