Barry Jenkins’ ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Taps Newcomer; Eileen O’Higgins Joins ‘Mary Queen Of Scots’; ‘1st Born’ Rounds Out Its Cast

KiKi Layne

Newcomer KiKi Layne has landed the lead role in Barry Jenkins’ film adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk, beating out more than 300 young women who auditioned. Layne will star as Tish, a newly engaged Harlem woman who races against the clock to prove her lover’s innocence while carrying their firstborn child to term. Annapurna is financing and producing the adaptation alongside Plan B Entertainment and PASTEL, and it marks the first film under the production pact with Jenkins’ PASTEL and Annapurna and Plan B’s deal with Annapurna. Jenkins is working with the Baldwin Estate to write the script, with production set to commence next month. Layne is repped by Mosaic and Grossman & Jack Talent.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Can Nguyen/REX/Shutterstock (5231467b) Eileen O'Higgins 'Brooklyn' premiere, 59th BFI London Film Festival, Britain - 12 Oct 2015

Irish actress Eileen O’Higgins has been cast in Mary, Queen Of Scots, the Josie Rourke-directed biopic from Working Title and Focus Features. The film, which stars Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie and Guy Pearce, details the turbulent life of the charismatic Mary Stuart (Ronan), Queen of France at 16 and widow at 18 who defies pressure to remarry. Instead, she returns to her native Scotland to reclaim her rightful throne, but Scotland and England fall under the rule of the compelling Elizabeth I (Robbie). Film is currently underway with Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Debra Hayward producing the project from a screenplay by Beau Willimon. O’Higgins, who co-starred opposite Ronan in John Crowley’s Oscar-nominated film Brooklyn, is repped by Troika and Magnolia Entertainment.

Leigha Hodnet; Rex/Shutterstock; Laura Moretti

1st Born, a joint U.S.-Iran co-produced film, is rounding out its cast with the addition of Reza Sixo Safai (The Persian Connection), who is replacing Armin Amiri in the lead role;  Denise Richards (Starship Troopers); and Tom Berenger (Hatfields & McCoys). The trio join Val Kilmer, William Baldwin, Robert Knepper, Jay Abdo, Greg Grunberg and Taylor Cole in the film, which is in production in Los Angeles with Ali Atshani and Sam Kohze co-directing. The pic centers on a a young married couple, Iranian born Ben (Safai) and American Kate, whose complicated first pregnancy forces their extended family, from differing backgrounds, to find common ground for the sake of the baby. Richards will play Christine, a reporter and television personality who is seen interviewing the political figures throughout their careers, while Berenger will play Tucker, an American politician. LA Independent Film and Entertainment is producing with Edwin Avaness and Anoush Sadegh. Sam Khoze, who also wrote the screenplay along with Tarek Zohdy and Medhi Alimirzayi. Richards is repped by Abrams Artists Agency and LINK; Berenger by Jeff Goldberg Management; and Safai by Special Artists Agency.

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