Hudson, Latifah join Searchlight feature

Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah and Sophie Okonedo have signed on to Fox Searchlight’s “The Secret Life of Bees,” based on the Sue Monk Kidd novel. Dakota Fanning is in negotiations to star as the 14-year-old girl who flees her home and is taken in by an eccentric trio of beekeeping sisters.

Alicia Keys is also in negotiations to join the film, helmed by “Love & Basketball” director Gina Prince-Bythewood from a screenplay she wrote.

Set in South Carolina in 1964, story centers on Lily Owens (Fanning), who escapes her lonely life and troubled relationship with her father by running away with her caregiver and only friend (Hudson) to a South Carolina town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. Latifah, Okonedo and Keys would play the three sisters.

Shooting is scheduled to begin Jan. 9 in North Carolina, and the pic will be released by Fox Searchlight in 2008.

“Secret Life of Bees” was published in 2002 and became a long-running New York Times bestseller.

Lauren Shuler Donner and Jack Leslie are producing alongside James Lassiter, Will Smith and Joe Pichirallo.

Fanning is currently shooting Summit’s supernatural thriller “Push,” and Hudson is filming the bigscreen “Sex in the City” pic. Latifah will next be seen in Overture’s bank-heist comedy “Mad Money.” Okonedo will be seen next opposite Sam Neill in the indie “Skin.”

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