“The Book Thief,” the WWII Germany-set children’s novel by Marcus Zusak that spent over 280 weeks on the New York Times’ bestseller list, has been gearing up for the big screen for a little while now, and has attracted quite the international cast to help bring the story to life.
French-Canadian youngster Sophie Nelisse, who starred in last year’s Oscar-nominated foreign film “Monsieur Lazhar,” will take on the title role of a young girl who lives outside Munich during WWII with her foster parents and a Jewish refugee hiding under the family’s stairs. During the bombing raids, Liesel begins stealing books, sharing them with her neighbors and learning to read, setting the stage for a tale about the comforting power of the printed word. Australian-born Geoffrey Rush and English actress Emily Watson are set to play her foster parents, with American actor Ben Schnetzer as the refugee and young German talent Nico Liersch also signed on.
Overall, it seems that Fox and the film’s producers are putting their faith in some fresh faces and veteran talents to bring what sounds like some Oscar-season material to life. Certainly, given the legion of fans the books already seem to have, expectations will be high, but the approach seems modest and poised to put an emphasis on the story, rather than starry lead performances.
Filming is set to begin this month in Berlin with Brian Percival (“Downton Abbey”) to direct. [THR]