EXCLUSIVE: Sony-based TriStar is in early talks to finance and distribute Bronco Belle, the Khurram Longi-scripted drama. Natalie Portman is negotiating to star as aspiring bull rider heroine Raylene Jackson, and Anna Rose Holmer is in discussions to direct the film. Mad Chance’s Andrew Lazar is producing.

The movie is a female empowerment tale about a waitress who dreams of becoming a champion steer rider with the help of an ornery veteran mentor. She is not welcomed as she infiltrates the male-dominated rodeo circuit, but the film takes on a Rocky-esque tone because even though she seems overmatched by the beasts she rides, she just will not be denied. The script has a lot of fans around town, and has a lot of heart. Deadline revealed last March that Portman and Holmer were attached to the package that CAA has been shopping. They haven’t been bucked off the drama, and it looks like this film will get made next year.

Portman most recently wrapped the Alex Garland-directed sci-fi thriller Annihilation, which Paramount just dated for a February 23 release. Holmer directed the indie The Fits. Both are repped by CAA, with Holmer also with Management 360. Longi is with CAA and Independent Talent.