Actress to star in First Look film

Naomi Watts will topline First Look Pictures’ adaptation of Amy Sutherland’s “Kicked, Bitten and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the World’s Premiere School for Exotic Animal Trainers.”

Kristin Hahn and Dana Adam Shapiro will produce the project, developed as a romantic comedy; Todd Louiso and Jacob Koskoff are scripting. David Rubin is in negotiations to produce.

Sutherland’s tome focuses on the year she spent with students at the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College, where students learn how to communicate with animals such as camels, emus, baboons, cougars, wolves and snakes. Alumni hold posts at the world’s top zoos, aquariums and sanctuaries or become trainers who work in television and film.

First Look Pictures prexy Ruth Vitale credited the company’s Kevin Turen with bringing the project together.

Hahn, an exec producer on “The Departed,” also wrote and directed the documentary “Anthem.” Shapiro’s first film was the Oscar-nommed docu “Murderball”; Rubin produced “Igby Goes Down.”

Koskoff and Louiso co-wrote “The Marc Pease Experience,” set to star Ben Stiller and Jason Schwartzman. Louiso’s directorial debut was “Love Liza,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Watts recently starred in “The Painted Veil” and next will be seen in Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games” and David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises.”

Watts is repped by CAA, Untitled Entertainment and attorney Steve Warren.

Sutherland is also the author of “Cookoff,” a look at the competitive cooking circuit.

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