Jodie Foster will topline “The Leni Riefenstahl Project” (working title), a co-production of Primary Pictures and Foster’s Paramount-based Egg Pictures.
Oscar-nominated scripter Ron Nyswaner (“Philadelphia”) will pen the screenplay about the controversial German filmmaker.
“There is no other woman in the 20th century who has been so admired and vilified simultaneously,” Foster said.
Riefenstahl won international acclaim as a photographer, actress and filmmaker in 1930s Germany. Her pic “Olympia,” about the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, is considered a milestone in film aesthetics, landing her on the cover of Time magazine. She also starred and co-directed “The Blue Light” (1932) and toplined “The White Flame” (1931), both to critical acclaim.
But many consider Riefenstahl, now 97, to have been a Nazi sympathizer and propagandist, having fashioned the Nazi party docu “Triumph of the Will” in 1934.
“She was perhaps one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and yet her name will forever be linked to the horror of Nazi Germany,” Foster observed.
Project will be produced by Foster and Meg LeFauve at Egg and Gabriela Bacher at Primary.
How the pic’s U.S. distribution will be handled is not yet clear. While Par-based Egg Pictures has a first-look deal with the studio, Paramount won’t have automatic right of first refusal on domestic distribution, as rights to the film are controlled by Primary, which itself has an first-look deal with Germany’s Kirch Media.
Egg and Primary were brought together on the project by ICM motion picture literary department topper Ken Kamins and Foster’s own ICM feature agent Joe Funicello. Kamins also heads ICM’s international operations.
The Egg/Primary deal follows closely the announcement of German-based Odeon Films’ plans for a similar pic. Odeon is developing a project based on Riefenstahl’s autobiography “Memoiren,” as well as a biography from Ernst Junger, “Stahlgewittern” (Daily Variety, Nov. 30).
Nyswaner is repped by Steve Rabineau at Endeavor.