EXCLUSIVE: Young Woman And The Sea, based on the book by Glenn Stout that chronicles the daring journey of the first woman to ever swim across the English Channel, has been set up at Paramount Pictures by producer Jerry Bruckheimer. He has tapped his Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales writer Jeff Nathanson, who also scripted the cat-and-mouse Catch Me If You Can, to adapt the book. Lily James (Cinderella) will star as Gertrude “Trudy” Ederle, who in 1926 captured world attention when she swam across the 21-mile channel — an incredible feat for anyone, let alone a teen.
The daughter of a German butcher from Manhattan, Ederle was a competitive swimmer, an Olympic athlete who won gold in the 1924 Games when she decided to attempt crossing the channel. She undertook the feat after first swimming 22 miles from Battery Park in New York to Sandy Hook, NJ, in a record that stood for 81 years.
When she set her mind to crossing the English Channel, she contracted with two newspapers and sold her story, thereby financing her quest. There was actually a race among women who would be first to cross as only five men had done so before.
She and her sister Meg constructed a two-piece swimsuit — unheard of in the 1920s, when skirt lengths were below the knee and ordinary swimsuits looked like summer dresses — and used candle wax to seal her goggles to make them leak-proof.
After struggling against waves, winds and some of the most treacherous waters anywhere, the relentless Ederle overcame all odds and finally completed her journey. The moment she reached shore, she rocketed to worldwide celebrity status and was known as “Trudy of America.” But her triumph was much more than the crossing of the channel because she shattered centuries of female stereotypes and opened doors for generations of women to come.
When she returned to America, there was a ticker-tape parade in New York and 2 million people greeted her. Then, oddly enough, as quickly as she rose to become a household name and a symbol for the strength of women everywhere, she disappeared. Stout’s book was published in 2009 by Houghton Mifflin.
Bruckheimer will produce and Nathanson will executive produce.
Nathanson’s other credits include Rush Hour 2 (and 3), The Terminal, Tower Heist and The Last Shot, which he also directed. He teamed with Steven Spielberg for a third time in 2008 when he wrote the story for Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull with George Lucas.
James was recently seen starring alongside Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter and Richard Madden in Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, which became one of Disney’s biggest box office hits this past summer, making a whopping $542M worldwide. That’s good news for Bruckheimer because James is now well-known to international audiences.
She just wrapped Kaiser’s Last Kiss opposite Christopher Plummer and Jai Courtney as well as War And Peace for the BBC and The Weinstein Company. She will next star in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver for Working Title and TriStar Pictures opposite Ansel Elgort, Liam Neeson and Jamie Foxx. She also has a turn with Jack Huston and Sam Riley in Sony/Screen Gems’ upcoming Pride And Prejudice And Zombies.
James is repped by UTA and UK’s Tavistock Wood. Nathanson is represented by UTA.