With his ass-kicking "Hanna" getting ready to do its thing in theaters next month, director Joe Wright already has his eyes on this next project and it's looking more and more likely it will be an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina," a project that was first revealed to be in development last fall.
At the time, Keira Knightley was attached in the lead role of the Tom Stoppard penned script -- which was submitted just before Christmas -- which to summarize the book at its simplest (it's 900 pages long) concerns the tragic Moscow-set love story of the titular married Russian aristocrat who falls for an army officer. Speaking with About, Wright revealed that should it all come together he hopes to shoot the film this fall and while he won't name her directly, it looks like Knightley is still his gal.
"I’m hoping to do 'Anna Karenina' in the Autumn and I’m reading about St. Petersburg society in the 18th century," Wright said about the film. And for those concerned about abbreviating Tolstoy's tale, Wright says that a 2 hour movie is more than doable with Stoppard writing. "You can [make a 2 hour movie] if you’ve got Tom Stoppard writing. He’s done an amazing script which involves Levin’s story as well as Anna’s story. Yeah, Tom Stoppard is just..also, he’s so immersed in Russian history and culture and identity or lack of it."
And clearly, Wright has been doing his research and has thought about the project inside and out. Asked about the accessibility of the story, Wright is ready to quote from the book. "....I think Tolstoy wrote it as an accessible piece. It’s a family drama. 'War and Peace' was his big political drama and 'Anna Karenina,' as he says in the first sentence, is about families. 'Happy families are all happy in the same way. Unhappy families are all unhappy in different ways.' So he wrote it to be read by the new emerging literate Russian population. Obviously, it goes off into analytical theoretical studies of the Russian agricultural system which I won’t involve in the script. But the actual plot of it is fairly simple and very emotional." (Phew, no agricultural based subplots).
The director has even thought about the accents that will be employed in the film, and it sounds like the man has done his research. "....they didn’t even have Russian accents. The high society was quite French. They didn’t even speak Russian. A lot of them literally didn’t learn their own language so couldn’t talk to their own serfs, their own peasants, because they didn’t speak the same language. So the whole language issue is actually a really fertile one for that society. But I think they’ll be talking English, probably, with English accents. The problem is what you get the peasants to speak, the peasant characters and whether you have them speak the same language or whether you have them do really dodgy kind of west country English accents. They’re more difficult. I might have them speak Russian. I’m not sure."
And as for you will play Anna? Wright makes it pretty clear that Knightley is still his girl for the role even if she's not quite official just yet. "Not sure yet. It’s fairly obvious, but I can’t quite say. She hasn’t signed on the line yet. I’m loyal to my actors." As you might recall, Wright and Knightley previously worked together on "Atonement" and "Pride & Prejudice."
Certainly, Knightley's schedule is pretty free and clear for the next little while and Wright seems to be getting his head right and everything prepared for "Anna Karenina." The signs definitely look good. But we'll see a different side of Wright entirely when his Chemical Brothers-driven assassin pic "Hanna" opens on April 8th.