Actress takes on Sylvia Plath 'Bell' tolls for Stiles in Plum deal

Julia Stiles is taking on Sylvia Plath.

Thesp will produce and star in “The Bell Jar,” the semi-autobiographical novel by the late poet Plath, for Gotham shingle Plum Pictures.

Playwright and screenwriter Tristine Skyler will adapt.

“The Bell Jar” tells the story of Esther Greenwood, a young reporter who seeks to make a name for herself in New York but spirals into depression and moves back to Boston. She eventually undergoes electroshock therapy and makes several attempts to take her own life.

Novel is regarded as a veiled account of Plath’s own life. Stiles will play Greenwood; no other cast has yet been attached.

Stiles, along with Plum’s Celine Rattray, Daniela Taplin Lundberg and Galt Niederhoffer, will produce. Christine Vachon’s Killer Films will be associated with the project, with Vachon and Killer’s Jocelyn Hayes Simpson exec producing.

Tome previously had been brought to the bigscreen by Melvin Simon’s Avco Embassy banner; the 1979 project starred Julie Harris and was directed by Larry Peerce but was regarded as a B.O. disappointment.

Stiles had been seeking to bring a new version to the screen for several years. She eventually teamed with Plum, which had produced a short the thesp directed with Elle magazine, to option rights to the book.

Plath widow Ted Hughes, who became embroiled in an estate dispute after Plath’s death in 1963, originally controlled the novel’s option. Plum and Stiles purchased it from StudioCanal.

Book has many dark overtones, but Rattray said the project will emphasize some of the more uplifting elements. “Esther Greenwood has a strong outlook on life, and we’re really looking to bring out the humor in the character,” she said. “We don’t want to do a depressing descent into the world of suicide.”

Plum said it hopes to go into production early next year.

Skyler is known as a playwright (“The Moonlight Mile”) and is adapting Jane Mendelsohn’s novel “Innocence” for Killer Films.

The Stiles-Plum short-film collaboration, “Raving,” starring Zooey Deschanel and Bill Irwin, will play the Tribeca Film Festival, which opens Wednesday, and will also air on the Sundance Channel. Stiles is also set to star in U’s next installment of the “Bourne” franchise, “The Bourne Ultimatum.”

Plum is in production on Matthew Broderick starrer “Diminished Capacity” and is in development on a remake of Michael Haneke’s “Cache” at Universal.

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