‘The King’s Speech’ Writer & Director May Reteam on ‘The Lady Who Went Too Far’, AKA “a Female ‘Lawrence of Arabia'”
Posted on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011 by Adam Quigley
With The King’s Speech currently favored to clean house at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards — after major wins at the Producers Guild and DGA Awards, it’s practically a lock for Best Picture — it should come as no surprise that the creative team behind the film is interested in collaborating once again.
Like The King’s Speech, the in-development project is a historical drama about royalty challenging the social stigmas that stand in their way. (Because why mess with success?) Titled The Lady Who Went Too Far, the film is based on the non-fiction book “Star of the Morning: The Extraordinary Life of Lady Hester Stanhope” by Kirsten Ellis, and is being adapted by The King’s Speech writer David Seidler (Tucker: The Man and His Dream). Reuniting with Seidler is producer Gareth Unwin, who was one of Speech‘s many backers. Speech director Tom Hooper (The Damned United), meanwhile, has also expressed interest in helming the film, should everything come together as planned. Learn more after the break.
“She was a female Lawrence of Arabia, a hundred years before Lawrence.”
This is how Seidler describes Lady Hester Stanhope, the 19th century figure whose life serves as the basis for the film. It’s an attention-grabbing pitch, to be sure, and the true story of Stanhope more than lives up to the claim. Stanhope was “an intrepid traveller in an age when women were discouraged from being adventurous”, frequently referred to as the “Queen of the East”. Believing she was destined to be the bride of a new messiah, she spent much of her life travelling through the Middle East, disguising herself as a male so she would not have to wear a veil. She led treasure-hunting expeditions, traversed hostile territories with little regard for safety, and acted so courageously that she earned great respect from sheiks and was crowned “Queen Hester”. Tired of wandering, she eventually settled amongst the Arabs, and over the years gave sanctuary to hundreds of refugees. Unwin said of Stanhope: “It wasn’t that she was trying to change the world, she was just living the life that she thought she should have been afforded, to go on these great adventures.”
News of this project first hit last year, but it was prior to The King’s Speech becoming the acclaimed sleeper hit that it is today, so very few outlets reported on it. The info has since resurfaced at The Daily Mail (via Indiewire), and naturally the added significance of the piece has it finally making the rounds.
Production on The Lady Who Went Too Far could start as soon as the end of the year.
Here’s the plot synopsis for the book:
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The dramatic story of Lady Hester Stanhope — a wilful beauty turned bohemian adventurer — who left England as a young woman, unashamedly enjoyed a string of lovers and established her own exotic fiefdom in the Lebanese mountains where she died in 1839. Ambitious, daring and uncompromising, Lady Hester Stanhope was never cut out for a conventional life. Born into an illustrious political dynasty, she played society hostess for her uncle, William Pitt the Younger. After his death, she struck out for unchartered territory, setting sail with her lover for the Mediterranean and Constantinople — turning her back on England, as events would transpire, forever. It was in the Middle East, however, that she found her destiny. As the greatest female traveller of her age, she was the first western woman to cross the Syrian desert, where she was hailed by the Bedouin as their ‘Star of the Morning’. From her labyrinthine fortress in the mountains of Lebanon, where she established what amounted to her own fiefdom, she exerted a canny influence over the region’s devious politics. Hers was a life of adventure and intrigue — yet in the years following her death her remarkable story has been largely dismissed, reworked by the Victorians into a cautionary tale for young women with wayward tendencies. This captivating biography, drawing on fresh research from three continents, resurrects Hester as the complex, courageous and fearless woman she was, bringing to life her hidden loves, friendships and ambitions. More than a mere traveller, here was a woman whose aspirations led her straight to the heart of the shadowy race for influence between the great powers of the nineteenth century — a world of shifting alliances, double agents, romance, intrigue and murder. Above all, Lady Hester Stanhope was a woman driven by her desire to make a mark on the world, whose search for love and spiritual meaning in a war-torn Middle East provide an illuminating and moving parallel for our time.