There’s a little show you might have been hearing about called “Downton Abbey.” Well, with the show now a runaway critical hit and audience sensation, it’s time for some of the stars to leapfrog into feature film roles.
Jessica Brown-Findlay (Lady Sybil Crawley to you) is one of the first out of the gate, landing the female lead in Akiva Goldsman‘s ambitious and long-developing directorial debut, “Winter’s Tale.” Brown-Findlay beat out a number of actresses who were testing for the part including Lily Collins (who has her own franchise in “The Mortal Instruments” gearing up anyway) and Bella Heathcote. Meanwhile, as for the male lead, the battle is still being fought. Benjamin Walker and Tom Hiddleston were previously reported to be in contention, though now it appears Aaron Johnson and Garrett Hedlund are the frontrunners. And in case you’re wondering why Warner Bros. is letting this go ahead with a bunch of lesser-known names, that’s because Goldsman calmed the suits by casting Russell Crowe and Will Smith in smaller, supporting roles.
Based on the acclaimed 1983 novel by Mark Helprin, the fantasy story follows a thief who breaks into a wealthy man’s home, sparking a relationship with the man’s terminally ill daughter with reincarnation, a flying horse, and a time-shift of 100 years all playing a part of the plot. Findlay-Brown will portray the dying young woman, with the dudes battling it out for the role of the thief. Meanwhile, Smith will play a judge in the movie, with Crowe lined up as a gangster, Pearly Soames.
We’re still not convinced that Goldsman — whose track record is mixed at best — can wrangle this into a compelling, coherent movie, but he’s certainly lining up a strong cast to make it with. “Winter’s Tale” starts shooting in October.