'A Winter's Tale': Warner Bros. Starting Screen Tests With Lily Collins, Tom Hiddleston

Tom Hiddleston Oscars List - P 2012
<p>Tom Hiddleston Oscars List - P 2012</p>   |   Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
Oscar-winning "A Beautiful Mind" scribe Akiva Goldsman's long-planned film moves tentatively towards production.

Akiva Goldsman’s passion project may be finally coming together.

Goldsman has been trying to mount an adaptation of A Winter’s Tale, a supernatural period thriller novel by Mark Helprin, since at least the mid-2000s when the project got set up at Warner Bros.

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Goldsman, who wrote the script and will be making his directorial debut, came close last year when he got to the casting stage but that was derailed by budgetary issues. Goldsman was able to bring the budget down by at least $20 million and has recruited some A-list friends with whom he previously worked  - Russell Crowe and Will Smith - to bring some wattage to a project that focuses on young leads. Warners liked the new presentation and has given Goldsman the go-ahead to begin casting.

The studio is in the midst of making test deals for Benjamin Walker (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki in Thor and The Avengers), who are among the male actors to test next week in New York. 

Mirror Mirror star Lily Collins, Australian actress Bella Heathcote (In Time) and Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey) are also lining up for tests the week of March 12 for the female lead, according to insiders.

A sweeping drama about reincarnation, the story is set in the early 20th century and focuses on a thief on the run who, when breaking into a wealthy man’s home, strikes up a relationship with the man’s terminally ill daughter.  A flying horse and a time-shift 100 years also figures into the equation.

Crowe has agreed to play a ruthless mobster while Smith may cameo as a judge.

Marc Platt and Goldsman are producing.