EXCLUSIVE: The Book Thief star Nelisse to lead cast, April 9 start of shoot.

Rising star Sophie Nelisse (The Book Thief, Monsieur Lazhar) is to play the title role in director Stephen Herek’s feature The Great Gilly Hopkins, alongside Glenn Close, Kathy Bates, Danny Glover and Octavia Spencer.

Co-financed by William Kay and Peyton Kay of Gemmill Media (Rob the Mob, Future Weather) in association with William Teitler, the film is due to start shoot on April 9.

WestEnd Films is representing the film for international sales at the EFM while Bob Berney will be distributing in North America through his newly re-vamped Picturehouse.  

Gilly is David Paterson’s adaptation of Katherine Paterson’s young adult novel about a wisecracking, gum-chewing 12-year old (Nelisse) who is moved from foster home to foster home, outwitting them all, until she meets her match in the shape of Maime Trotter (Bates).

Paterson will produce alongside Teitler and John Paterson. Executive producers are William Kay and Peyton Kay.

The 2007 Disney hit version of Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, also scripted by David Paterson, grossed more than $200m worldwide.

WestEnd MD Maya Amsellem told Screen: “West End Films had a great experience working with Glenn Close on Albert Nobbs, for which she was Oscar nominated as Best Actress and we are thrilled she has joined this stellar cast. Sophie Nelisse - who was outstanding in The Book Thief - is an ideal match for Gilly’s fierce yet endearing character and Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer rounds out a cast of truly extraordinary actors.”