Production has begun in the Czech Republic on The Zookeeper’s Wife, adapted from Diane Ackerman’s nonfiction book of the same name which was based on the diaries of Antonina Żabiński. Focus Features will release the film domestically; Universal Pictures International has distribution rights to the film in the U.K., France, Germany, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.
Two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain stars in the title role, as Antonina Żabiński. The Zookeeper’s Wife director Niki Caro’s previous films include Whale Rider and North Country.
The Zookeeper’s Wife dramatizes a real-life story of heroism. The time is 1939. The place is Poland, homeland of Antonina Żabiński (portrayed by Ms.
Chastain) and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh, a European Film Award nominee for the Academy Award-nominated The Broken Circle Breakdown). The Warsaw Zoo flourishes under Jan’s stewardship and Antonina’s care. When their country is invaded by the Nazis, Jan and Antonina are forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist, Lutz Heck (Golden Globe Award nominee Daniel Brühl of the upcoming Captain America: Civil War). The Żabińskis covertly begin working with the Resistance – and put into action plans to save the lives of hundreds from what has become the Warsaw Ghetto, with Antonina putting herself and her children at great risk.
The cast of The Zookeeper’s Wife also includes Michael McElhatton (Game of Thrones); Iddo Goldberg (Defiance, The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler); Goran Kostic (In the Land of Blood and Honey); and Israeli actresses Shira Haas, who stars in Natalie Portman’s feature directorial debut A Tale of Love and Darkness, and Efrat Dor, acclaimed for her work in the television series Achat Efes Efes, Asfur, and Mermaids.
The screenplay adaptation is by Angela Workman (War Bride). The movie is being produced by Jeff Abberley, through his Scion Films; Kim Zubick and Diane Levin, who initiated the project; and Electric City Entertainment’s Jamie Patricof.
Academy Award nominee Suzie Davies (Mr. Turner) is the production designer on The Zookeeper’s Wife; Andrij Parekh (Show Me a Hero) is the director of photography; and Bina Daigeler (Only Lovers Left Alive) is the film’s costume designer.