The UK arm of Lionsgate will start pre-production on its big-budget remake of cult 1970s British TV series The Professionals this fall. The action series about secret agents was a hit across Europe and in Australia but never made it to the U.S. The series was hatched by The Avengers creator Brian Clemens and made local stars of actors Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins, who played the agents. Gordon Jackson — best known as the butler in Upstairs Downstairs — played their dour Scottish boss. Producer Richard Whelan is now in Los Angeles trying to lock down a director. Lionsgate UK will court Tom Hardy, Gerard Butler and Jason Statham to play secret agents Bodie and Doyle, with Liam Neeson and Gary Oldman on their list to play their boss. Lionsgate UK CEO Zygi Kamasa acknowledges The Professionals is an unknown quantity in brand-happy Hollywood. He said the success of The Expendables and Red shows there’s a market for older action fare. This big-screen version will be an origin story, showing how ex-Spec Ops mercenary Bodie and counter-terrorism detective Doyle unite to work for covert UK security unit CI5. Co-producer Callum McDougall was executive producer on the last two James Bond films and is shooting the Clash of the Titans sequel. Whelan was associate producer on Captain America for Marvel. The Professionals will be Lionsgate UK’s third production after Salmon Fishing in Yemen, currently in post, and the Statham thriller Blitz, due to be released in the UK on May 20. “We really felt there was an opportunity for a bigger British action film,” says Kamasa. “The ambition is to make a powerful commercial movie with the best of British talent.”