EXCLUSIVE: Kenneth Branagh is in talks to direct and star in Keeper Of The Diary, the Fox Searchlight drama that tells the story of Otto Frank’s struggle to find a publisher for the diary written by his daughter Anne Frank before she perished in the Holocaust. He was aided by an ambitious young woman who, fresh out of the Doubleday typing pool, became a junior editor trying to find her way by combing through the slush pile for publishable manuscripts. She and Otto Frank found each other and their perseverance led to the publication of one of the most enduring documents of the Holocaust. That woman, Barbara Zimmerman, became a publishing legend at Doubleday and was the founder of the New York Review of Books.

Image via Associated Press

Branagh will also play Otto Frank. This after he just wrapped directing and starring in Murder On The Orient Express for Fox.

Keeper Of The Diary was acquired by Searchlight in an auction for the spec by Mayday 109 scribes Sam Franco and Evan Kilgore. The film will be produced by Matti Leshem and Lynn Harris under their Weimaraner Republic Pictures banner. They produced the sleeper hit The Shallows. They will be joined as producers by Branagh and Judy Hofflund. Five studios bid on the spec when it came to market early this year, and it’s shaping up to be a movie that will get made quickly.

The drama takes place right after WWII, and up until the book was finally accepted by Doubleday in 1950. It became a passion project for the producers: Leshem lost his grandmother in the Holocaust, and his father is a survivor. Branagh narrated the documentary Anne Frank Remembered, so he certainly has an affinity for the story. Otto Frank lost everything and everyone he loved in the Holocaust, except his daughter’s diary. He begged and borrowed his way across Europe in his attempt to bring her story to the world. It happened because of the doggedness of Zimmerman, the ambitious young junior editor at Doubleday Press who believed the diary could change the world.

Branagh is repped by WME, and Berwick & Kovacik.