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Fresh from her critically acclaimed lead performance in Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody and having filmed major roles in Bong Joon Ho’s much-anticipated Mickey 7 and Zoe Kravitz’s directorial debut, Pussy Island, last year, Naomi Ackie has landed another starry feature.
The Hollywood Reporter has learned that the British actress — also a 2023 BAFTA rising star nominee and BAFTA TV award winner back in 2020 — has joined the A-list cast of Morning, the upcoming sci-fi feature from Justin Kurzel (Snowtown, Macbeth, Assassin’s Creed). Announced last year, the film will also star Oscar and BAFTA winner Laura Dern (Marriage Story, Little Women, Big Little Lies) and Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place, Honey Boy), with Oscar nominee and BAFTA winner Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog, Spider-Man: No Way Home, The Imitation Game) appearing in a supporting role.
Morning is described as a story about “human connection, productivity, and the power of dreams and memories to inspire change.” Shooting starts in Germany later in 2023, with Augenschein Filmproduktion on board as producer teaming up with Construction Film. HanWay Films is handling international sales on the title.
Set in a near future where society has a pill that does away with the need to sleep, the added help of an artificial sun means there is finally no end to morning daylight, living and work. But as a young generation grows up deprived of the world of sleep, is it time for them to rebel and reclaim their dreams?
The story follows Cathy (Dern) — an ambitious, driven early advocate of a sleepless world — who, as she hurtles toward the anniversary of her husband Frank’s death (played by Cumberbatch), attempts to repair her relationship with her son, Danny (Jupe).
But the sleepless universe Cathy helped build is starting to crumble around her, and the arrival of someone from Frank’s past (Ackie) brings up memories Cathy has been fighting hard to suppress. As Danny is being drawn away from his mother into a subversive underworld of dreamers, Cathy must confront the nightmares that have begun to bleed into her waking life and try to hold on to her son. Morning is a timely tale that will appeal to rebellious spirits across generations.
“I’m so excited to get to work with Justin Kurzel and this incredible cast,” said Ackie. “The script is so beautifully written and the world building immaculate. I can’t wait to be a part of creating this piece of work!”
Kurzel will reunite with several of his collaborators including Emmy-winning cinematographer Adam Arkapaw (The King, Assassin’s Creed, Macbeth, True Detective) and BAFTA-nominated costume designer Alice Babidge (Nitram, The Dig). Morning was written by Manchester-born writer Sam Steiner.
HanWay Films has confirmed international sales in the following territories: Roadshow Entertainment (Australia and New Zealand), Capelight (Germany), IWonder (Italy), NOS (Portugal), Bir Films (Turkey), Cinemania (Former Yugoslavia), Monolith (Poland), Daro (CIS and Baltics), Front Row (Middle East), SEAsian TV (India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines), Shaw (Singapore) and Challan (South Korea).
Morning is a SunnyMarch, Jaywalker Pictures and Augenschein Filmproduktion Production in association with Aloe Entertainment, Mac Pac Entertainment and Fit Via Vi, SugarRush Pictures and Echobend Pictures. Producers are Leah Clarke, Adam Ackland, Jonas Katzenstein, Maximilian Leo, Mary Aloe and Andrea Bucko. Executive producers include Cumberbatch, Dern, Jayme Lemons, Jan McAdoo, Tom Ogden, DJ Jiang, Sean Fannan, Bill Way, Elliott Whitton, Sharon Paul, Jonathan Saubach and Marnie Podos. Mark Tilghman is co-EP.
CAA Media Finance and UTA Independent Film Group are co-repping the U.S. sale.
Kurzel’s most recent feature film, Nitram, was nominated for the Palme d’Or and lead actor Caleb Landry Jones won the best actor award at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. In addition to Morning, Steiner’s current projects include horror film Banquet, to be directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia.
“We are thrilled to have Naomi Ackie join the team on Morning,” said Ackland. “From the moment we read Sam’s brilliant, funny, imaginative script we were gripped by its cinematic potential and relevance. … It is about how a community’s drive for productivity has left them with no space to sleep or dream, and how an insurgent younger generation are questioning the status quo, revealing the importance of family, connection and slowing down. We’re so excited to help Justin and the cast and crew bring it to life.”
Added HanWay Films CEO Gabrielle Stewart: “We are thrilled to have real momentum behind a 2023 production of Morning with such brilliant partners. Naomi Ackie is a great addition to the cast after her tour de force performance as Whitney Houston. We are lucky to have such a provocative and completely original project that keeps attracting top talent and quality distributors”
Jonas Katzenstein, producer and CEO of Augenschein, commented: “Morning teaches us in the most profound way the importance of allowing us to dream. To us, it is cinema that has the power to let us plunge into other people’s dreams while being fully awake. Therefore, we are beyond excited to create this beautiful piece of art together with partners and artists that share our passion. With Naomi Ackie completing an astonishing ensemble, we cannot wait to enter Justin Kurzel’s world of dreams.”
Ackie is represented by Hamilton Hodell, CAA, Range Media Partners and Peikoff Mahan. Dern is represented by CAA and Untitled, Kurzel by CAA, and Jupe by CAA, Grandview and The Artist Partnership. Cumberbatch and SunnyMarch are represented by UTA and CVGG. Steiner is represented by Under New Mgmt and CAA.
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