Keira Knightley, Jude Law and Aaron Johnson will star in "Anna Karenina," which Joe Wright will direct, Focus Features announced Thursday.
Tom Stoppard adapted Leo Tolstoy's novel.
Focus likes Knightley, who stars with Steve Carell in the company's upcoming "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World."
"Anna Karenina" is an ambitious project to take on, but Wright, who directed the 2007 "Atonement" and the 2005 "Pride & Prejudice" — which starred Knightley — has shown he has the chops to take on big stuff.
Stoppard, who wrote 1985's brilliant "Brazil," the 1991 epic "Billy Bathbate" and the Academy Award-winning 1998 "Shakespeare in Love," certainly is up to the task.
Here's Focus's news release:
JOE WRIGHT TO DIRECT ANNA KARENINA;
KEIRA KNIGHTLEY, JUDE LAW, AARON JOHNSON
TO STAR IN TOM STOPPARD-SCRIPTED ADAPTATION
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK and LONDON, September 8th, 2011 – Joe Wright will direct the epic romance Anna Karenina, adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel by Academy Award winner Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love). The Working Title Films production will commence filming in the U.K. and Russia this month. Focus Features will distribute the movie domestically, and Universal Pictures International (UPI) will distribute the movie internationally, in the second half of 2012.
Anna Karenina marks Mr. Wright’s third Working Title movie with Focus and UPI, following the award-winning boxoffice successes Pride & Prejudice and Atonement. Also for Working Title and UPI, he directed The Soloist; also for Focus, he most recently directed the hit adventure thriller Hanna.
Working Title co-chairs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are producing Anna Karenina with Paul Webster; the three were Academy Award nominees as the producers of Mr. Wright’s Best Picture-nominated Atonement. Also with Focus, Mr. Webster was a Golden Globe Award nominee as producer of Eastern Promises.
Keira Knightley, Academy Award-nominated for Pride & Prejudice, will star as Anna Karenina in her third collaboration with Mr. Wright. Ms. Knightley will be starring opposite two-time Academy Award nominee Jude Law, as Anna’s husband Aleksei Karenin; and Aaron Johnson (Nowhere Boy), as Count Vronsky. Rounding out the cast will be Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire), Matthew Macfadyen (Pride & Prejudice), Domhnall Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), Alicia Vikander (The Seventh Son), two-time Academy Award nominee Emily Watson, Olivia Williams (Hanna), and Ruth Wilson (Luther).
Also reteaming with Mr. Wright on Anna Karenina are Academy Award-winning composer Dario Marianelli, twice-Academy Award-nominated costume designer Jacqueline Durran, and three-time Academy Award-nominated production designer Sarah Greenwood. The cinematographer will be Academy Award winner Philippe Rousselot. Melanie Ann Oliver (Focus’ Jane Eyre) will edit the feature. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui will be the choreographer on the movie.
The story unfolds in its original late-19th-century Russia high-society setting and powerfully explores the capacity for love that surges through the human heart, from the passion between adulterers to the bond between a mother and her children. As Anna (Ms. Knightley) questions her happiness, change comes to her family, friends, and community.
Focus Features CEO James Schamus said, “Joe Wright is a master filmmaker, and with Tom Stoppard’s brilliant screenplay this Anna Karenina will be full of both pageantry and emotion. To realize Joe’s vision, we have the perfect producing partners in Working Title and Paul Webster, whose acumen is unsurpassed. With Keira Knightley playing this iconic role and a splendid cast supporting her, today’s moviegoers will be drawn to this powerful story.”
Mr. Bevan commented, “Everyone at Working Title is proud to affirm a longtime collaboration with Joe Wright through this, our fourth picture together. That we are able to re-convene cast and crew from Pride & Prejudice and Atonement makes it all the more exciting. We anticipate that this will be a defining screen version of Anna Karenina.”
Universal Pictures markets and distributes films internationally through Universal Pictures International (UPI), which officially began doing business on January 1, 2007. In the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, German-speaking Switzerland, Benelux, Russia, Australia, Mexico and France, UPI directly markets and distributes movies through our local offices, creating campaigns and release strategies that respond to the culture and market behavior of those territories. In other parts of the world, Universal distributes through Paramount’s local offices as it transitions out of the formerly shared UIP model. In some smaller territories we continue to work through UIP on theatrical distribution.
Working Title Films, co-chaired by Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner since 1992, is one of the world’s leading film production companies. Founded in 1983, Working Title has made nearly 100 films that have grossed over $4.5 billion worldwide. Its films have won 6 Academy Awards, 26 BAFTA Awards, and prestigious prizes at the Cannes and Berlin International Film Festivals. In addition to Anna Karenina, the 2011/2012 slate includes Tomas Alfredson’s thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, and Tom Hardy; Baltasar Kormákur’s Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale; Asif Kapadia’s Senna, the company’s first documentary feature, about legendary race car driver Ayrton Senna; Rowan Atkinson in Johnny English Reborn, directed by Oliver Parker; and Ken Kwapis’ Everybody Loves Whales, starring Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski.
Focus Features and Focus Features International (www.focusfeatures.com) comprise a singular global company. This worldwide studio makes original and daring films that challenge the mainstream to embrace and enjoy voices and visions from around the world that deliver global commercial success. The company operates as Focus Features in North America, and as Focus Features International (FFI) in the rest of the world.
In addition to Anna Karenina, and Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy, current and upcoming Focus releases include John Madden’s espionage thriller The Debt, which is currently #2 at the U.S. box office; Lone Scherfig’s romance One Day, based on the bestselling novel, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess; writer/director Dee Rees’ contemporary drama Pariah, which screens next week at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival; the untitled film written and directed by Paul Weitz and starring two-time Academy Award winner Robert De Niro and Paul Dano; Lorene Scafaria’s pre-apocalyptic comedic romance Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley; Moonrise Kingdom, the new feature from Wes Anderson, starring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schwartzman; Sam Fell and Chris Butler’s ParaNorman, the new 3D stop-motion comedy thriller from animation company LAIKA; and the historical tale Hyde Park on Hudson, directed by Roger Michell and starring Academy Award nominees Bill Murray and Laura Linney.
Focus Features and Universal Pictures International are part of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. Comcast Corporation owns a controlling 51% interest in NBCUniversal, with GE holding a 49% stake.