EXCLUSIVE: Oscar-winner Helen Mirren has signed on to co-star in White Bird: A Wonder Story, Liongate’s companion film drawn from the universe of its 2017 hit, Wonder. In addition, Ariella Glaser and Orlando Schwerdt have also been cast in lead roles while Bryce Gheisar is set to reprise his role as Julian from Wonder.
The new additions are joining previously announced star Gillian Anderson in the film, which commenced production in Eastern Europe. Finding Neverland and Christopher Robin helmer Marc Forster is directing the film adaptation based on the book by R.J. Palacio.
Written by Mark Bomback, the film follows Julian Albans, the bully who left Beecher Prep, who is visited by his Grandmère from Paris and is transformed by her remarkable story of compassion and courage. As a girl in Nazi-occupied France, the young Grandmère goes into hiding with the help of a schoolmate, a young man who risks everything to give her the chance to survive. Together, they find beauty and love in the secret world of their own creation.
Mirren will play Grandmère, the Parisian grandmother of Julian Albans. Glaser’s character is Sara, the young Grandmère as a child in Nazi-occupied France. Schwerdt will play Julien, a classmate who, with his parents, hides Sara at great personal risk. As Deadline previously reported, Anderson will play Julien’s mother.
“I am deeply honored to have Helen Mirren join us on this journey,” said Forster. “Beyond being a brilliant actress, Helen brings an immeasurable level of depth, humanity, and empathy to her roles, elevating any project she is a part of. She is a true artist and I couldn’t be more excited to have her alongside our incredibly talented cast.”
“Helen Mirren is a screen legend – one of our industry’s most accomplished and talented actresses – so, obviously, it’s hugely exciting to know that she loves this story as much as we do and wanted to be a part of it,” remarked Nathan Kahane, President of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group. “We’re equally excited to showcase Ariella and Orlando’s talents – as they take on their first major roles, they’ll bring heart, emotion, and magnetism to their performances and we are thrilled Bryce will return to bridge his role from Wonder. White Bird: A Wonder Story is the kind of movie that the world needs now and it’s a thrill to have these incredible actors bringing to life this story of compassion, empathy, kindness, and hope.”
Mandeville Films’ David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman, who produced Wonder, are also producing the follow-up along with Palacio. Renée Wolfe, who is a partner in Forster’s 2DUX2, will serve as executive producer with Alex Young for Mandeville. James Myers and Aaron Edmonds are overseeing the project on behalf of the studio.
Mirren, who earned an Oscar and Golden Globe for her performance in The Queen, will next be seen in Amazon’s sci-fi series Solos as well as Universal’s F9, reprising her role as Queenie, and Sony Pictures Classics The Duke. Mirren is repped by CAA.
Glaser, repped by United Agents in the UK, appeared in the Amazon original film Radioactive. Schwerdt, whose credits include True History of the Kelly Gang and Children of the Corn, is repped by Australia’s Shanahan Management. Repped by CESD, Kim Dawson, and Industry Entertainment, Gheisar starred on the most recent season of Nickelodeon’s series Are You Afraid of the Dark? and The Astronauts.