Sendler Holocaust pic set


Producers Jeff Rice and Jeff Most have teamed with screenwriter Lawrence Spagnola to bring the Irena Sendler story to the screen.

Sendler was a Polish social worker who, during World War II, was part of the Polish underground where she helped save about 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw ghetto. She kept track of them, as well as their original and new identities, with names hidden in jars.

Sendler, a Catholic, was arrested in 1943 by the Gestapo, tortured and sentenced to death but was saved on the way to her execution. She then continued her work while in hiding.

Rice, a producer on the upcoming Jessica Simpson movie "Blonde Ambition," and Most, a producer on "The Crow" movie series, secured the life rights from Sendler, who is still alive at age 97, as well as the motion picture rights to her biography, Muza Publishing's "Irena Sendler: The Mother of the Holocaust Children." Most came across Sendler's story more than a year ago when he read an e-mail that was making the rounds. It took him that long to secure the rights. "She's still sharp as a tack," he said.

Most said Sendler was not very well known because after the war, under Soviet influence, there was a stigma attached to those who successfully fought off occupiers. "She didn't want her daughter to be threatened by the Soviets," Most said. "After the collapse of the Iron Curtain, she was more open about it."

At first only recognized by the children she had saved, the rest of the world eventually caught onto her story, and Sendler was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace prize.

Most and Spagnola traveled to Poland in February to meet with Sendler and tour the areas where she lived and worked.

"It's one of the great untold stories from that time, and it's a reaffirming story that crosses religious lines. I don't know of another story like this," Most said.

Spagnola is writing the script, and the producers intend to take it out to studios after a preliminary draft is completed.