Elsa Zylberstein to Star as Simone de Beauvoir in Film From Writer Christopher Hampton, Director Anne Fontaine (EXCLUSIVE)

Elsa Zylberstein (“Simone: Woman of the Century”) will star as the French feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir in a feature film that will be penned by Oscar-winning writer Christopher Hampton and directed by Anne Fontaine.

Zylberstein’s Sonia Films will produce the film with Philippe Carcassone’s banner Cine@ and Master Movie, the production vehicle of Marco and Lola Pacchioni.

Rather than a biopic, the movie will revolve around the passionate transatlantic romance between de Beauvoir and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Nelson Algren.

Zylberstein has scooped the adaptation rights of de Beauvoir’s “Lettres à Nelson Algren” from Gallimard. Through those letters, the film will chart the pair’s affair, which spanned nearly two decades from 1947, in the aftermath of World War II, to 1964. Two-thirds of the movie will take place in Chicago, and the reminder will unfold in Paris.

Zylberstein said Hampton has penned a treatment and is expected to start writing the screenplay this summer.

Fontaine said she was able to option rights to the letters from Gallimard after meeting de Beauvoir’s heiress, Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir. “I was stunned by the beauty of these letters and this relationship which started in the most unexpected way after Simone de Beauvoir traveled to Chicago for two days,” Zylberstein said.

“Simone de Beauvoir wasn’t an austere intellectual; she was a very passionate and audacious woman, who was in love with two men — Jean-Paul Sartre and Nelson Algren — who was intense and tortured,” she continued.

During her affair with Elgren, de Beauvoir delivered some of her most revered books, notably the feminist work “The Second Sex,” which was published in 1949.

“With Christopher Hampton and Anne Fontaine, we have the ambition to make a grand film that will be both classic and sensual and will have longevity,” said Zylberstein.

Hampton previously won Oscars for “The Father,” which was also produced by Carcassone, and “Dangerous Liaisons.”  He was previously nominated for “Atonement.” The untitled project reteams Hampton with Fontaine, with whom he partnered on her 2013 movie “Adoration.”

Zylberstein, who is best known internationally for her Cesar-winning performance in “I’ve Loved You for So Long,” starred as Simone Veil in the biopic “Simone,” which was the second biggest French production at the country’s box office (with 2.5 million tickets sold) in 2022.

Like de Beauvoir, Veil was an inspiring female icon. An Auschwitz survivor, she became health minister of France and championed the 1975 law that legalized abortion.

During a recent interview, Zylberstein told Variety that she’s developing a slate of female-driven projects as a producer. “After this pandemic, and seeing how successful ‘Simone’ was, I think people want to go to the cinemas to see films that have a meaning, or at least some truth and some sincerity,” Zylberstein said, citing American actors-turned-producers such as Reese Witherspoon and Cate Blanchett.

Other projects on her roster include  “Kingdom of Hope,” a movie about Elise Boghossian, a French acupuncturist and humanitarian worker in a war zone who has healed children victims of ISIS. The film will be directed by Oscar-winning Syrian filmmaker Feras Fayyad (“The Cave”).

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