Jessica Chastain is in talks to star in Woman Walks Ahead with Susanna White (Generation Kill) directing. Ed Zwick and Marshall Herzkovitz are producing along with Rick Solomon as well as Erika Olde of Black Bicycle Entertainment, which is financing. Stuart Ford’s IM Global is handling international sales at the upcoming European Film Market in Berlin. CAA is packaging and repping domestic rights.
The project is based on the true story of Catherine Weldon, a widowed Brooklyn artist who, in June 1889, traveled to the Standing Rock Reservation in Dakota Territory to help Sitting Bull hold onto land that the government was trying to wrest from his people. Sitting Bull was the legendary Native American leader who led his people to defeat Gen. George Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Since the Sioux chieftain could neither read nor write English, he initially welcomes Weldon’s offer of help. Her efforts, however, backfire, as she is ordered to leave the reservation, and the Standing Rock Sioux were bullied into signing away their land. But she returned with her teenage son, settling at Sitting Bull’s camp on the Grand River. In recognition of her unusual qualities, Sitting Bull’s people called her “Toka heya mani win,” or “Woman Walking Ahead.”
The mainstream press vilified Weldon, labeling her “Sitting Bull’s white squaw” and accusing her of inciting Sitting Bull to join the Ghost Dance religion then sweeping the West, which frightened law enforcement officials. In fact Weldon opposed the Ghost Dance movement, arguing the army would use it as an excuse to jail or kill Sitting Bull. Ultimately, the confrontation over the Ghost Dance movement would lead to the killing of Sitting Bull and the Wounded Knee massacre.
It’s another juicy role for Chastain, who has steadily established herself as one of the classiest leading ladies around. Following her scene-grabbing turn in Ridley Scott’s hit The Martian opposite Matt Damon, Chastain has some high-profile projects in the pipeline including Snow White sequel The Huntsman Winter’s War opposite Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth. She is also set to star in gun control drama Miss Sloane for director John Madden and Xavier Dolan’s English-language debut The Death And Life Of John F. Donovan. She is repped by CAA and Mosaic.
Susanna White, who most recently directed the John Le Carré adaptation Our Kind of Traitor for The Ink Factory and StudioCanal, also directed an episode of Showtime’s well-received Billions. She is repped by United Agents and CAA.