Elijah Wood to Star in ‘Bookworm,’ New Zealand-set Adventure Film Launching at AFM for Mister Smith, CAA (EXCLUSIVE)

Elijah Wood
Courtesy of Firefly Films.

“Lord of the Rings” star Elijah Wood is to return to New Zealand in the leading role of “Bookworm,” a family adventure-comedy to be directed by Ant Timpson (“Turbo Kid,” “The Greasy Strangler,” “The ABCs of Death,” “Come to Daddy”). The project is being launched next week at the American Film Market by sales agent Mister Smith Entertainment.

The film’s story sees 12-year-old Mildred’s life turned upside down when her mother lands in hospital and estranged, American magician father, Strawn Wise (Wood), comes to look after her. Hoping to entertain the bookish tween, Strawn takes Mildred camping in the notoriously rugged New Zealand wilderness. There the pair embark on the ultimate test of family bonding – a quest to find the mythological beast known as the Canterbury Panther.

Considering that Mildred has read every book on camping, but never been into the wilds, and that Strawn is more at home on the Las Vegas strip than in the Southern Alps, the potential for mishap is significant.

The film’s title is a reference to the David Mamet script later filmed as “The Edge” by Lee Tamahori that starred Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin. Timpson and screenwriter Toby Harvard, say that the two films share an outdoor New Zealand setting and a bookish character who thinks they know it all.

“Bookworm” is currently in pre-production and will shoot on location in New Zealand in March and April 2023. CAA Media Finance is handling rights sales in North America.

Production is by Emma Slade (“Nude Tuesday,” “The Justice of Bunny King,” “Come to Daddy”), Roxi Bull (“Nude Tuesday,” “The Justice of Bunny King”) and Victoria Dabbs (“One Winter,” “The Changeover”) from Firefly Films and Mette-Marie Kongsved (“I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore,” “Come to Daddy,” “Nine Days”) and Laura Tunstall (“Get Duked!,” “Come to Daddy,” “Nine Days”) from Nowhere.

It is the second film where Wood and the production team work together, following “Come to Daddy” and the third time that Timpson and Harvard have collaborated, after “Come to Daddy” and “The Salamander Lives Twice.” Comedy thriller, “Come to Daddy” was a three-way co-production with New Zealand, Canada and Ireland, and premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

“Toby and I are always obsessed by fathers and their foibles, especially the traits that we’re afraid of having or displaying,” said Timpson. “ ‘Bookworm’ will be a love letter to the escapist 70s cinema we grew up with, non-pandering cinema where adults and kids enjoyed all the onscreen shenanigans equally.”

“We just love this script, which is so reminiscent of the best of New Zealand cinema – with its smart, dry wit and heartfelt raw emotional energy – all set against a backdrop of the most beautiful landscapes imaginable. And the father-daughter relationship is so funny and engaging, it is impossible not to love them both, for all their faults,” said Mister Smith Entertainment’s CEO David Garrett.

Firefly Films has credits including 2022 Tribeca and Edinburgh festival title “Nude Tuesday,” the currently on U.S. release “The Justice of Bunny Kong” and the feature documentary “Mister Organ,” directed by David Farrier and which recently premiered at Fantastic Festival. Its “One Winter,” starring Julian Dennison, Minnie Driver and Rhys Darby is heading for release at the end of this month.

Nowhere is a Los Angeles-based production and marketing company. It has produced films including Ninian Doff’s feature debut “Get Duked,” which premiered at SXSW 2019; Timpson’s “Come to Daddy”; and Edson Oda’s sci-fi drama “Nine Days,” starring Winson Duke, Zazie Beetz, Bill Skarsgard and Benedict Wong