Tomlinson was introduced to the book while serving a prison sentence in Leicester jail for being involved in a series of "flying picket" strike actions on construction sites in the 1970s. He describes it as the "building worker's bible".
Tomlinson told Building: "I had a phone call from Andy Serkis, Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, who's been nominated for an Oscar. He's a good friend of mine. He asked me if I fancied a role."
Tomlinson, star of the BBC series The Royle Family, added that he wanted to play the part of Crass in the film, who is a supervisor rather than a normal worker. He said: "I think he's a fabulous character."
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists became a set text for British socialists after its publication for its no-holds-barred depiction of the hard lives and political consciences of workers at the turn of the century.