EXCLUSIVE: French director’s first English-language film is set in space; artist Olafur Eliasson among collaborators.

French director Claire Denis is teaming with British writer Zadie Smith on her first English-language film, which is set in space.

Plot details are being kept under wraps on the as-yet untitled adventure-sci-fi but it is known to take place beyond the solar system in a ‘future that seems like the present’.

Denis is writing the script with acclaimed novelist Smith (White Teeth) and Smith’s writer husband Nick Laird.

The project, which marks an intriguing change of direction for the White Material and Beau Travail writer-director, is based on an original idea by Denis and her regular writing partner Jean-Pol Fargeau.

Producers are Oliver Dungey (Miss Julie), Laurence Clerc and Olivier Thery Lapiney from Paris-based Alcatraz Films, and Claudia Steffen and Christoph Friedel of Pandora Filmproduktion in Cologne. 

Alcatraz and Pandora produced Denis’ most recent feature Bastards, which debuted at Cannes in 2013.

Denis regulars Wild Bunch are handling international sales while Des Hamilton is casting the project, which is currently in advanced development and is due to shoot in studio in Cologne in late 2015/early 2016.

The intriguing collection of collaborators on the film also include Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, known for his Tate Modern installation The Weather Project, the astrophysicist Aurélien Barrau, known for his work on black holes and cosmology, and Stuart Staples of indie band Tindersticks, who previously provided music for Denis titles including White Material and 35 Rhums.

Denis and Eliasson previously worked together on a short film to coincide with his exhibition Contact, which opened the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris in December 2014.

Producer Dungey told Screen: “I am delighted that Claire has been tempted to cross the channel and make a film in English; she is one of the greats of contemporary cinema and she’s assembled a quite extraordinary team to make exactly the kind of ambitious film that audiences cherish – completely original, genuinely pushing the boundaries of art and science and, above all, extremely entertaining.”

Smith’s 2000 novel White Teeth was adapted into a four-part TV drama for Channel 4, while a feature version of the writer’s 2005 novel On Beauty is in development with Suffragette producer Alison Owen and Film4.