Rising Irish star Antonia Campbell-Hughes has been cast as Natascha Kampusch in Constantin Film’s English-language biopic 3096 (working title) to be directed by German-American Sherry Hormann at the Bavaria Film studios outside Munich from next month.

The story of Kampusch’s real-life ordeal, which began with her being kidnapped on the way to school at the age of 10 in March 1998 and lasting until she managed to escape over eight years later, had been one of the projects developed by the late Bernd Eichinger as screenwriter and producer before his untimely death in January 2011. The final version of the script was completed by the renowned screenwriter Ruth Toma (Gloomy Sunday) on the basis of Eichinger’s screenplay fragment.

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  • 3096 (working title)

Kampusch as a young girl will be played by UK child actor Amelia Pidgeon, while her tormentor Wolfgang Priklopil has been cast with the Danish actor Thure Lindhardt (Into The Wild) and fellow Dane Trine Dyrholm (In A Better World) in a further role.

“After we came up against many prejudices, misgivings and disquiet about the story in the German-speaking area, we took the liberty of thinking beyond lingustic borders,” director Sherry Hormann explained. “We wanted to take an outside-the-box approach. Bringing an outsider’s point of view, Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Thure Lindhardt are perfectly suited to capture the overwhelming essence of the story: it’s a universal story – the insanity of the act lies within the act itself, no matter where it takes place.”

The €6m project, which has received backing from FilmFernsehFonds Bayern, the German Federal Film Board (FFA) and the Bavarian Bank Fund (BBF), is being produced by Constantin Film board member Martin Moszkowicz and will see veteran cinematographer Michael Ballhaus coming of self-imposed retirement to serve as the film’s DoP.

Originally, Ballhaus had declared after Martin Scorsese’s The Departed that that would be his last film as DoP, but it was doubtless easier to get the 76-year-old to change his mind since Hormann became his second wife in Berlin last October with Berlinale chief Dieter Kosslick as one of the witnesses.

A Screen Star of Tomorrow, 29-year-old Antonia Campbell-Hughes made her feature film acting debut with a supporting role in Jane Campion’s Cannes competition film Bright Star in 2009. Campbell-Hughes has since had leading roles in Alexandra McGuinness’ comedy drama Lotus Eaters, Rebecca Daly’s thriller The Other Side Of Sleep, Johannes Roberts Storage 24 and Kieran Evans’ Kelly & Victor as well as a supporting role in Rodrigo Garcia’s Albert Nobbs. In addition, she represented Ireland as one of European Film Promotion’s Shooting Stars at this year’s Berlinale.

“In essence, it is a Prometheus story for us,”, Martin Moszkowicz said in an interview at the weekend. “In the same way as the hero of Greek mythology moulded mankind out of clay, the kidnapper Priklopil tries to create a woman according to his ideas and rules. However, she resists and triumphs.”

Kampusch’s story has already inspired two German Tatort TV films, a documentary and two films for the cinema: Frédéric Videau’s Coming Home, which re-located the action in France and was selected for the Berlinale’s Competition section this year, and Austrian filmmaker Markus Schleinzer’s debut Michael which won the Max Ophüls Prize in Saarbrücken in January.

3096 will be distributed by Constantin Film next year.