EXCLUSIVE: Viola Davis was already set to produce period drama The Personal History Of Rachel Dupree, and has now been confirmed to star in the pic. Also attached are House Of Cards Emmy nominee Mahershala Ali and Beasts Of The Southern Wild Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis. Claire McCarthy wrote the screenplay and will direct what’s billed as a unique take on the pursuit of the American Dream.

Oscar nominee and Emmy winner Davis originally optioned the rights to Ann Weisgarber’s eponymous novel in 2011 and will produce with Julius Tennon for their Juvee Productions, and Brian Rosen and Su Armstrong (Good Will Hunting) for SixtyFourSixty.

The story is set against the savage and harsh backdrop of the early 1900s South Dakota badlands where Rachel Dupree finds herself playing a game of cat-and-mouse with her ambitious husband Isaac on their isolated, drought-stricken ranch. Taunted by secrets and lies that scatter her marriage to a man she loves with such passion but somehow barely knows, Rachel must take matters into her own hands if her family is to survive, and fight for values that are worth more than land and ambition.

Davis says she discovered the book while filming The Help. “At its heart, it fully explores how you can choose a dream but you can’t choose the sacrifice. Rachel’s gut wrenching journey and ultimate heroic decision was, for me, an actress’ dream. As a woman, it is my chance to play a realistic heroine… one that is admirable, familiar, inspiring and rare. Rachel serves as the perfect voice to tell this part of American History seldom told.”

GFM Films is co-financing and handling worldwide sales. The project had begun to be shopped in Cannes this year, but has undergone a few casting changes with Naomie Harris previously attached in the lead role.

Shooting takes place next year. Davis is repped by CAA; Ali is with WME; and Wallis is at ICM.