Lifetime paints bio of O'Keeffe

Joan Allen, Jeremy Irons to play the artist and her lover

Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons are set to star in a Lifetime biopic about the late American artist Georgia O'Keeffe, with Bob Balaban on board to direct.

Allen also will take on executive producer duties for the first time, serving in the role alongside City Entertainment's Joshua D. Maurer ("Introducing Dorothy Dandridge") and Alixandre Witlin ("Dodson's Journey").

"Georgia O'Keeffe," from Sony Pictures TV, is something of a passion project for the three exec producers, who conceived and have been developing the movie as a team for four years; at one point, it was in development at HBO.

"Georgia" will follow the turbulent 20-year love affair between the celebrated artist (Allen) and photographer Alfred Steiglitz (Irons). The movie, set to premiere in third-quarter 2009, was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cristofer ("Gia"). Tony Mark ("And Starring Poncho Villa as Himself") is producing.

"Georgia" is the latest example of how Lifetime has been trying to boost the caliber of talent working on its original movies, greenlighting fewer movies but maintaining the same overall budget. More recent efforts include "Coco Chanel," a biopic starring Shirley MacLaine, and "Living Proof," exec produced by Renee Zellweger, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and starring Harry Connick Jr.

"We can provide a place for filmmakers to make these films about strong, iconic women who have made a mark on pop culture or historical culture that strictly have been seen on HBO," Lifetime senior vp original movies Tanya Lopez said. "We will try to do such a movie once a year."

Helen Verno, executive vp movies and miniseries at SPT, called O'Keeffe "the iconic role model for unique, talented, brilliant and liberated women of all ages."

"The project is sure to speak to viewers who are inspired by her love affair with Alfred Steiglitz and the extraordinary work they created during the many years of their relationship," she said.

In addition to "O'Keeffe," Allen and Irons also are set to star on Broadway in the play "Impressionism," starting in March.

ICM-repped Allen's recent credits include the "Bourne" trilogy. CAA-repped Irons is on the big screen in "Appaloosa." Balaban, repped by Gersh, directed "Bernard and Doris" for HBO Films. Cristofer is repped by ICM.