EXCLUSIVE: Daisy Ridley and Naomi Watts are in final talks to star in Ophelia, a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s classic Hamlet through the eyes of the play’s famously doomed heroine. Covert Media has boarded to finance and handle international sales at Cannes.

In Shakespeare’s play, Ophelia is one of only two female characters along with Gertrude. She gradually is driven mad by Hamlet’s erratic behavior toward her, especially, as well as those around him. Unbeknownst to Ophelia, he also kills her father Polonius. Overcome by grief, she later is found drowned. It is not entirely clear in the play if she killed herself or simply suffered an accident. As per Gertrude’s poetic summation of her death, one of literature’s most evocative passages, Ophelia was “incapable of her own distress.”

The project is based on the award-winning novel by Lisa Klein, which Semi Chellas (Mad Men) has adapted. Claire McCarthy (The Waiting City) will direct. Daniel Bobker and Ehren Kruger (The Brothers Grimm) are producing along with Sarah Curtis (Hysteria). CAA packaged and arranged financing and will handle the domestic sale.

Set in the 14th century but spoken in a contemporary voice, Ophelia will put the titular character center stage. “Sarah, Ehren and I have always treated this film like a jewel, since there’s something extra precious in bringing to life a treasured female icon, celebrated for centuries as an alluring figure in the shadows of Shakespeare’s most famous work, without ever really having her own story told,” said Bobker.

After months of radio silence on Ridley’s non-Star Wars-related plans, there has been a burst of activity on the announcement of new projects. The young Brit actress is, understandably, much in demand. Ridley is in talks to star in Kolma, a fantasy thriller that J.J. Abrams is producing for Paramount Pictures. Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) is on to direct and will do a pass on the script before it gets up and running. The project has been at Paramount for at least a decade. Ridley is also said to be in talks for The Lost Wife, a Holocaust drama about a young woman who gets separated from her husband when the Nazis invade Prague.

Watts next will star in The Glass Castle opposite Brie Larson for Lionsgate and will star in and exec produce the Netflix series Gypsy. She also has Colin Treverrow’s The Book of Henry in the pipeline.

Veteran film executive Paul Hanson partnered with Media Content Capital last year to launch Covert Media, a feature production, financing and distribution company based in Los Angeles. Hanson, formerly COO of QED International and, later, of Annapurna Pictures, serves as CEO. Media Content Capital has pledged to fund the new company, with a mandate to make three to four films a year, budgeted at $10 million-$50 million.

Ridley is repped by CAA and attorney Shelby Weiser at Sloane Offer. Watts is repped by CAA, Untitled Entertainment and Hansen Jacobson.