As Salt director Phillip Noyce weighs the options for his next move, one long-gestating project has begun to pick up steam. Late last year, Noyce took over the helm of My Wild Life (formerly titled Our Wild Life), a drama based the real-life story of Kenyan elephant conservationist Daphne Sheldrick, and Nicole Kidman began circling the lead role this past spring. As Noyce and Kidman got busy with other things, however, My Wild Life seemed to fall by the wayside.

But Kidman is now officially attached to star, and with Mandalay Pictures working on getting the rights from New Line, the biopic could be hitting theaters during next year’s holiday season. More details after the jump.

My Wild Life has been in the works since last year, with Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook) originally slated to direct. However, he jumped ship and eventually sued New Line for not letting him direct from his own rewrite of Jeff Stockwell‘s script. The Motorcycle Diaries helmer Walter Salles was next to board the picture, but he bailed as well, clearing the way for Noyce to sign on. Through all the turmoil, a string of top-level actresses — including Julia Roberts, Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron, and Drew Barrymore — have either flirted with or been attached to the lead role, before Kidman finally took the part.

The real-life Sheldrick is an animal husbandry expert credited with perfecting the milk formula used to nurture orphaned baby elephants. (Awwww.) Along with her husband David Sheldrick, she strove to raise, rehabilitate, protect the animals of Kenya’s Tsavo National Park. She was recently featured in the Warner Bros. nature documentary Born to Be Wild 3D, which was released earlier this year.

According to The Hollywood ReporterMy Wild Life is scheduled to enter production early next year in Africa, with National Geographic photographers Dereck and Beverly Joubert on board to shoot some of the “elaborate nature sequences.” Mandalay is currently in negotiations with Universal to release the film in the U.S. during the 2012 holiday season, which suggests they’re seeing Oscar potential in this drama.

Among the other projects Noyce has been looking at lately are the Indecent Proposal-esque The Arrangement, the sci-fi romance Timeless, and the remake of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Bloodsport. None of those have a start date yet, as far as we know, so My Wild Life could very well go first if it stays on track.

Kidman most recently starred with Nicolas Cage in the disastrously received Trespass by director Joel Schumacher, and will next appear in Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy. She’s currently shooting Stoker, the English-language debut of Oldboy helmer Chan-wook Park.

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