Thomas preps Darwin biopic

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Oscar-winning producer Jeremy Thomas said Tuesday that he is preparing a biopic based on the life of evolutionist Charles Darwin and his relationship with his children.

Thomas will produce the movie through his Recorded Picture Co. banner. He has recruited John Collee ("Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World") to pen a script based on a book by Darwin's great-great grandson Randal Keynes.

Keynes' book, "Annie's Box," examines Darwin's relationship with his daughter Annie, whose death at 10 years old deeply affected the thinker.

Thomas said that he has lined up Jon Amiel — whose work on "The Singing Detective" television drama here has established him as a director of note — to helm the project.

"In this age of raging debate about natural selection and creationism, I think it is a very timely story to tell," said Thomas, who won an Oscar for 1987's "The Last Emperor." "It's about Darwin and his relationship with his own children. It's an intimate film with big ideas."

Thomas said he plans to prep the story this year to shoot early in 2008, with the bicentennial of birth of the famous naturalist and evolutionary theorist in 2009 looming.

He said the budget for the movie will be about $20 million and that he plans to make it in the U.K. The project will be set in and around Down House in Kent, where Darwin spent his final years.

The author of "On the Origin of Species" fathered 10 children, two of which died in infancy.

Thomas said he is setting up the project as a British qualifying film and is in the process of finalizing financing. His recent credits include "Fast Food Nation," "Young Adam," "The Dreamers" and "Tideland."
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