Well this is certainly a curious pairing. Historical epics once used to be all the rage in Hollywood, spurred by the success of Braveheart and The Last of the Mohicans and spawning further films like The Patriot and Gladiator. The genre has cooled as of late, but it could be revived in the form of Catherine the Great, which has Barbra Streisand looking to make her filmmaking comeback and now Keira Knightley in talks to star as the Russian leader.
Per The Wrap, the Anna Karenina star is currently in negotiations to take on the titular role in the pic, which boasts a screenplay by Kristina Lauren Anderson that landed at the very top of 2014’s Black List of Hollywood’s best unproduced screenplays. Born Sophia Augusta Fredericka, Catherine the Great was the longest ruling female leader of Russia, sitting atop the throne from 1762 to 1796, during which time she revitalized Russia as a world power and presided over the Russian Enlightenment.
The film will focus on the life of younger Catherine, who was trapped in an abusive marriage to Tsar Peter III, whose death put Catherine atop the throne in 1762. This is a major project for Streisand, who hasn’t directed a narrative feature film since 1996’s The Mirror Has Two Faces, but whose 1983 directorial debut Yentl landed 5 Oscar nominations and one win, and announced her as a serious filmmaking talent.
Gil Netter (Life of Pi) is producing the film, which now instantly becomes one of the higher profile projects in development in Hollywood. Knightley is a terrific actress when put to good use, and while she’s no stranger to costume dramas, I’m eager to see her take on the life of this historical giant, with Streisand’s involvement making this a curious project indeed. It’s unclear how quickly this will get off the ground, but Knightley is next set to shoot the star-studded Collateral Beauty alongside Will Smith, Kate Winslet, and Helen Mirren.