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French-Canadian actress Sophie Nelisse, who appeared in Monsieur Lahzar, will make her English-language debut as the title character in the World War II drama being directed by Brian Percival (Downton Abbey).
Ben Schnetzer (Happy Town) and Nico Liersch also are cast in the screen translation of the novel, which spent more than 280 weeks on best-seller charts.
Thief centers on Liesel (Nelisse), a spirited young girl who witnesses the horrors of Nazi Germany while in the care of foster parents (Rush and Watson). The girl arrives with a stolen book and begins collecting other tomes, learning to read while her stepparents harbor a Jewish refugee (Schnetzer) under the stairs.
Rush’s character first takes on the young girl for money but soon comes to love her. Watson’s character is described as being very tough on Liesel, but her kindness occasionally shows through.
The film is looking at a production start this month in Berlin. Karen Rosenfelt and Ken Blancato are producing.
Rush received a 2011 Oscar nomination for his work in The King’s Speech, and his last major studio film appearance was in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. He most recently starred in the European drama The Best Offer, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso).
He is repped by CAA and Shanahan Management.
Watson most recently appeared in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina and Steven Spielberg’s War Horse. She next will be seen in the Neil LaBute-written Some Girl(s) with Adam Brody, Kristen Bell and Zoe Kazan.
The actress is repped by UTA, Independent Talent Group in the U.K. and attorney James Adams.
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