EXCLUSIVE: Stuart Hazeldine, who helmed Lionsgate’s $97M faith-based hit The Shack, will next direct the wartime thriller Irena Sendler, about the Polish social worker who organized a team of young women to smuggle 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto in defiance of the Nazi extermination program.
Pic will be produced by Armory Films which has been relishing some great success at the specialty box office recently with its SXSW and Deauville Audience winner The Peanut Butter Falcon (current B.O. $15M).
Irena Sendler is being written by Agatha Dominik, Brian Pittman & Rachel Long and Hazeldine. The film will be produced by Jeff Most (The Crow, The Specialist), Jeff Rice (Lone Survivor, A Private War), Armory Films’ Christopher Lemole and Tim Zajaros (The Peanut Butter Falcon, Mudbound), and BAFTA and Oscar-winning producer Ewa Puszczyńska (Cold War, Ida) of Extreme Emotions. Golden Globe winning producer Gareth Wiley (Match Point, Vicky Christina Barcelona) of Phoenix Wiley will serve as EP.
Most along with Jeff Rice obtained Sendler’s authorized biography and life rights, including access to unpublished details about her life, as well as securing her blessing to tell her story prior to her passing in 2008. Ingenious Media arranged the funding for the development of the script.
Armory Films’ Christopher Lemole and Tim Zajaros tell Deadline, “What Irena and her courageous group of women were able to accomplish is miraculous. It’s remarkable that so few people know about her incredible story. We couldn’t be more excited to have Stuart on board to direct this incredible script and tell the world the story of the inspirational hero Irena Sendler.”
Most added, “Knowing her as I did, I’m certain that if Irena Sendler was alive today she would be thrilled that her story is in the capable hands of Stuart Hazeldine, who has crafted a compelling vision to bring one of the most daring, exciting and moving tales of WW2 to the big screen.”
Hazeldine’s feature directorial debut Exam starring Luke Mably and Chukwudi Iwuji and Gemma Chan was nominated for a BAFTA in the British filmmaker debut category. Hazeldine is repped by WME, Brillstein Entertainment and Stone Genow Smelkinson Binder & Christopher.