Cronenberg nabs thriller

Focus Features and BBC Films have attached David Cronenberg to direct “Eastern Promises,” a London thriller penned by Steve Knight.

Script digs into the same seamy underside of life in the U.K. capital that Knight explored in his previous film, “Dirty Pretty Things.”

Story focuses on a young midwife drawn into investigating the identity of a mysterious Russian girl who dies in childbirth on Christmas Eve.

The nurse stumbles into danger when she discovers that the dead woman was a prostitute ensnared by a sex-trafficking gang.

“Eastern Promises” will be produced by Paul Webster of Kudos Films, who most recently made “Pride & Prejudice” for Working Title, released in the U.S. by Focus.

Focus is taking worldwide rights on “Eastern Promises,” excluding U.K. TV, which is held by the BBC. The BBC originally developed the screenplay with Knight.

Cronenberg and Knight have just started working together on the script; aim is to shoot this fall.

However, Cronenberg is also attached to direct the Bruce Wagner-scripted “Maps to the Stars” for Serendipity Pictures, and much depends on which of the two projects is ready to go first.

“Eastern Promises” will be Cronenberg’s second British movie after his 2002 psychodrama “Spider.”

Budget is likely to be $15 million-$20 million.

Webster recently came aboard as producer on Joe Wright’s “Atonement” for Working Title. That pic is currently casting to shoot mid-year.

He is also developing “Miss Pettigrew Lives for the Day” with Focus. Frances McDormand is attached to star, and Lone Scherfig to direct.

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