Mulan filmmaker Niki Caro has signed on to direct Beautiful Ruins for Sam Mendes‘ Neal Street banner and Steven Spielberg‘s Amblin Partners, the studio announced Tuesday.
The film is based on Jess Walter‘s bestselling novel, and will be adapted by scribes Mark Hammer and Chiara Atik, working off an earlier draft from Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster. Variety broke the news.
Set in an Italian seaside village in 1962, the story follows a charming young man who runs a hotel with no guests — that is, until an American starlet — Elizabeth Taylor, I presume — arrives fresh from the set of Cleopatra and captures his heart. Five decades later, a jaded assistant to a formerly powerful producer gets caught up in the magic of the Italian’s story and takes it upon herself to find a happy ending.
Beautiful Ruins is described as a romantic social satire about Hollywood culture. The book jumps around in terms of time and place, and relies heavily on excepts of letters, screenplays and novels being written by the characters.
The project was initially developed by director Todd Field, who co-wrote a script with Walter and even attached Imogen Poots to star, though that version never got off the ground. Mendes got his hands on the book in September 2016, and he’ll produce with his Neal Street partners Pippa Harris and Julie Pastor, while Nicolas Brown will serve as an executive producer. Amblin’s Jeb Brody and Mia Maniscalco will oversee the project for the studio.
Beautiful Ruins reunites Amblin with Mendes, whose 1917 won three Oscars and earned $375 million worldwide. Mendes started his filmmaking career working with Spielberg at DreamWorks, where he made American Beauty and The Road to Perdition.
Caro’s live-action adaptation of Mulan is now slated to hit theaters on Aug. 21. She previously directed Whale Rider and North Country, though my favorite film of hers has to be McFarland, USA, an inspirational sports movie about a predominantly Latino cross-country team coached by Kevin Costner.
Caro is one of the few female filmmakers who has been empowered with a nine-figure budget, and Mulan may very well be the most expensive movie ever made by a female director, though the budget of Chloe Zhao‘s Marvel movie The Eternals remains unknown. It’s clear that major studios trust Caro, who recently won a DGA award for Netflix’s Anne with an E, and also directed the pilot for Amazon’s Daisy and the Six.