Fresh off acclaimed performances in Toronto drama Skin (which will be released in U.S. later this year) and Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool and ahead of a key role in Elton John biopic Rocketman, Bell will star in the Olly Blackburn-directed feature, which Altitude will launch for the Cannes Marché.
Set during July 1940, the story opens with 12-year-old evacuee Lydia walking through a village in rural England on a baking hot day. She is wearing a gas mask. The shops and houses are empty, windows boarded up and the village seemingly deserted. Leaving it behind, she arrives at a large house by the marshes – the house she grew up in. Lydia finds it empty too and her family gone.
Late that night comes Heiden (Bell), a soldier, gun in hand and heralding a full-blown German invasion. There are, he explains, certain rules she must now follow. He won’t kill Lydia, but she cannot leave the house. Is he telling the truth? What is he looking for? Why is he so familiar? And how does he already know Lydia’s name?
Based on the novel by Jason Hewitt, script comes from playwright EV Crowe, whose first play Kin was nominated for the Evening Standard’s Most Promising Playwright award. Crowe’s TV work includes Channel 4’s Coming Up, Pig Life starring Shirley Henderson, and also Jack Thorne’s Glue.
Producers are Ivana MacKinnon (Beast) of Stray Bear Productions and Oliver Roskill (Under The Shadow) of Record Player Films. Shoot date has yet to be set.
Director Blackburn (Donkey Punch) said, “I am excited to be working with Jamie Bell, a world-class actor with immense screen presence and the chops and intensity to take this character into the darkness with him. Although events played out 80 years ago, E V Crowe has given us an urgent and contemporary story, deeply relevant in this era of division.”
Blackburn has most recently directed TV dramas including The Widow starring Kate Beckinsale, Victoria starring Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes, Jack Thorne’s Glue and ITV’s upcoming Andrew Davies adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sanditon.
Producers MacKinnon and Roskill added, “In this incredibly contemporary take on a period thriller, EV and Olly have created something that engages with the dark ideas of our time and what we will need to find in ourselves to withstand them. Lydia and Heiden are unforgettable characters, and in Jamie Bell we are privileged to be working with an actor who can bring to life the layers of this complex character, while never allowing an audience to lose sight of his spark of humanity.”
Altitude’s Cannes market slate also includes doc Diego Maradona by Asif Kapadia and Billie from James Erskine.
Bell is represented by Vanessa Pereira at Artists Independent Management and Brian Swardstrom from United Talent Agency. Jason Hewitt is represented by Will Francis at Janklow & Nesbit.