British actress Sienna Miller will star in Just Like a Woman, playing a Chicago housewife who absconds with her belly-dancing teacher to Las Vegas to enter a dance competition. Rachid Bouchareb, whose Algerian Oscar entry Above the Law lost out to In a Better World in Sunday’s Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, directs. He starts filming on location in New Mexico on June 13. Miller, whose new play Flare Path directed by Trevor Nunn opens in London this Friday, tells me she agreed to star in Just Like a Woman before she even read the script. “Rachid is one of the most exciting directors working today,” she says. “He’s one of those people who understand the medium of film in a way that’s not manipulative but that’s honest and raw. As a director he’s capable of anything. The kinds of films he makes are the ones I like to watch.” Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani (Body of Lies) and Bouchareb regular Roschdy Zem will co-star. Just Like a Woman is being structured as a US/French/UK co-production between Bouchareb’s production company Tessalit and Anglo/Brit producer The Bureau. It sounds like Bouchareb wants to do something more light-hearted. Right-wingers marched on the streets at Cannes last year over Outside the Law. Demonstrators protested against what they saw as a one-sided account of the 1950s fight for Algerian independence. Bouchareb and Miller are both repped by WME, with United Agents also repping Miller in London. She’s managed by Scott Melrose.
Bouchareb, who has been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar three times, tells me he has been offered Hollywood movies but he wants to concentrate on his own projects for now. He plans to start filming Belleville’s Cop in March. Queen Latifah is attached to star in this fish-out-of-water comedy about an Arab “flic” sent to work alongside a LAPD policewoman. Jamel Debbouze, another Bouchareb regular, will play the French Arab cop. Pathe, the French mini-major, is financing. Bouchareb plans to begin filming in March next year. Larry Gross, screenwriter of 48 Hours, co-wrote the script. And he tells me he plans to make “the real French Connection” after that, a period drama about how Marseilles became the heroin capital of the world after gangster Lucky Luciano began shipping drugs to the States in the 1950s. Pathe is also financing this one.
At a time when Algeria and the rest of North Africa is convulsed with revolution – with such dreadful news coming out of Libya – Bouchareb says he remains optimistic about the region’s future. “You have some countries where people have been in power for 40 years, but the information revolution means they cannot control everything anymore,” he says.