By Simon Dang | The Playlist February 4, 2011 at 2:40AM
Update: Thanks to some astute reader tips, we've learned that the project is "Trishna," a modern day re-telling of "Tess of the d'Urbervilles." The setting of the film has been relocated to India and will follow the tragic relationship between Jay and Trishna, the former the son of a property developer, the latter the daughter of an auto rickshaw owner. You can read the full synopsis here but we warn you, it's very spoiler heavy. No word yet on when it will go in front of cameras but according to production designer David Bryan, it will shoot in Jaipur, India.
As a subnote to our Most Anticipated feature earlier this year, we pondered about what happened to versatile director Michael Winterbottom's planned Palestine-set political thriller centering on terrorism in British-ruled Palestine during the 1930's. Finally we may have an update.
Up and coming British actor Riz Ahmed, who ironically starred in Chris Morris' terrorism black comedy "Four Lions," has now reportedly joined what is only being described as "Winterbottom’s next film" but considering the fact "The Promised Land" only has Colin Firth, Jim Sturgess and Matthew MacFaydden involved at the moment without an actor in the role of their chief antagonist -- the charismatic poet and successful academic turned leader of a Zionist organization responsible for numerous terrorist activities, Avraham Stern -- it does seem very plausible Ahmed could filling that role.
Ahmed was actually given his big break by Winterbottom on the helmer's 2006 docudrama "The Road To Guantanamo" which saw him play Shafiq Rasul, a real life British detainee at the camp. If anything, it shows two are certainly not adverse to controversy (is Winterbottom ever?) but with Ahmed now having gained valuable acting experience recently featuring in the likes of "Four Lions," "Centurion" and the upcoming Arab tale of oil riches "Black Gold" -- starring along side Mark Strong, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto and Tahar Rahim no less -- perhaps he's ready for the challenge of a major and sure-to-be talked about role of Stern.
Whether or not the film is actually progressing though remains the bigger question. Originally set to shoot last fall on location, there had been no official word about what happened but a profile on co-star Sturgess does note that the project "hit funding problems." Another reason that seemingly argues that the project is still alive and kicking (and that this next project is in fact 'Promised Land') is its live status on the website of Fortissimo Films with an updated synopsis even having been unveiled.
THE PROMISED LAND tells the gripping true story of two British police officers THOMAS WILKIN, played by Jim Sturgess, and GEOFFREY MORTON, played by Matthew Macfadyen and their battle to bring to an end the campaign of bombings and assassinations by the extreme right-wing Jewish underground led by the charismatic poet, AVRAHAM STERN. The story is told through the eyes of the British Assistant District Commissioner ROBERT CHAMBERS played by Colin Firth. The film culminates when the two policemen track Stern down to his hide out in an apartment block in Tel Aviv in 1942.
Doesn't sound too controversial? The motivations behind Stern's actions were allegedly to evict British authorities from Palestine and allow the unrestricted immigration of Jews and the formation of a Jewish state. The helmer had discussed the project in greater, very spoiler-filled detail but surely there's good reason why Sturgess was "hugely advised to not go down that road."
Someone help Winterbottom out, please. This is one project we'd particularly hate to see fall by the wayside even if the talented director does have other stuff in the works: he and Colin Firth are reportedly planning a project on the Amanda Knox tale while Gemma Arterton also let out that she was set to join a Winterbottom adaptation of Martin Amis' novel "London Fields," though that may still be a fair way off.