Gareth Unwin, one of the producers of Telluride and Toronto hit The King’s Speech, is now at work developing another period drama, about Lady Hester Stanhope, for his UK-based Bedlam Productions.
The $18m (12m GBP) project could see the pair reunite with King’s Speech director Tom Hooper, who has expressed interest in joining The Lady if the elements are correct.
Unwin is starting talks with distributors about The Lady early next week, and early talks with cast will start soon.
A treatment will be done by October with a first draft likely done by Berlin’s market, with Unwin hoping to go to Cannes market 2011 with a UK and US deal already in place.
Unwin says the film could shoot as soon as late 2011 in the UK and Malta (standing in for Europe and Arabia), with a few weeks in Tunisia or Morocco.
Stanhope defied conventions to travel the world (taking particular interest in the Middle East) in the early 19th century.
“She was a female Lawrence of Arabia, a hundred years before Lawrence,” said screenwriter David Seidler, whose credits also include Tucker: The Man And His Dream.
“It wasn’t that she was trying to change the world, she was just living the life that she thought she should have been afforded, to go on these great adventures, she did have a voice that should be heard,” Unwin told Screen. “If you ever want to find great stories, you only have to look to our past. It’s a match made in heaven, and a chance to work with David again.”
“Hers is a very powerful story that’s never been told cinematically before,” added biographer Kirsten Ellis. “She’s an undiscovered iconic emblem and the film will lift the lid on what made Hester spend half her life in the Middle East and what she tried to achieve there.”
Investors already on board the new film include Richard Price and Molinare’s Mark Foligno and Steve Milne. Prescience is expected to also back the project at some stage.
Meanwhile, The King’s Speech continues to stir Oscar buzz, particularly for actors Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth.”The thing is now trying to retain the interest in the film. It’s a long haul,” Unwin said. “But there’s no better people in the industry who know how to put an awards campaign together than theWeinsteins.”
The film will have a gala screening at the London Film Festival. It opens in late November in the US from the Weinstein company, followed by January 7 in the UK via Momentum.