Paul Verhoeven is preparing a$35m adaptation of The Winter Queen, based on Boris Akunin'sfin-de-siecle Russian mystery about a global conspiracy headed up by a pair offemme fatales.

Peter Hoffman's LosAngeles-based Seven Arts Pictures is financing the project with Future Film anda Russian partner to be announced, with production set to begin in StPetersberg and England in September.

The project is currently out to casting and will be producedby Thomas Hedman, Alan Marshall and Verhoeven, based on Gerard Soeteman'sadapted screenplay.

Marshall has produced Verhoeven's films since BasicInstinct in 1992, while Hedman distributed Total Recall and BasicInstinct in the UK when he ran Guild Film Distribution.

"Paul has built these extreme femme fatale characters andCatherine Trammel [Basic Instinct] is the epitome of that," Hoffman told Screen. "This projectcontinues that trend with a cracking period tale of a conspiracy to do goodthat is viewed as an evil plot."

The story's centralcharacter Fandorin features in 11 Akunin novels, including Turkish Gambit, which became thebiggest box office hit of all time in Russia earlier this year.