Kevin Spacey is set to portray Richard III in an upcoming production directed by Sam Mendes.

The actor - who starred in the filmmaker's 'American Beauty' in 1999, for which they both won Academy Awards - is delighted to be portraying the 15th Century British monarch in an new world tour of the William Shakespeare play.

He said: "I'm so excited. Sam is one of the finest directors I have had the pleasure to work with and to gain this opportunity is beyond my wildest hopes. With such a remarkable character before me I have a feeling this is going to be a memorable experience."

The play, written sometime in the 16th Century, is about the royal's ruthless rise to the throne - and his consequentially short-lived reign.

The blood-thirsty character is also one of the director's favourite personas of all time, and it is no surprise the role was given to Kevin, as the two men are also heavily involved in The Old Vic theatre in London together.

Sam said: "'Richard III' is a play I love and a role I think Kevin is born to play."

The play will open in the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York in February 2012, will move to London's The Old Vic three months later before embarking on a world tour.