‘Defense’ checkmates Turturro and Watson

Thesps to star in Gorris-helmed adaptation

John Turturro and Emily Watson are poised to fall in love in Dutch helmer Marleen Gorris’ next film, “The Luzhin Defense.”

Peter Berry’s adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s 1930s-set novel finds an uncharismatic and bumbling chess grandmaster (Turturro) in Italy where he has traveled for the match of his life. The love story unfolds when the chess expert — lacking any sort of social grace or charm — meets a beautiful young woman (Watson) , and unlikely match, who is vacationing with her mother at a nearby resort.

Caroline Wood and Steven Evans are producing through their London-based Renaissance Films (“The Wings of the Dove,” “The Madness of King George”), with equity recently secured through Hermes Investment Management. Lensing on “Luhzin” will begin in Italy in October.

Separately, Gorris has optioned a series of detective novels by acclaimed Dutch mystery writer Janwillem van de Wetering. The “Grijpstra and DeGier” mystery series, which debuted in 1975, follows the exploits of the two title detectives. What form a project would take is still uncertain, with Gorris eyeing a potential one-hour TV series, feature or feature franchise.

Additionally, Gorris is in discussions to develop scribe Moira McLaughlin’s script chronicling the 15th century Italian Borgia family, particularly Lucrezia Borgia, whose life was surrounded by violence.

The acclaimed director, whose “Antonia’s Line” took home an Oscar for best foreign language pic in 1996, also directed Vanessa Redgrave in the following year’s “Mrs. Dalloway.” She is repped by UTA and Seven Summits Pictures and Management.

Turturro, who wrote, produced and directed the recent release “Illuminata,” also appeared in Spike Lee’s “Summer of Sam.” Watson has received two Academy Award nominations for her roles in 1996’s “Breaking the Waves” and 1998’s “Hilary and Jackie.”

Turturro and Watson are both repped by ICM.

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