Rebecca Ferguson is attached to star as Ruth Harkness, the first person to bring a live giant panda out of China, in the Justin Chadwick-directed film The Lady And The Panda. Chadwick co-wrote the script with Laura Bickford and Holly Gent Palmo, and the film is set to being production in the foothills of the Himalayas in China next month.

The film is based on Harkness’ original detailed correspondence. When the 1930s New York socialite loses her wealthy husband unexpectedly, she takes over his expedition to China. Ignoring the dictates of society, she joins forces with an unproven but dashing Chinese guide, Quentin Young. They travel down the Yangtze and deep into the uncharted Himalayas where they rescue an orphaned baby panda. When Ruth takes it back to the U.S., she creates a nationwide sensation but before long realizes the animals are best preserved in their natural habitat.

The pic is a UK-China co-production, with Bickford and Michelle Qi from Europe China Picture Group producing. Exec producers are Joe Simpson of Miscellaneous Entertainment alongside Andrew Mann, Fiona Druckenmiller, Justin Brodle, and Christopher Brough from Pandamotion Picture Company.

Ferguson has a full slate of projects ahead including Fox’s The Greatest Showman On Earth with Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron and Michelle Williams and Paramount’s Mission: Impossible 6 with Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner. Repped by ICM Partners, Tavistock Wood Management and Actors in Scandinavia, she will soon been seen Sony’s Life starring Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal and with Michael Fassbender in Universal’s The Snowman.