The Weinstein Company’s “Grace of Monaco” is something of a question mark on the year-end prestige slate. Some pundits believe that Olivier Dahan’s dramatization of Grace Kelly’s ascent to European princess status has the makings of an awards contender: the Academy often looks kindly on biopics of Hollywood royalty and actual royalty alike, after all, so why wouldn’t they go nuts for a film that combines the two?
Still, Dahan’s uneven track record and the slightly questionable casting of Nicole Kidman as the 33-year-old Kelly has others wondering if the film could go awry — a sneak peek of the film at the Weinsteins’ Cannes showcase didn’t answer any questions.
However the film pans out, however, its producer and writer are evidently confident enough to forge ahead with another biopic of a Golden Age Hollywood goddess — and now three-time Oscar winner Ingrid Bergman is the subject under scrutiny. “Seducing Ingrid Bergman,” based on a yet-to-be-published Matt Greenhalgh book, will focus on the torrid romance between the Swedish-born “Casablanca” star and Robert Capa, the celebrated Hungarian war photographer; the pair met in 1945 while Bergman (then still married to Swedish doctor Petter Lindstrom) was entertaining US troops in Paris at the close of WWII, and conducted a year-long clandestine affair.
Unlike her much-publicized extramarital affair a few years later with Italian neorealist director (and eventual second husband) Roberto Rossellini — a tabloid scandal that dramatically altered her pure-as-the-driven-snow star image, and put her American career on ice for seven years — the Capa affair only became public knowledge via her 1980 autobiography. So it’s a relatively underexposed piece of Hollywood lore. Indeed, it’s rather surprising that no part of Bergman’s tumultuous personal life and storied career has attracted the biopic treatment until now.
“Grace of Monaco” producer Uday Chopra, whose previous credits are in the Bollywood sphere, has optioned Greenhalgh’s book, which hits shelves next year. Though Greenhalgh has screenwriting experience of his own — he adapted 2009’s “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” from his own biography — “Grace of Monaco” scripter Arash Amel will be doing the honors. Amel’s one previous credit is the formulaic, Aaron Eckhart-starring Eurothriller “Erased,” released earlier this year. Amel tells Deadline’s Mike Fleming that the Kelly and Bergman projects are strongly linked for him:
“I realized I had the beginnings of an exploration of the consequence of life-changing choices made by two of the most iconic women of the 20th century. It struck me that Grace and Ingrid had to deal with identical dilemmas for these modern women in repressed times. Grace surrendered to the forces that shaped her fate, but Ingrid refused to surrender and ended up in this scandalous affair with Rossellini and became the first and only actress denounced by the U.S. Senate. One ran away from Hollywood and the other was exiled, and this gave me the spark to tell the second story. Each sacrificed in her own way.”
The Bergman story also boasts a somewhat dashing male figure in the gifted, reckless Capa, who died in a Vietnamese landmine explosion aged just 40, less than a decade after his fling with Bergman. So the project effectively boasts two sexy starring roles. No names are attached yet, though one doesn’t envy the young actress tasked with bringing Bergman, both one of the screen’s greatest actresses and greatest natural beauties, back to life.
Interestingly, she’ll now joins Katharine Hepburn as the second member of the three-or-more Oscar club — an elite group that now boasts six actors — to feature in a biopic. Playing Hepburn netted Cate Blanchett an Oscar of her own; can someone else repeat the trick with Bergman?