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Film News Roundup: Royal Ballet’s Francesca Hayward Joins ‘Cats’ Movie

In today’s film news roundup, ballet dancer Francesca Howard is cast in “Cats,” Billy Bob Thornton and Alice Eve are getting honors, and “Chocolate Lizards” is becoming a film.

CASTING

Francesca Hayward, principal dancer with the Royal Ballet, has joined the cast of Universal Pictures and Working Title’s “Cats.”

The movie is an adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Cats,” based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot.

Hayward joined the Royal Ballet in 2010 and was promoted to principal in 2016. Some of her most prominent roles include Juliet (“Romeo and Juliet”), Alice (“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”), Sugar Plum Fairy and Clara (“The Nutcracker”), and Princess Aurora (“The Sleeping Beauty”).

Tom Hooper will direct from a script he co-wrote with Lee Hall. “Cats” will be produced by Hooper and Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, as well as fellow “Les Misérables” producer Debra Hayward, who brought the idea to Working Title. “Cats” will be produced by Working Title Films in association with Monumental Pictures and the Really Useful Group and executive produced by Steven Spielberg, Lloyd Webber, and Angela Morrison.

The cast includes Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, and Taylor Swift. Hayward is represented by Helen Clarkson at Curtis Brown and Lucy Popkin at Peikoff Mahan Law Office.

Popular on Variety

“Cats” received its world premiere at the New London Theatre in 1981, where it played for 21 record-breaking years and almost 9,000 performances. In 1983, the Broadway production became the recipient of seven Tony Awards including best musical, and ran for 18 years.

The news was first reported by Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail.

AWARDS

The eighth annual Napa Valley Film Festival has selected Billy Bob Thornton as the recipient of the Caldwell Vineyard Maverick Tribute.

Alice Eve will receive the Raymond Vineyards Trailblazer Tribute alongside Charles Krug Legendary Actor honoree Laurence Fishburne at this year’s celebrity tributes presentation on Nov. 8.

Thornton starred in “A Million Little Pieces” and is currently preparing to start filming Season 3 of “Goliath.” Eve most recently starred in the second season of Netflix’s “Iron Fist” and her film credits include “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “Men in Black 3,” and “Before We Go.”

The celebrity tributes program will take place at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville, Calif., and will include highlight reels and an on-stage conversation with Natalie Morales.

PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT

Mark Bristol will direct the Texas-set drama “Chocolate Lizards” for Winter State Entertainment.

Producers are Julie B. Denny, Hamid and Camille Torabpour, and Mark Smith. Denny and Bristol wrote the screenplay, based on the novel “Chocolate Lizards,” written by Cole Thompson.

The story centers on a Harvard-educated aspiring actor losing his life savings in a poker game, leaving him broke and stranded in Abilene, Texas. Enter a hard-drinking wildcatter who just happens to have a job opening. Shooting takes place next year in Abilene.

Bristol began as storyboard artist for filmmakers including Christopher Nolan, Christopher McQuarrie, Spike Jonze, David Fincher, and Terrence Malick. Recently, Bristol storyboarded and directed all of the previs for “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.”

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