in the garden of beasts movie

Joe Wright is heading back to World War II for his next project. The director of the Oscar-winning Winston Churchill biopic Darkest Hour is in talks to helm In the Garden of Beasts, based on the book of the same name by Devil in the White City author Erik Larson. The story follows a mild-mannered Chicago professor who becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany on the cusp of World War II.

Variety broke the news that Wright is in final negotiations to direct the In The Garden of Beasts movie adaptation based on Larson’s 2011 book. The book’s movie rights were optioned by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s company Playtone after it was originally set up at Universal. The studio let it go in 2011, allowing StudioCanal to take on the film.

Hanks and Goetzman are set to produce the film, with Hanks “loosely attached” to play the main character William Dodd, though that casting is still up in the air, according to Variety. The film follows Dodd as he becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in 1933, and witnesses the dictator’s rise to power as the Nazis begin to enact violence against Jews and seek conquest of Europe.

Here is the book synopsis for In the Garden of Beasts:

Berlin, 1933. William E. Dodd is a mild-mannered academic from Chicago who becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany. This book tells the true story of love, intrigue and emerging terror at the American embassy in Berlin during the tumultuous 12 months that witnessed Hitler’s rise to power.

Larson’s books seem to be getting the adaptation treatment lately, with the long-gestating Martin Scorsese-helmed Devil in the White City project recently going to Hulu as a television series. Now In the Garden of Beasts is heading to the big screen with Wright and possibly Hanks attached.

Wright has frequently dabbled in World War II movies, recently helming Darkest Hour, which earned Gary Oldman an Oscar for his portrayal of Winston Churchill. He’s also directed the 2007 romantic drama Atonement, which featured a famous five-minute tracking shot of the evacuation at Dunkirk. However, In the Garden of Beasts takes place on the cusp of World War II, as Germany is gradually overtaken by a dictatorship that passes frightening press censorship and shocking laws — all while Dodd’s dispatches to the U.S. State Department are met with indifference. Given the current state of politics, In the Garden of Beasts may be Wright’s most unlikely modern and timely film.

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