Move over Edith Piaf. The story of smoky-voiced Swedish chanteuse Zarah Leander, who became a stage and film star in Nazi Germany, is coming to the big screen.
German helmer Ben Verbong will direct “Zarah L.,” based on a screenplay by Regine Kuehn for Munich-based Blue Eyes Fiction.
Next to Marlene Dietrich, Leander remains one of Germany’s most beloved entertainers from the 1930s, but the singer — who was also one of the highest paid contract players at Berlin’s UFA studio — paid a heavy price for her stardom.
As the war intensified, Leander, who had Jewish grandparents, fled the Allied bombing of Berlin and returned to her native Sweden, where she was shunned as a war collaborator. Stripped of her celebrity status, Leander sank into depression and alcoholism.
The one-time diva of the Third Reich eventually made it back onto the Swedish stage after the war and in later years even played concerts in Germany and Austria, but she never regained star status.
“Why did Zarah allow herself to be an instrument of the Nazi regime? This is among questions that ‘Zarah L.’ will seek to explore,” Verbong said.
Blue Eyes is planning the pic as a European co-production with an internationally-known star in the title role.
Blue Eyes is also producing the live-action/animated feature “Hexe Lilli” (Lilly the Witch) by Austrian helmer Stefan Ruzowitzky, whose WWII drama “The Counterfeiters” is competing for the Golden Bear in Berlin.