Rebecca Ferguson (The Girl on the Train) will star as Ruth Harkness in a U.K.-China co-production of The Lady and the Panda. British director Justin Chadwick (Tulip Fever) will helm the historical adventure. Chadwick co-wrote the screenplay with Laura Bickford and Holly Gent Palmo.
Harkness was a designer and celebrated 1930s Manhattan socialite newly married to Bill Harkness, an adventurer on a quest to capture the then-highly mysterious giant panda, when her husband perished in China. Carrying on her late husband’s dream, Ruth pushed the boundaries of extraordinary adventure when against all odds she was able to capture an orphaned baby panda in the mountains of Tibet and introduce the animal to the world. Her journey, with Chinese guide and lover Quentin Young, cost her everything she had but turned her into an international sensation.
The film is produced by Bickford and Michelle Qi from Europe China Picture Group and executive produced by Joe Simpson of Miscellaneous Entertainment, Andrew Mann, Fiona Druckenmiller, Justin Brodle and Christopher Brough from Pandamotion Picture Company.
Ferguson had a star-making turn opposite Tom Cruise in last year’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. She can currently be seen in theaters as one of the three female leads in The Girl on the Train alongside Emily Blunt and Haley Bennett. She was also in this year’s Florence Foster Jenkins starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant. The in-demand actress will co-star in Sony’s sci-fi thriller Life with Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal and will star opposite Michael Fassbender in the detective drama The Snowman. She will reprise her role as Ilsa Faust in M:I 6 – Mission Impossible with Cruise and Jeremy Renner. Adding to her repertoire, she will be in a musical drama, The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman.
The Lady and the Panda will begin shooting next month in the Himalayas in China.