The Hollywood treatment: star director to shoot Irena Sendler biopic
Peter Webber, the British director behind the hit ‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’, has been named as the director of the upcoming biopic about Irena Sendler, the social worker who saved 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto.
Webber first burst onto the global stage with his debut feature film, ‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’. Starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson, it earned nominations for three Academy Awards.
The director has since been behind a string of other well-known film titles including ‘Hannibal Rising’ and ‘Emperor’ starring Tommy Lee Jones. He also co-directed the BBC documentary ‘Earth: One Amazing Day’, narrated by Robert Redford and Jackie Chan.
Following the confirmation of his appointment, announced by Variety magazine, Webber will now take the director’s seat on the WWII thriller, eponymously titled ‘Irena Sendler’.
Currently in its casting phase, filming is due to begin in Poland towards the end of 2023 or early 2024.
The film will tell the real-life story of Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker who bravely defied the Nazis and risked her own life to smuggle 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust.
Speaking to Variety, Webber said: “Irene Sendler was an icon, an inspiration, an incredibly brave young woman who risked her own life to save hundreds of young children in the Warsaw Ghetto from certain death at the hands of the Nazis during the Second World War.”
Continuing, he added: “The chance to bring her story to a contemporary audience is a fantastic opportunity.
“In a time where once again there is a war on European soil and the spectre of fascism and genocide is no longer just a distant memory but a contemporary reality, it’s important to tell a story that inspires us to remember a hero of the past, a woman who helped face down oppression and brutality in a dark era of human history.”
Webber’s appointment sees him join an experienced and award-winning film production team. The film’s script was written by Agatha Dominik, Brian Pittman. Rachel Long, Stuart Hazeldine, and Jeff Most.
The film will be co-produced by Most, whose credits include ‘The Crow’, the BAFTA and Academy-winning producer Ewa Puszczyńska (‘Cold War’, ‘Ida’), Jeff Rice, Christopher Lemole, Tim Zajaros and former Golden Globe winner Gareth Wiley.
For Most, the film’s subject matter is a particularly personal one as he was engaged in a four-year correspondence with Sendler before he and the film’s co-producer, Jeff Rice, were able to get her blessing to retell her story.
Through his correspondence, Most was also able to obtain Sendler’s authorized biography and her, and her family’s life rights, as well as previously unpublished details about her life.
Most told Variety: “I had the great fortune to work closely with Irena Sendler.
“We discussed how her story, a monumental tale of social workers engaged in espionage to outwit Nazis and save thousands of children from the clutches of death, could be a moving, consciousness-raising, and popular film beloved by audiences the world over.”
He also praised Peter Webber’s appointment as director, saying: “I’m certain that for Irena, director Peter Webber personifies exactly the type of award-winning, deeply personal, and passionate filmmaker she would have been ecstatic to see bringing her incredibly thrilling and inspirational journey to life on the big screen.”
Webber was also praised by producers Zajaros and Lemole of Armory Films: “The inclusion of Peter Webber in this endeavour fills us with immense enthusiasm as his creative genius will ensure that Irena’s story receives the utmost care it rightfully deserves,” they said.