Things might be starting to come together for the big screen adaptation of “In the Garden of Beasts,” Erik Larson’s nonfiction account of the experiences of the family of the American ambassador to Germany during Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s that Tom Hanks is producing. Deadline says “The Artist” director Michel Hazanavicius is in talks to direct, and they’re trying to get Natalie Portman for the lead female role. There isn’t a script yet, but if Hazanavicius signs on, he would co-write.
Hanks would star as William E. Dodd, a mild-mannered Chicago professor who thought the usually not so taxing job of ambassador might give him time to write the big history book he’d been struggling to finish for years. Instead, he found himself witnessing firsthand the increasing viciousness of Hitler and the Nazi regime, something that the rest of the world, much more wrapped up in putting down communism, wasn’t really paying much attention to yet.
Portman would play Dodd’s daughter Martha, who at first was impressed with the orderly and seemingly forward-thinking world of the Nazis, especially in comparison to the Depression era America they left behind, but slowly comes around to see the destructiveness and inhumanity that came with that order. I read the book, and when I say slowly, I mean it–she totally did not want to believe there was anything bad about the Nazis until the facts were pretty much hitting her over the head. A rather uninhibited young woman, Martha had affairs with people of just about every political stripe in Berlin, including higher ups in the Third Reich, the head of the Gestapo, and just to cover everything, a Soviet diplomat who was also a spy.
A lot of Larson’s book comes from Martha’s melodramatic, highly romantic memoir, so this would be a big time part for Portman. She is currently working on “Thor: The Dark World,” and also has “Jane Got a Gun” with Michael Fassbender in her future