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Naomi Watts Out, Nicole Kidman In For Werner Herzog’s Sweeping ‘Queen of the Desert’

by Drew Taylor
September 8, 2013 12:53 PM
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Like a mirage that seems to vanish in the arid air, Naomi Watts has departed Werner Herzog’s new film, “Queen of the Desert,” but been replaced by someone of equally impressive star magnitude in Nicole Kidman. The news comes out of the Toronto International Film Festival, which is where all news should be coming out of this week. The film co-stars James Franco and Robert Pattinson and tells the story of real-life 20th century explorer Gertrude Bell. Expect lots of sand and those old timey explorer helmets.

The casting switcheroo isn’t unique for the project, which charts Bell’s involvement in the formation of the Middle East at the dawn of the 20th century, as Jude Law was originally slated for the production, only to be replaced by Franco.

“Queen of the Desert” will mark Herzog’s first narrative feature since 2009’s perplexing pseudo-thriller “My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?” and the Nicolas Cage-led, WTF-worthy cult classic in the making (or maybe it’s there already) “The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.” Since then he’s garnered much more attention for his often hypnotic documentaries, things like 2010’s indie smash (in 3D no less) “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” and 2011’s death row examination “Into the Abyss.” It should be interesting to see Herzog back in the narrative game, especially with a film that promises to provide such a large canvas.

Kidman will star as, in the words of the report, an “iconic explorer, writer, archeologist and attaché for the British Empire.” We can see Kidman really sinking her teeth into the role, which is described as having a similar vibe as “Lawrence of Arabia.” Sounds pretty killer to us.

The actress can be seen at Toronto in “The Railway Man” (you can read our review right now), which is currently seeking acquisition and will be all over the Oscar prognosticators' forecasts when “Grace of Monaco” (where the star plays Grace Kelly) is released by The Weinstein Company on November 27th.

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  • james | September 10, 2013 7:17 AMReply

    Watts is a masterful actor. Funny Games.

  • Lizzie | September 9, 2013 8:46 AMReply

    I thought Lady Hester Stanhope was known as The Queen of the Desert.

  • little My | September 9, 2013 3:26 AMReply

    Gertrude Bell had charisma and charm something Naomi Watts lacks. Nicole is better suited for the role, I hope it comes into fruition.

  • Ans | September 9, 2013 2:54 AMReply

    They are both painfully average actors.

  • .. | September 9, 2013 12:41 AMReply

    TO: ‘Queen of the Desert’ CASTING AGENT
    Have you gone MAD?? Kidman will sink the film before it even gets off the ground.

  • x | September 8, 2013 7:07 PMReply

    Another flop in the making from old Botox Head.

  • Louis | September 8, 2013 11:55 PM

    Are we still in 2008? When it was cool to bash Nicole Kidman and make ridiculous, cruel comments about her looks?

  • Jamie | September 8, 2013 5:52 PMReply

    Gertrude Bell was quite attractive and certainly strong minded with many associations among the powerful of her time. Few actresses have that kind of presence and Kidman is one of the few. This should be a change for the better.

  • x | September 9, 2013 12:15 AM

    No, it is 2013 and nothing has changed. Kidman is still box office poison and an out of control Botox junkie.

  • richardM | September 8, 2013 4:32 PMReply

    No one else can be better cast to play Gertrude Bell than Naomi Watts.

  • joe | September 8, 2013 5:22 PM

    actually it can ... you you that chick nicole something

  • Paul | September 8, 2013 3:23 PMReply

    Great news. Kidman is a better actress than Watts. Naomi is good, sometimes even great (Mulholland Drive) but she lacks the charisma needed for a role like that.

  • HuSTLE | September 8, 2013 3:08 PMReply

    Does anyone know why Naomi Watts has dropped out? I mean has it been her own decision or had been the filmakers who had decided to replace her?

  • Ian | September 8, 2013 4:04 PM

    I doubt it was her own decision, she's desperate for a respectable role by a well known and respected director.

  • Ian | September 8, 2013 2:48 PMReply

    I prefer this. Nicole Kidman is a much better actress, albeit not a popular opinion.

    I think this could be brilliant and Naomi Watts seems to be the kiss of death to any project lately.

  • kindred spirit | September 8, 2013 2:37 PMReply

    Poor Naomi... first a 20-something year old wins an Oscar while Watts is yet to find a role that is truly worthy of her talent post-Muholland Drive, Diana is trashed by critics and she's definitely not getting back to back Oscar bids and now she's out of a potentially great film (minus the inevitable dullness Pattinson will bring to his role).

  • Art | November 8, 2013 9:33 PM


    Robert Pattinson has a magnetic presence? Actors like Michael Caine and Alec Guinness have a 'magnetic presence. Robert Pattinson has the presence of a stick.

  • Jill | September 9, 2013 12:57 AM

    Robert Pattinson has a magnetic screen presence that can't be denied. He's the opposite of dull.

  • Jake | September 8, 2013 8:07 PM

    She won a coveted part in St Vincent, to be distributed by Weinstein. And she's filming a Baumach movie this fall and completed one with Innaritu this year. She has a film with an Oscar-winning director lined up. She's doing fine.

  • bohmer | September 8, 2013 1:50 PMReply

    I love Miss Watts, but Kidman is alright, as long as the film get made!

  • maxime | September 8, 2013 1:45 PMReply

    I've read the biography of Gertrude Bell, once I knew it would be adapted into a movie. In fact I can imagine Nicole in Gertrude's part easier than Naomi. Gertrude was all that is mentioned but she was also a tough lady, independant and not easy to deal with, while at the same time she suffered from loneliness, lack of a descent relationship. Nicole can be gritty if she wants, so that would be fine. Pleased that Robert Pattinson is still attached to the project as Lawrence. Let's hope the movie will be made, the wait has been long.

  • Grace | September 8, 2013 1:07 PMReply

    She was really good as Martha Gellhorn, looking forward to see her bring Bell to life!

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