A film about celebrated American director Robert Altman is in the works, spearheaded by one of his biggest fans: Canadian documentary maker Ron Mann.

Altman — the Oscar-winning director behind ensemble classics such as MASH, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Nashville, The Player and Gosford Park — died in 2006.

"Robert Altman reinvented not only what a movie might be, but how we might view ourselves. His films continue to inspire us today," Mann said in a statement issued from the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday.

The project will tell the Kansas City-raised Altman's life story through archival footage of the director, clips from his films and interviews with family members as well as key actors and other collaborators he worked with.

Mann and his Toronto-based company Sphinx Productions will work with Altman's widow, Kathryn Reed Altman, and his producer colleague Matthew Seig.

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Ron Mann speaks onstage at 2012 SXSW film awards in 2012. (Photo by for SXSW) (Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

"I am pleased and honoured to have acclaimed documentarian Ron Mann shepherd this long overdue project", said Altman's widow, Kathryn.

"Ron's prodigious, challenging, engaging, and one-of-a-kind films revealed him to be the perfect choice to examine and celebrate Bob's monumental life and art. I have no doubt Bob would be happy and may well be smiling right now."

Mann's production partners include EPIX entertainment company, The Movie Network and Submarine Entertainment. The team is currently in Cannes — where Altman's films were often in competition and where he won awards for MASH and The Player — presenting the documentary project to buyers and conducting research.

"It's here at Cannes where his career really took off," Mann told industry publication Variety.

"He was a regular, so of course we are looking at the stock footage from the festival's archives."

The plan to complete the documentary by mid-2013 and create a touring exhibit, a companion book and music soundtrack to accompanying the film's release.