New Regency has signed on Edward Zwick to direct In the Heart of the Sea, the fact-based tale of a Nantucket whaling ship the Essex, which was stalked and ultimately destroyed by a sperm whale in the South Pacific in 1820.

According to Variety, stranded thousands of miles from home, the crew struggled to survive; they were lost at sea for 90 days. Eight were rescued.

Zwick wrote the script with Bedford Falls partner Marshall Herskovitz. They will produce with Paula Weinstein, with Palak Patel exec producing.

New Regency is honing the script and has begun planning this logistically ambitious period tale on the open water. The hope is to begin production late this year, with Fox distributing.

The film is based on the National Book Award-winning title by Nathaniel Philbrick. The sinking of the whaleship Essex was the inspiration for Herman Melville's "Moby Dick."

Philbrick's book, first optioned by Intermedia in 2000, is one of two whale tales on the hook for features: Universal is developing Moby Dick, a reimagining of the Melville novel for Wanted helmer Timur Bekmambetov to direct.

No production date has been set.