Kelly suiting up for ‘Joan of Arc’

Big-studio biopics of Joan of Arc have gone in and out of turnaround, but Ron Maxwell has taken a big leap forward in his own effort to bring history’s most famous martyr to the screen: Moira Kelly has been cast in the lead of “Joan of Arc.”

The three-hour, $30 million epic, scheduled to begin shooting in September, will lense in Portugal and France, and will have an epic scale, with 110 parts. (One scene requires 5,000 extras as army soldiers.)

Maxwell and producers Bertrand Tavernier and Frederic Bourboulon are in the process of lining up domestic and international distributors.

Maxwell has developed his version outside a studio for the past three years, but his casting of Kelly raises the likelihood that his Joan of Arc will be the first recent project to make it to the screen.

Maxwell had considered hundreds of actresses for the lead. In Kelly they have found someone who can “handle the language and the technical parts of the script” and also give the character a “soulful quality,” among other demands, Maxwell said.

Maxwell, the director and writer of “Gettysburg,” has said that the pic will portray the maid of Orleans not as the pious victim depicted in a slew of other film versions, but as a “natural-born leader and courageous soldier.”

Kelly stars in the upcoming New Regency/Warner Bros. pic “Venice” (aka “The Honest Courtesan”) and the recent “Entertaining Angels.” Her other credits include “The Tie That Binds,” “With Honors,” “Chaplin,” “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” and “The Cutting Edge.”

Maxwell penned the script and will direct “Joan of Arc.” Michel Chambat and Pierre Kalfon are executive producers.

Joan of Arc has been portrayed on screen a number of times, perhaps most notably in versions with Ingrid Bergman and Jean Seberg. The past few years have seen a wave of Hollywood interest in St. Joan, in addition to the Maxwell project.

Another Joan of Arc project, called “Company of Angels” and directed by Kathyrn Bigelow, was put into turnaround last year after a deal failed to materialize between Morgan Creek Prods. and Claire Danes for the lead. The same project had once been set up at Fox, with Sinead O’Connor and Drew Barrymore among the names mentioned for the lead. And Warner Bros. also had entered the sweepstakes, buying the spec “In Nomine Dei” in 1994 with Joel Silver to produce.

Kelly is repped by Kenneth Kaplan at the Gersh Agency.