Julia Roberts to star in Root project

Project focuses on conservationist

CANNES — Julia Roberts is getting back together with Working Title Films to produce and star in a movie about the wildlife conservationist Joan Root, who was murdered in her Kenyan home earlier this year.

The untitled project, inspired by Vanity Fair article “A Flowering Evil,” will follow Root’s earlier life making documentaries around the globe with her husband. After their divorce, she returned to Kenya where she devoted herself to saving Lake Naivasha from the ecologically damaging flower farm industry.

David Magee (“Finding Neverland”) is writing the screenplay. Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will produce with Roberts via her shingle, Red Om. Roberts previously starred in WT’s biggest box office hit, “Notting Hill.”

The Joan Root movie is one of four projects being prepped to shoot early in ’08. Comedy maestro Richard Curtis will return next year with his second directorial outing, “The Boat That Rocked”; Paul Greengrass is gearing up his Iraq drama “Imperial Life in the Emerald City”; and the Coen brothers will shoot “A Serious Man.”

Universal-backed WT is gearing up for its busiest ever period of production, with six pics set to roll in the remainder of 2007 — four in the U.S. and two in Blighty. This expansion of the slate comes after Bevan and Fellner recently re-upped their deal with U for another seven years.

In late summer, the Coen brothers will shoot dark spy comedy “Burn After Reading,” starring George Clooney, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt. Pitt will also star in Kevin Macdonald’s political thriller “State of Play,” an American remake of the BBC mini-series, set for production in November.

Ron Howard will start shooting in August on his bigscreen version of Peter Morgan’s stage play “Frost/Nixon,” which stars the stage cast of Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, along with Sam Rockwell, Toby Jones and Matthew Macfadyen. Paul Rudd will star in New York cuisine comedy “Foodfight” for director Steve Brill.

Back in the U.K., Nick Moore will make his feature directing debut with “Wild Child,” starring Emma Roberts as a rebellious American teenager sent to an English boarding school to mend her ways.

Beeban Kidron will direct “Hippie Hippie Shake,” about the rise and fall of alternative magazine Oz in the Swinging London scene of the 1960s and early ’70s. Pic stars Cillian Murphy, Sienna Miller, Emma Booth and Max Minghella.

Meanwhile, WT, which has already enjoyed huge box office success this year with “Mr. Bean’s Holiday” and “Hot Fuzz,” has three pics coming through for release in the second half of ’07 and early ’08 — Joe Wright’s “Atonement,” Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” and Adam Brooks’ “Definitely Maybe.”

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