Jodie Foster to direct fact-meets-fiction film about the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa

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Director Jodie Foster, left, works with Julia Roberts on the set of “Money Monster.” [Sony Pictures photo]

Jodie Foster will direct an untitled fact-meets-fiction feature based on the Seymour Reit book “The Day They Stole the Mona Lisa.”

The film is being fully financed by the Los Angeles Media Fund, whose principals, Jeffrey Soros and Simon Horsman, shared the news with Deadline while attending the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

“This happened in 1911, and it was the thing that made the Mona Lisa so famous,” Soros told Deadline. “It was developed by Phoenix, which is still involved, but we have got a whole new script that Bill Wheeler is writing for Jodie Foster to direct. This is in the mold of ‘The Thomas Crown Affair,’ with ‘The Sting’ also a plot device comp. It is a fun story, and the crime itself is not sophisticated. Our story mixes truth and fiction, and the focus is on the characters behind orchestrating the theft.”

The Mona Lisa drama is one of several films moving fast at the company, which Deadline reports is broadening its footprint with increasingly ambitious feature films, scripted and unscripted series and Broadway productions.

A March start date is set for “Rob Peace,” which Chiwetel Ejiofor scripted and will direct with Antoine Fuqua producing, based on Jeff Hobbs’ bestselling book “The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League.” Peace and Hobbs were roommates at Yale, and the film tells the tragic story of a brilliant young African American academic prodigy on a full scholarship to study molecular biochemistry. Peace had a second identity as a campus pot dealer, and he wound up getting killed in a drug deal gone wrong.

Also due for a production start this year is “Il Duce,” an absurdist tragedy about an American diplomat named Richard Washburn Child, a Harvard-educated writer who after helping Warren Harding get elected, was made the ambassador to Italy.

“He found a rising star in Benito Mussolini, and became interested in the doctrine of fascism, which seemed compatible to American pro-business sentiments,” Soros told Deadline. “He eventually had a side job as Mussolini’s head of propaganda, and helped him organize the March on Rome, which consolidated Mussolini’s power.”

Child went on to edit the Saturday Evening Post, featuring many pro-Mussolini pieces in the Americana magazine, and ghost wrote Il Duce’s autobiography.

“He basically helped create a monster and then could not put the genie back in the bottle,” Soros said. “It’s about the embrace of leaders like him, which we now see around the world. This is a fascinating lens into the life of Mussolini.”

Although Foster is still legendary for her Academy Award-winning acting career, she has developed an intriguingly diverse filmography as a director. The adaptation of “The Day They Stole the Mona Lisa” will be her fifth film to helm, following 2016’s “Money Monster,” 2011’s “The Beaver,” 1995’s “Home for the Holidays” and 1991’s “Little Man Tate.” She also has directed episodes of the series “Black Mirror,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards,” according to IMDB.


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