Annette Benning to star in irreverent comedy inspired by the life of Catherine The Great; Damian Jones producing period-drama Belle about a mixed race woman in 18th century London high society.

UK sales outfit Bankside Films is bringing two hot new films to EFM: Gillian Armstrong’s irreverent comedy The Great, starring Annette Bening [pictured] and period-drama Belle from writer-director Amma Asante and The Iron Lady producer Damian Jones.

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Irreverent comedy The Great is inspired by the life of 18th century Russian empress, Catherine The Great. Marian Macgowan of Macgowan Films and Marco Mehlitz of Lago Films produce from a screenplay by Tony McNamara. Shoot is scheduled to get underway September 2012.  Icon has picked up rights in Australia/New Zealand.

Set in 1790, Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of an aristocrat who was the first mixed race woman to appear in 18th Century London high society. Writer director Asante (A Way of Life) is currently casting with production scheduled to begin in July 2012.

Bankside’s EFM slate also includes Mat Whitecross’ Spike Island about a group of boys’ journey to a Stone Roses gig, which commences principal photography on 5 March and has added cast recently including Lesley Manville, Nico Mirallegro, Jordon Murphy, Adam Long, Oliver Heald and Emilia Clarke (Elliott Tittensor was previously announced), and Istvan Szabo drama The Door starring Helen Mirren and Martina Gedeck.