Gallic war tale to occupy 'Pianist' scribe

Universal Pictures has acquired screen rights to the Irene Nemirovsky book “Suite Francaise” and set Ronald Harwood to adapt the tale about the occupation of France by German troops.

Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will produce.

Harwood returns to WWII terrain for the first time since “The Pianist,” for which he won an Oscar.

“Suite Francaise” takes place in 1940, after German soldiers settle into a quiet occupation and the local villagers try to cope. At the center of the story is a romance between a French woman and a German soldier.

A popular writer in pre-WWII France, Nemirovsky wrote “Suite Francaise” shortly before she was sent to Auschwitz, where she died. Sixty years after she wrote it, Nemirovsky’s book was discovered by family members. They thought it was a diary until they discovered the first two parts of what was to be five novels about the early occupation of France by the Nazis.

“They are magnificent novellas, both in substance and because of the circumstances under which they were written,” Harwood said.

“Obviously, I’m drawn to the period, and what this story reveals about the nature of humans when they are under threat.” Harwood, who recently scripted a rewrite for Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Hugh Jackman-Nicole Kidman pic, also scripted the Julian Schnabel-directed “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and Mike Newell’s “Love in the Time of Cholera.”

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