Rebecca Ferguson to Star as Real-Life Explorer in 'The Lady and the Panda'

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Rebecca Ferguson

She'll portray Ruth Harkness, a 1930s New York socialite who unexpectedly takes over her late husband's expedition and becomes the first person ever to bring a live giant panda out of China.

Rebecca Ferguson will star as the groundbreaking explorer Ruth Harkness in The Lady and the Panda.

Justin Chadwick is directing the film, which features an original screenplay he wrote with Laura Bickford and Holly Gent Palmo, based on Harkness’ original detailed correspondence.

The Lady and the Panda follows Harkness, a 1930s New York socialite who unexpectedly takes over her late husband's expedition and becomes the first person ever to bring a live giant panda out of China and to the world's attention. She did so alongside a Chinese guide, Quentin Young, and the two traveled down the Yangtze River and deep into the uncharted Himalayas to rescue an orphaned baby panda. However, after creating a nationwide sensation in the U.S., she realized these animals are best preserved in their natural habitat.

The film, a U.K.-China co-production, is produced by Bickford and Michelle Qi from Europe China Picture Group. Executive producers are Joe Simpson of Miscellaneous Entertainment, Andrew Mann, Fiona Druckenmiller, Justin Brodle and Christopher Brough from Pandamotion Picture Company. The film will shoot all over the Sichuan region, in the foothills of the Himalayas in China, beginning in November 2016.

Ferguson, who was featured in Florence Foster Jenkins and The Girl on the Train earlier this year, adds the film to a packed slate of upcoming projects. She co-stars in Sony’s sci-fi thriller Life with Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal, as well as in Universal Pictures’ crime drama The Snowman alongside Michael Fassbender. Ferguson also will reprise her Rogue Nation role in Paramount’s M:I 6  Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner, and she will shoot Fox’s musical drama The Greatest Showman with Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron and Michelle Williams. She is repped by ICM, Tavistock Wood Management and Actors in Scandinavia.

The Exchange is launching international sales for the project at the American Film Market.

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