'Needful Things' helmer takes on romantic tragedy

NEW YORK — Fraser Heston, whose directing credits include “Needful Things,” has set his sights on helming a Queensland, Australia-based adaptation of the Joseph Conrad novel “Freya of the Seven Isles.”

The film will be produced by Gale Anne Hurd’s Pacific Western and Agamemnon’s Alex Butler and Heston. The script was written by Lee Polevoi, a newcomer who’s the recipient of an Amblin Fellowship.

Heston, son of actor Charlton Heston, and his producing partners are working on shoring up independent financing for a late-summer start, which will get the picture in the can in plenty of time before Australia’s monsoon season hits in late December.

“Freya” has a much lighter tone than Conrad’s other brooding and dark works like “Heart of Darkness” and “The Secret Sharer.”

“This is basically an unabashed romance, about the love between a young girl who lives on this island and a young schooner captain who wants to marry her,” Heston said. “By circumstance and their own folly, they’re prevented from doing so. The schooner captain is almost destroyed by a Dutch gunboat captain who also loves her. It’s a great story, a wonderful story, and I’m surprised no one made it before.”

Heston said the pic will shoot on outdoor locations and in the Warner Roadshow Studios.

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