Screen Gems’ horror sequel Underworld 5 isn’t the only production that Prague is playing host to this week, with news coming through that both Jessica Chastain and Daniel Brühl are descending on the Czech capital to begin filming on Niki Caro’s adaptation, The Zookeeper’s Wife.
Taking inspiration from Diane Ackerman’s non-fiction novel of the same name, Chastain is on board to play Antonina Żabiński during the formative years of World War II. Situated in Poland in 1939, the native farmer worked to establish a zoo of her own along with her husband Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh), but their lives are effectively upended with the Nazi army invades their home country.
Having to report to a volatile new zoo keeper, the pair soon take solace in the resistance and their plan to rescue the population from the fast declining state of the Warsaw Ghetto. Putting their children at great risk, the Żabiński family go through hell and high water to carve out a sense of freedom, and it’s little wonder why Focus Features snapped up the rights to distribute the film internationally.
The Zookeeper’s Wife is very much an international affair, with a cast list that encompasses Michael McElhatton, Defiance star Iddo Goldberg, Goran Kostic and Israeli actresses Shira Haas. It’s unclear when the war-time drama will see a release on America soil, though we’ll keep you posted as production swings into motion. In the interim, you can get acquainted with the incredible true story of Antonina with the official synopsis for Ackerman’s book below.
The Zookeeper’s Wife is a strange, but historically true story of WWII. It reveals the extraordinary efforts of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, Christian zookeepers horrified by Nazi racism, who capitalized on the Nazis’ obsession with pureblood animals in order to save over 300 doomed people by hiding them in the bombed-out cages at the Warsaw Zoo. A tale of people, animals, and subversive acts of compassion.
After their zoo was bombed, Polish zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski managed to save over three hundred people from the Nazis by hiding refugees in the empty animal cages. With animal names for these “guests,” and human names for the animals, it’s no wonder that the zoo’s code name became “The House Under a Crazy Star.” Best-selling naturalist and acclaimed storyteller Diane Ackerman combines extensive research and an exuberant writing style to re-create this fascinating, true-life story — sharing Antonina’s life as “the zookeeper’s wife,” while examining the disturbing obsessions at the core of Nazism.