Malick picks his next leading lady

Relative unknown could follow in footsteps of Chastain, Spacek

Terrence Malick’s demonstrated taste for unknown female leads has lifted the careers of Sissy Spacek and Jessica Chastain, and now he’s chosen his next femme, who will join the helmer’s untitled project with Christian Bale.

Malick is writing and directing the project, and while no deal has been struck, sources tell Variety that the auteur has made up his mind as to who will be in next summer’s scheduled shoot. Variety reported earlier Thursday that Hayley Bennett was the one, but sources now say another candidate could close the deal.

Clemence Poesy was another in the mix that, despite Malick’s affinity for lesser-known female leads, included Rooney Mara and Mia Wasikowska.

Sarah Green and Nicholas Gonda are producing the pic, expected to shoot next summer. As is customary with the director, story details have not been revealed.

Neither WME, which reps Bennett, nor the producers had comment on the casting process.

Malick is currently in post-production on his upcoming untitled film starring Ben Affleck, set for a 2012 release. Though that cast includes well-knowns Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz, auteur’s previous projects have featured newcomers like Q’orianka Kilcher (“The New World”), Chastain (“Tree of Life”) and Spaceck (“Badlands).

Bennett’s highest profile roles were a supporting turn in “Marley & Me” and as Molly Hartley in the 2008 film “The Haunting of Molly Hartley.” She’s currently working on the pilot “Outlaw Country” for FX.

She is repped by WME and The Schiff Company.

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