Call it a win today for female filmmakers, as well as a refreshing utilization of fresh talent, as The Hollywood Reporter reports that Saudi Arabian filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour will direct the period romance A Storm in the Stars. The indie drama will chart the passionate love affair between two of the world’s greatest writers – poet Percy Shelley and the teenage Mary Wollstonecraft (who would later write the classic Frankenstein.) Elle Fanning looks to star as Mary in the film being scripted by Emma Jensen. The movie, in addition to the romance at its core, will aim to show how brash and modern someone like Wollstonecraft must have appeared during her time, as she was highly educated and brought up by a family of intellectuals.
A Storm in the Stars, on paper at least, deserves praise for out-of-the-box thinking in terms of putting a director like Al-Mansour in charge. The filmmaker’s debut project was an international breakthrough for reasons that extend outside the artistic world. That film was Wadjda, an acclaimed 2012 film that told the quietly moving tale of young Saudi girl who dreams of owning a bike of her very own. The revelation of the film, which was nominated for Best First Feature at the 2013 Independent Spirit Awards and received a 2013 BAFTA nomination for Best Foreign-Language Film, was that it was the first feature to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. To boot, Al-Mansour is a woman. The accomplishment of the feat nearly outweighed the fragile dignity of Wadjda as a film, but certainly put the filmmaker on the map. This marks a huge next step for Al-Mansour’s, with an ambitious story and battle-tested tested leading lady.
Fanning, the younger sister of Dakota, first appeared on film in I Am Sam, playing the younger version of her sister’s character. Since then she’s collected an impressive gallery of credits that extends from very mainstream entries like J.J. Abrams’ 2011 science fiction hit Super 8, to the very obscure, like Francis Ford Coppola’s oddball Twixt, in which she starred opposite Val Kilmer. She recently appeared in the blockbuster Maleficent opposite Angelina Jolie and will next appear (at least her voice will) in Focus Features’ stop-motion film The Boxtrolls. Additionally, she is set to star in How to Talk to Girls at Parties, an adaptation of a Neil Gaiman short story to be directed by John Cameron Mitchell (Rabbit Hole, Shortbus.) “Elle is amazingly smart and talented and very much relates to Mary as a young woman,” said Amy Baer, who is producing A Storm in the Stars through her Gidden Media manner . “She is going to do something extraordinary in this role that will transition her from a compelling young adult to a formidable leading lady.”
The project is still in the process of procuring financing, but is expected to start shooting sometime next year.