Director makes English-language debut

BERLIN — Gillian Anderson is set to star in “Helen,” the first English-language film from German writer-director Sandra Nettelbeck.

Anderson, fresh from her starring roles in “The Last King of Scotland” and the upcoming U.K. thriller “Straightheads,” portrays a talented professor forced to come to terms with her clinical depression.

Produced by Berlin-based Egoli Tossell in collaboration with Doug Mankoff’s Echo Lake Prods., pic will start shooting in the U.S. in September with support from German regional subsidy Filmstiftung NRW.

“It’s the story of a successful woman who has it all but whose life falls apart as a result of this disease,” said Egoli Tossell’s Jens Meurer. “It’s also about her overcoming the illness against all the odds.”

The gut-wrenching drama is a change of pace for Nettelbeck, who wrote and directed the 2001 hit romantic comedy “Mostly Martha,” which served as the basis for Scott Hicks’ upcoming remake “No Reservations” starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart, as well as the 2004 comedy “Sergeant. Pepper,” about a dog who inherits a fortune and befriends a lonely boy.

Egoli Tossell also is partnering with Georgian Films on “The Master of Farnow,” an English-language feature based on German author Eduard von Keyserling’s 1906 novella “Schwuele Tage,” with Richard Kwietniowski set to direct from a screenplay by Paul Mayersberg.

In the vein of “Pride and Prejudice,” pic, which stars Sebastian Koch (“The Lives of Others”), is a romantic and erotic tale of love and deceit among wealthy families living in lavish country estates in northern Germany in the early 20th century.

In collaboration with the U.K.’s Zephyr films, Egoli Tossell is currently producing Michael Hoffman’s Leo Tolstoy biopic “The Last Station,” starring Anthony Hopkins and Meryl Streep.

Company also is partnering with Zephyr on Agnieszka Holland’s “Peter and Catherine,” about the 18th century Russian czar and the Polish maid who went on to become empress of Russia. Chloe Sevigny is set to star.

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