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Some Great Women From History Are About To Have Their Stories Told

These upcoming biopics will put female perspectives front and center.
Sylvia Kristel In Emmanuelle
By  · Published on February 22nd, 2018

These upcoming biopics will put female perspectives front and center.

There are some intriguing developments happening in the world of biopics. The next year will see productions that explore the earliest studies of radioactivity, the life of a Dutch softcore porn actress, and the chronicle of an Iraq War whistleblower. What unifies them? The emphasis on the women of these stories.

Director and author Marjane Satrapi is best known for her groundbreaking autobiographical novel, “Persepolis,” and its Oscar-nominated film adaptation she directed in 2007. Her next project, according to Variety, will see her once again adapting a graphic novel, this timeLauren Redniss’s “Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout.” The film, which is titled Radioactive,  just began filming with Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) as Marie Curie and is being co-financed by Amazon Studios and StudioCanal.

Marie Curie was a Polish physicist and chemist who was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person to win a Nobel Prize twice. Working alongside her husband Pierre, she made invaluable contributions to the scientific community. She developed the theory of radioactivity, techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, and she discovered two chemical elements. As a woman, Curie also overcame obstacles in both her native country of Poland and in France, where she and her husband lived. She was and remains an inspirational feminist icon and one of the most accomplished scientists of all time. A biopic like Radioactive is long overdue for her.

There have been previous films made about Marie Curie, such as the 1943 Mervyn LeRoy film Madame Curie starring Greer Garson in the title role, and the 2016 Polish film Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge directed by Marie Noëlle and starring Karolina Gruszka. However, it is surprising that modern Hollywood hasn’t taken the opportunity to adapt the story of Curie’s life and work before now. Radioactive will be a fitting film for Satrapi, who also previously directed the 2014 Ryan Reynolds film The Voices. She doesn’t direct conventional films, and Curie wasn’t a conventional woman. Satrapi’s artistic vision coupled with Pike’s talent should make for a fascinating film worthy of its subject.

Radioactive will co-star Sam Riley (Free Fire) as Pierre Curie and The Witch‘s Anya Taylor-Joy as Curie’s daughter Irene. Dunkirk‘s Aneurin Barnard and Penny Dreadful‘s Simon Russell Beale will round out the cast, portraying Paul Langevin, a prominent scientist who Curie has an affair with following her husband’s death, and Franco-Luxembourgish physicist Gabriel Lippmann, respectively. The film is written by Jack Thorne, who recently adapted R.J. Palacio’s 2012 novel “Wonder” into the film of the same name directed by Stephen Chbosky.

Another interesting biopic currently in development will portray the life of Dutch model and actress Sylvia Kristelaccording to VarietyBlade Runner 2049 actress Sylvia Hoeks is set to star as Kristel in the as-yet-untitled film, which will be directed by Belgian filmmaker Michaël R. Roskam. His previous films include his Oscar-nominated debut from 2011, Bullhead, and 2014’s The Drop, starring Tom Hardy.

Kristel worked primarily in the ’70s and 80s and is known best for her work in the Emmanuelle films, a series of French erotic films. They pushed the boundaries of what was allowed on screen, and the first Emmanuelle remains one of France’s most successful releases of all time. Kristel’s mysterious allure in the films was in contrast to her off-screen struggles, including a number of turbulent relationships and an addiction to cocaine. Hoeks, who will next be seen in The Girl in the Spider’s Web from director Fede Alvarez, described Kristel as “free-spirited, maybe even too early in that regard for her generation.”

Kristel wouldn’t exactly be the expected subject of a traditional biopic and this is all the more reason that she is deserving of a film that explores her life. Her work as an actress gave rise to a film series and the Emmanuelle brand, which was co-opted by exploitation films made around the world in order to capitalize on the recognizability of the title. It’s important for this film to give audiences an understanding of the woman behind the brand.

Another biopic set to explore a perspective that most are not familiar with is Official Secrets, about Iraq War whistleblower Katharine Gun. The movie will begin filming in March with a planned release date later in 2018, according to The Guardian. South African filmmaker Gavin Hood, whose 2005 film Tsotsi took home the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, is directing.

Official Secrets will focus on Gun (to be portrayed by Keira Knightley), who in 2003 was working as a translator at GCHQ, the British government’s communications headquarters. She leaked a confidential US National Security Alert email that asked her and her colleagues to help the US government spy on UN security council delegations in New York as a way to help the US and UK governments gain support for a planned invasion of Iraq. Gun lost her job and was arrested and charged under the Official Secrets Act.

Martin Bright, one of the reporters who broke the story in 2003, has said that this film will be an opportunity to pay tribute to Gun’s courage, which has been largely forgotten in the story of the Iraq War. Hood expressed similar sentiments and said Knightley “really responded to Katharine’s bravery and strength of character” and that he takes her agreeing to do this film as a huge compliment.

Since Tsotsi, Hood has had some films that are less than fairly representative of his capability, such as Rendition and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But his most recent film, 2015’s Eye In The Sky, was a critical success with reviews praising the thriller’s relevance and the outstanding performances from the cast. By working with Knightley on a film as timely as Official Secrets and delivering a story about a woman who was too easily forgotten until now, Hood could be set to receive that same level of praise once again.

Anna Swanson is a Senior Contributor who hails from Toronto. She can usually be found at the nearest rep screening of a Brian De Palma film.