Controversial Biopic About Austrian Kidnapping Victim Greenlighted (Exclusive)

12:05 PM PST 05/17/2011 by Scott Roxborough
Dieter Nagl/AFP/Getty Images
Natascha Kampusch

Bernd Eichinger was working on script about Natascha Kampusch's kidnapping and eight years in captivity when he died suddenly in Jan.

CANNES – Bernd Eichinger’s controversial biopic on Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian girl kidnapped and held for 8 years in a basement cell, will go ahead without Eichinger, who died suddenly in January. German uber-producer Eichinger, whose films include the Oscar-nominated Downfall as well as the Resident Evil and Fantastic Four franchises, was working on the screenplay for the Kampusch film at the time of his death.Producers Constantin Film are now casting directors and finishing the script for the Kampusch film. Journalist Peter Reichard, who spent months interviewing Kampusch for a German TV documentary, helped Eichinger co-develop and co-write the initial drafts.

Constantin Film production head Martin Moskowicz said he expects to attach a director to the project by June/July and plans to begins shooting next year.

Kampusch's story made headlines around the world in 2006 when she escaped from the basement cell where the technician Wolfgang Priklopil had been holding her captive for eight years. The Cannes Competition title Michael is inspired by the Kampusch story, although in director Markus Schleinzer’s film, the victim is a small boy.

Moskowicz said Constantin has returned another Eichinger project - the adaptation of DBC Pierre’s Booker Prize-winning novel Vernon God Little - to Eichinger’s widow, Katja Eichinger, who will develop and produce the film herself.

"Katja had been working very closely with Bernd on the project and we only thought it was right to give it back to her in turnaround," Moskowicz told The Hollywood Reporter. Screenwriter Andrew Birkin (The Name of the Rose), who co-wrote the original drafts of the Vernon God Little script with Bernd Eichinger, will now continue on his own.

Eichinger was working on another project at the time of his death: the sprawling epic Zorn (Wrath). The long-in-development feature, inspired by the bloody teutonic sagas of German pre-history, is now on ice.

"Bernd had been working on Zorn for years and had written several drafts of the script but he never quite figured out how to make the film," said Moskowicz. "And right now I can't see how either. So that project's on the back burner for now."

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