The first image of Talia Ryder and Diane Kruger in ballet-themed feature “Joika” has been unveiled.
James Napier Robertson (“The Dark Horse”) wrote and directs the film, which has started production in Poland.
Embankment are representing worldwide sales and co-representing U.S. rights with UTA Independent Film Group.
“Joika” is inspired by the true story of Joy Womack, an American prima ballerina who became one of the few Western women to be accepted to – and graduate from – Russia’s punishing Bolshoi Academy school of ballet.
There, Womack encountered mentor Volkova, a mentor who inspired her to jeté, metaphorically-speaking, to extraordinary heights in her career.
Womack has not only given the biopic her blessing but is choreographing its ballet.
Ryder, who has appeared in “West Side Story” and “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” plays Womack in the feature while Kruger plays Volkova. Ryder is also a classically trained dancer and, in preparation for the film, worked with both New York Ballet principal dancer Daniel Ulbricht and Womack herself.
Kruger was also a ballet dance before she became an actor. She switched only when she broke her knee at the age of thirteen, which effectively ended her ballet career. In preparation for the role of Volkova she has been guest teaching ballet classes in New York alongside a Russian teacher and former prima ballerina.
“Joika’s” supporting cast is also largely comprised of professional ballet dances. Tatar State Opera’s principal dancer, Oleg Ivenko, who played Rudolph Nureyev in Ralph Fiennes’ “The White Crow,” stars opposite Ryder as the Bolshoi’s star male dancer, while Natalia Osipova, the principal of London’s The Royal Ballet, will play herself in a cameo role.
They are joined by Tomasz Kot (“Cold War”), Charlotte Ubben (“The Novice”), Natasha Alderslade (“Burnt”), Karolina Gruszka (winner of a Polish Film Festival gong) and Borys Szyc (winner of both Montreal World Film Festival and Polish Film Festival awards).
“The level of talent and commitment from Talia and Diane is stunning. Two brilliant actors doing genuinely transformative work. I know we are on the cusp of something truly special,” said Napier Robertson in a statement.
Napier Robertson and Tom Hern’s Four Knights Film (“Guns Akimbo”) produce alongside Madants’ Klaudia Smieja-Rostworowska (“Lamb”), Belindalee Hope (“Shadow in the Cloud”) and Paul Green (“The Loft”).
Executive producing are Anonymous Content’s Laurie Ross, along with Peter Touche, Andrea Scarso, Phil Rose, Michael Cerny, Charlotte Ubben and Embankment.
Backed by Ingenious Media, RBF Productions, the New Zealand Film Commission, the Polish Film Institute, Department of Post and Adam Gudell from Moderator Inwestycje Group, “Joika” is a Polish-New Zealand co-production.
The film has already been sold in Australia/New Zealand (The Reset Collective), Benelux (Paradiso), Switzerland (Ascot Elite), CIS & Baltics (Ten Letters), Germany (Square One), Italy (Eagle), Spain (Vertice), Greece (Spentzos), Israel (United King), South Africa (Filmfinity), Portugal (Nos Lusomundo) and Middle East (Front Row).
Ryder is represented by UTA, Anonymous Content, and McKuin Frankel Whitehead LLP. Kruger is repped by UTA, UBBA, Untitled, Altitude and Peikoff Mahan.