Watts will make ‘Promises’

Thesp set for Cronenberg thriller

CANNES — Naomi Watts has been cast as the female lead in David Cronenberg’s London thriller “Eastern Promises” for Focus Features and BBC Films.

Pic will start shooting in November, right after Watts finishes filming on Michael Haneke’s remake of his own psycho-drama “Funny Games.”

“Eastern Promises,” scripted by Steve Knight, delves into the same seedy underside of London life that he explored in “Dirty Pretty Things.”

Watts, who was Oscar-nominated for “Mulholland Drive,” will play Anna, a midwife at a London hospital who gets dragged into the criminal underworld when she tries to discover the identity of a dead patient.

Viggo Mortensen is set to play the mysterious and ruthless Nikolai, a man with links to one of London’s most notorious organized crime families. His carefully maintained existence is thrown into turmoil when he crosses paths with Anna.

Paul Webster of Kudos Film will produce, with Focus taking worldwide rights and BBC Films retaining U.K. TV.

Meanwhile, Hamish McAlpine’s Tartan Films and Chris Coen’s Halcyon Pictures have joined forces with French sales outfit Celluloid Dreams to produce Haneke’s English-lingo remake of “Funny Games,” which will start shooting in September.

Originally made in German in 1997, it’s the story of a middle-class family on holiday who are terrorized by two young men.

Watts most recently starred in Warner Independent’s Asian romancer “The Painted Veil” alongside Ed Norton.

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