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Michel Hazanavicius In Talks To Direct Tom Hanks, Maybe Natalie Portman In 'In The Garden Of Beasts'

by Oliver Lyttelton
September 13, 2012 8:29 PM
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An hour or so ago, most of the moviegoing world had their eyes on the trailer premiere for Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," tipped by many to lead to Oscars for both the director and its star, Daniel Day-Lewis. And yet at the same time, last year's Best Director Academy Award winner, and one of only five living actors with as many gold statues as Day-Lewis, were sneakily making plans for a film that looks like it could be a future awards juggernaut, and may be bringing along a recent Best Actress winner too.

According to Deadline, "The Artist" helmer Michel Hazanavicius is in talks to helm "In The Garden Of Beasts," an adaptation of the non-fiction book, by Erik Larson ("The Devil In The White City"),  which would star Tom Hanks, who would also produce through his Playtone label. The film, set up at Universal, revolves around William Dodd, who was America's ambassador to Germany during the early years of Hitler's rule in Germany.

Even as Dodd gradually realizes Hitler's intention, his daughter Martha has affairs with a number of Nazi men, including the chief of the Gestapo. And Hanks isn't the only A-lister being courted for the project, as Natalie Portman is apparently being sought to play Martha, which would mark a bit of a return to prestige fare after her Oscar victory for "Black Swan." No deal is yet official yet, and with Portman gearing up for Lynne Ramsay's Western "Jane Got A Gun," there could be some scheduling difficulties.

That said, the film's still a way off—there's no writer on board yet, although Hanks and Hazanavicius are set to take meetings soon (we can see someone like Graham Moore, who's been adapting "The Devil And The White City," landing the job). Plus "The Artist" helmer is set to reteam with wife Berenice Bejo on "The Search" first, and recently expressed interest in Demetri Martin's "Will" too, so this could be one or two projects down the line. Still, it's a potent-sounding bit of material, and one that could be very, very different from the one that made Hazanavicius' name, as well as providing killer roles for Hanks and Portman. More news as it comes in.

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  • James | September 13, 2012 9:18 PMReply

    I'll restate what I said when the project was announced last fall. they have their work cut out for them. The book is not cinematic.

    Dodd himself does virtually nothing over the course of it except meet with Hitler once or twice. His daughter Martha is the focus of the book, and all she does is go through a succession of lovers, one of whom is a Soviet agent. We never see any espionage though, just their endless long drives in the country. The whole book also takes place over a very brief period in 1933/1934, as the Nazis are only just beginning to rise to power.

    My problem with this pointless book can be encapsulated in one fact. Toward the beginning, Larsen mentions that Dodd rents the family mansion from a Jewish family and allows them to live on in the attic, so they'll be protected by his diplomatic immunity. Larsen then NEVER MENTIONS THEM AGAIN in the book.

    The book is fixated on Martha's busy lovelife to such an extent that it overlooks most everything else. Any film of this will have to be almost entirely fictional. DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY it ain't. (And of course even that brilliant book has proven impossible to adapt)

  • Real | September 14, 2012 1:36 AM

    @James: Thanks for the comments re: the book. I was interesting in reading it given the subject matter but from what you've said it seems the style wouldn't appeal. Perhaps the film can take artistic licence to make it more interesting? Also co-signing your comment regarding the rather irritating lack of paragraph breaks on the comment system here.

  • James | September 13, 2012 9:21 PM

    There are some dramatic historical events in the book, particularly the "Night of the Long Knives", but the Dodds don't really interact with them. The book is structured like "White City", with a chapter about the Dodds, then one about the historical events, back and forth. The problem is the Dodds are profoundly uninteresting. I suspect the film will fictionalize them and make them heroically involved in all the goings on.

  • James | September 13, 2012 9:19 PM

    My apologies for the big block of text, hopefully Playlist will eventually have comments that can handle paragraph breaks.

  • Mikky | September 13, 2012 8:46 PMReply

    This movie could finally be the one putting Hanks in the spotlight again. Hazanavicius excel in making shine his actors, he really challenges them! That would be a really good post-oscar carrier choice for Natalie Portman and a very recomanded one fot Tom!

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