When it comes to potential Hollywood film projects, there are unsubstantiated rumours, and then there are rumours that increasingly look to be likelihoods. The Beguiled is becoming one such likelihood, as Indiewire report that the rumours surrounding the potential project are being supported by comments from people such as Kirsten Dunst. It seems that Academy Award winner Sofia Coppola could well be lining up a fresh version of The Beguiled, with Nicole Kidman, Dunst and Elle Fanning set to star.
First and foremost, The Beguiled is a 1966 novel by Thomas Cullinan, which was previously adapted for cinema in 1971, starring Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Page, Elizabeth Hartman and Jo Ann Harris. That version was directed by Don Siegel (Dirty Harry), and written by Albert Maltz, Irene Kamp and Claude Traverse. If it actually comes together, this new version by Sofia Coppola is expected to present a new adaptation of the source novel, rather than re-make the 1971 film.
The story is set in the final days of the American Civil War, and sees a 12 year old girl stumble across a gravely injured Union soldier, deep in the Confederate South. She effects his rescue, and he is taken to the all-girl boarding school she attends, where he can be properly cared for while his wounds heal. The soldier finds himself in a situation dominated by the Headmistress, a teacher, and the female students. What follows is a spiral into the disturbing, as the effect of prolonged isolation is gradually revealed, and motivations of manipulation, jealousy and lust become apparent. Propelling the descent into psychologically dark themes is the fact that, far from being a war hero, the soldier is actually a self-obsessed liar – albeit one of a highly charismatic nature.
While these details are not yet official, if this project were to come together, it seems that Nicole Kidman would play the Headmistress, Kirsten Dunst would play the teacher, and Elle Fanning would play the student that finds the wounded soldier. This cast list alone is enough to generate excitement, as each of these actresses are powerhouse talents in their own right – with Dunst and Fanning both having collaborated with Coppola before. For her part, Sofia Coppola shines bright when at the helm of unique, female-centric tales with a distinctly dark edge to them.
The question then becomes, who will play the morally questionable soldier? It needs to be an actor that can ably play with the nuance of a character – walking the fine line between ‘good guy’ and ‘bad guy,’ while keeping his truth just out of sight. It also needs to be someone who can deliver this precise performance while holding his own opposite the formidable Kidman, Dunst and Fanning. Perhaps a Jack O’Connell, a Casey Affleck, or a Taylor Kitsch – or even a Joaquin Phoenix? Whoever is ultimately hired, the progress of The Beguiled film project will certainly be interesting to watch.