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Diane Kruger and rising star Talia Ryder are set to don ballet shoes for writer-director James Napier Robertson’s Joika, which has also landed a number of key territory deals and now has a production date in its sights.
Ryder, who broke out in Eliza Hittman’s indie hit and Berlin Silver Bear-winning Never Rarely Sometimes Always for Focus Features, will play Joy “Joika” Womack, one of a handful of foreigners — and only two U.S. women — to ever penetrate Moscow’s infamously tough Bolshoi Ballet Academy. She replaces JoJo Rabbit star Thomasin McKenzie, who was originally attached when the film was first announced ahead of the Cannes market in 2020.
Kruger, best known for films such as Inglourious Basterds, Unknown and In the Fade, for which she won the Cannes best actress award, it set to play Joika’s tough but inspiration mentor Volkova, a former ballet dancer and the head of the Bolshoi’s training academy, whose exacting standards drive Ryder’s Joy to greatness.
“Diane and Talia are a match made in heaven. Diane’s talent and experience the perfect complement to Talia’s bold, rising star,” said Napier Robertson. “It will be a thrill and delight to watch them spar – sparks will fly! Talia’s gifts as a dancer are only equalled by her stunning talents as an actor, and Diane is a force of nature, embodying Tatiyana Volkova’s no-nonsense brilliance and passion. The dynamic between the two of them will be absolutely electric.”
Embankment have closed a raft of pre-sales on Joika, landing deals for Australia/New Zealand (The Reset Collective), Germany (Square One), Italy (Eagle), Spain (Vertice), Greece (Spentzos), Israel (United King), South Africa (Filmfinity) and Portugal (Nos Lusomundo). The company are executive producers on the film, represent worldwide sales and co-represent US rights with UTA Independent Film Group.
A New Zealand-Polish co-production, Joika is now scheduled to start shooting in Poland in early 2022 and will be part of Embankment’s sales line-up at the upcoming virtual Toronto International Film Festival market.
Napier Robertson is supported by Polish production talent, including cinematographer Tomasz Naumiuk (High Life, Mr. Jones) and producer Klaudia Smieja-Rostworowska (Lamb, High Life, Mr. Jones).
Napier Robertson and Tom Hern’s Four Knights Film (Shadow in the Cloud, Guns Akimbo, The Dark Horse) are producing, alongside Anonymous Content, Laurie Ross, Paul Green (The Loft, Triple 9, The Fifth Estate), Belindalee Hope (Shadow in the Cloud, Pork Pie), Klaudia Smieja-Rostworowska and her company Madants. Robert Walak, Luke Rivett, Phil Rose and Michael Cerny will executive produce.
Ryder — who landed Independent Spirit Awards and Critics Choice nominations for her supporting role in Never Rarely Sometimes Always — will next be seen in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of West Side Story (releasing in December) for 20th Century, and alongside Regina Hall in Mariama Diallo’s Master for Amazon. Ryder recently wrapped production on the independent film Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between. She is repped by UTA, Anonymous Content and McKuin Frankel Whitehead LLP.
Kruger next has Universal Pictures’ all-star thriller The 355 coming up — appearing alongside Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz and Lupita Nyong’o — and will also soon be seen in Swimming with Sharks alongside Kiernan Shipka. She recently wrapped production on A.J. Edwards’ First Love for which she also serves as an executive producer and is currently in production on Neil LaBute’s Out Of The Blue in which she stars opposite Ray Nicholson. She is repped by UTA, UBBA, Untitled, Altitude and Peikoff Mahan.
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