Keira Knightley Wins Female Lead in 'Jack Ryan' (Exclusive)

DOWN: Keira Knightley in "A Dangerous Method"
<p>Sony Classics has decided to push the British A-lister, who plays a woman suffering from hysteria, in the packed lead actress category for her performance -- which has divided critics and audiences -- rather than in the wide-open supporting category.</p>   |   Matt Carr/Getty Images
Actress in negotiations to star opposite Chris Pine in the Kenneth Branagh-helmed thriller for Paramount.

Keira Knightley is in early negotiations to star opposite Chris Pine in Paramount's franchise hopeful Jack Ryan, sources close to the film tell The Hollywood Reporter.

Knightley is no stranger to the world of franchises, having starred in the three of Disney's four Pirates of the Caribbean films.

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The film would mark the first teaming for Knightley and director Kenneth Branagh, who also has a supporting role in the film. Although the two often inhabit the same world of Brit period corset dramas, they've never worked together. Branagh auditioned a number of women for the part two weeks ago -- including Lost's Evangeline Lilly and Like Crazy's Felicity Jones -- before re-engaging Knightley, who Paramount initially approached.

The story centers on ex-Marine and Moscow-based financial analyst Jack Ryan (Pine), who uncovers a plot by his employer to finance a terrorist attack designed to collapse the U.S. economy. Ryan must race against time to save America and his wife (Knightley).

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The film is a prequel to Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series of books, which produced previous movies starring Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben AffleckAdam Cozad and Anthony Peckham wrote the screenplay, while David Koepp penned the most recent draft.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura is producing alongside Mace Neufeld and David Barron. David Ellison is exec producing the film, which is scheduled to begin shooting next month.

Knightley, whose recent credits include Seeking a Friend for the End of the World opposite Steve Carell, next will be seen in the period drama Anna Karenina.

She is repped by WME and United Agents.

Email: Borys.Kit@thr.com

Twitter: @Borys_Kit