Justin Chadwick will direct the historical adventure “The Lady and the Panda” about Ruth Harkness, the first person to bring a live panda from China to the United States.
Filming is expected to begin next month in China in the Sichuan region in the foothills of the Himalayas. The Exchange is launching sales at the American Film Market next month.
“The Lady and the Panda” is a U.K./Chinese co-production, produced by Laura Bickford (“Traffic,” “Beasts of No Nation”) and Michelle Qi, CEO of Europe China Picture Group. The executive producers are Joe Simpson of Miscellaneous Entertainment, Andrew Mann, and Fiona Druckenmiller (“Beasts of No Nation”).
Harkness was a New York socialite whose wealthy explorer husband died unexpectedly in 1936. She took over his expedition to China, joined forces with Chinese guide Quentin Young, and traveled into the uncharted Himalayas, where, against all odds, they rescued an orphaned baby panda.
The panda, Su Lin, was bottle-fed baby formula as Harkness took the panda back to the U.S. and created a nationwide sensation, promoting headlines like “Pandamonium!” But before long, Harkness realized that pandas are best preserved in their natural habitat. Su Lin ended up at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.
Chadwick will direct from a script he wrote with Bickford and Holly Gent Palmo, based on Harkness’ original correspondence. Chadwick’s credits include Sony’s “The Other Boleyn Girl,” BBC Films’ “The First Grader,” The Weinstein Company’s “Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom,” and TWC’s upcoming “Tulip Fever.”
The production team includes sound mixer Ray Beckett, who won an Academy Award for “The Hurt Locker”; costume designer Terry Anderson, whose credits include “Inception” and “Captain America: The First Avenger”; and production designer Juiping Cao (“Kill Bill: Vol. 1”).
“Pandas are the most universally loved animals on this planet,” said Brian O’Shea of The Exchange. “Combined with a world class director, a terrific production crew, and amazing script, ‘The Lady and the Panda’ will be a grand theatrical experience that the entire world will love.”
The Exchange’s slate includes “Gleason,” “A Street Cat Named Bob,” and Stephanie Laing’s “Irreplaceable You.”