Angelina Jolie Eyes Iraq Pioneer Biopic 'Gertrude Bell' for Ridley Scott (Exclusive)

Angelina Jolie Camera Line - H 2011
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Angelina Jolie Camera Line - H 2011

The actress is attached to play the pioneering woman leader who helped lay the groundwork for the modern Middle East.

Angelina Jolie, who has made a career out of playing strong female characters, is taking steps toward tackling another iconic woman leader. The actress-filmmaker has attached herself to star in Gertrude Bell, a biopic of a pioneering figure in the Middle East in the early 20th Century. The project is being developed by Ridley Scott's Scott Free Productions.

Scott also is mulling directing the pic, one of three on his shortlist that insiders say he wants to tackle after his Alien prequel-of-sorts Prometheus, which hits theaters in June.

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Bell has been described as the female Lawrence of Arabia for the impact the English woman had in the Middle East and her work in establishing what would become the modern framework for Jordan and Iraq. With a passion for archeology and languages, she wrote about her adventures in the Ottoman Empire and desert kingdoms, traveling in not only a predominantly male world but one whose culture and religion was very alien to the British Empire.

During World War I, Bell worked for British Intelligence and was a key asset to the English¹s dismantling of the Ottoman Empire and founding of Iraq, even winning the admiration many Arabs as she navigated tribes, diplomats and soldiers.

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Jeffrey Caine is writing the screenplay, tooling it as a vehicle for Jolie. The project is not set up at a studio and is still in development.

Jolie, whose directorial debut In the Land of Blood and Honey hits theaters next month, has a number of acting projects in development. She's attached to play Kay Scarpetta in an adaptation of the popular Patricia Cornwell novels, as well as Disney's Maleficent. A sequel to her hit action pic Salt also is being written. She last starred in The Tourist opposite Johnny Depp.

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On top of Bell, Scott is looking at Gucci as a possible directing vehicle. That project is a drama about the iconic fashion family in the 1970s and 80s. He's also considering Child 44, a serial killer mystery set in Stalinist Russia. His directing wishes could be altered by how well his sci-fi epic Prometheus, which stars Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace and opens June 8, 2012, performs at the box office. Insiders at Fox say the studio is already exploring sequel options. 


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