'Wuthering Heights' finds director

Peter Webber signs on to Gemma Arterton starrer

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CANNES -- Peter Webber has signed to direct the long-gestating big screen version of "Wuthering Heights" with Gemma Arterton and Ed Westwick taking on the roles of young lovers Cathy and Heathcliff.

This time last year John Maybury was to direct the project with Michael Fassbender attached for the lead role of Heathcliff. Arterton steps in after Natalie Portman pulled out of the headline role of Cathy.

British production and finance label Ecosse Films principals Robert Bernstein and Douglas Rae will produce the tragic love story with sales and financier HanWay Films selling the project here.

Webber will direct from a script by Olivia Hetreed which reunites the team behind the Oscar nominated "Girl With a Pearl Earring." Having a fresh cast and a director on board should mean the project finally begins shooting later this year. Emily Bronte's novel "Wuthering Heights," written in the first half of the 19th century has never been out of print and is currrently enjoying a minor revival after fans picked up on repeated reference to it in the bestselling Twilight vampire novels by Stephenie Meyer.

Webber describes the source material as a "powerful, moving and dangerous love story that cries out to be told on the big screen."

For the latest adaptation, Ecosse said it plans to focus on the story of Heathcliff and Cathy, steering away from "stuffy costume drama." Previous Ecosse movies include John Madden's "Mrs. Brown" and a brace of Julian Jarrold directed projects "Becoming Jane" and "Brideshead Revisited."