Leading Ladies: Michelle Williams & Alicia Keys Circling Roles
In this bit of casting news, one actress has been turning in stellar work, and another who is still looking to prove her talent, are looking to land lead roles in two different projects. First, The Wrap reports Michelle Williams (Shutter Island) is looking to land one of three lead roles in The Emperor's Children which recently hired Noah Baumbach to sit in the director's chair instead of a once attached Ron Howard. Keira Knightley and Eric Bana are already cast in the adaptation of Claire Messud's 2006 novel, and Williams would likely be playing the character of Danielle Minkoff, a TV documentary producer from the Midwest.
If you don't recall, the story follows three Brown University graduates in NYC in the months leading up to and following 9/11 who are approaching their 30s as they struggle to realize the lofty expectations held for their personal and professional lives. Knightely and Bana are likely playing the other two lead roles, and Richard Gere (who was also cast a couple weeks ago) will have a supporting role. However, apparently the project (still being produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer) is still seeking financing, and is running the risk of missing their summer start date, and Baumbach's recent attachment to Mr. Popper's Penguins is yet another reason to worry about The Emperor's Children actually being his next film. Stay tuned for more.
Meanwhile, The Playlist reports they have heard from a couple trusted sources that singer/actress Alicia Keys will produce and star in an adaptation of Helene Cooper memoir The House at Sugar Beach, the real-life story of the author's Liberian childhood which seems like a "happily ever after" but is thrown into turmoil in the midst of a Civil War in 1980. Reminiscent of Civil War movies following the times of slavery in the US, the film follows her family's escape and survival. Then 23 years after her escape, she returns to the country to locate a foster sister that she and her family left behind. Here's the book's official synopsis:
Journalist Cooper has a compelling story to tell: born into a wealthy, powerful, dynastic Liberian family descended from freed American slaves, she came of age in the 1980s when her homeland slipped into civil war. On Cooper's 14th birthday, her mother gives her a diamond pendant and sends her to school. Cooper is convinced that somehow our world would right itself. That afternoon her uncle Cecil, the minister of foreign affairs, is executed. Cooper combines deeply personal and wide-ranging political strands in her memoir. There's the halcyon early childhood in Africa, a history of the early settlement of Liberia, an account of the violent, troubled years as several regimes are overthrown, and the story of the family's exile to America. A journalist-as-a-young-woman narrative unfolds as Cooper reports the career path that led her from local to national papers in the U.S.
Sounds like some heavy material for an actress who has only showed little dramatic potential in The Secret Life of Bees, so this will certainly be a true test of her talent. However, The Playlist points out that with no writer or director attached and Keys being on tour through June, this isn't anything that will be getting underway anytime soon. Stay tuned for more on The House at Sugar Beach and The Emperor's Children.