Natalie Portman, Michel Hazanavicius of 'The Artist' to Join Tom Hanks 'In the Garden of Beasts'?

Natalie Portman/Photo © Helga Esteb/Shutterstock
Natalie Portman/Photo © Helga Esteb/Shutterstock

Back in December of 2011, we first heard that Tom Hanks had teamed up with Universal Pictures and Gary Goetzman to take the helm of the big-screen adaptation of Erik Larson's bestselling In the Garden of Beasts. In reaction to the news, we felt secure that Hanks was up to the task; and then our minds went to the possibility that Tom Hanks would, in addition to produce the film, also star as American ambassador William Dodd.

Well, folks: We learned that our wish came true with the recent news that Hanks is taking on the part. In the long list of Hanks' incredibly written, meticulously crafted, and impeccably acted roles, Erik Larson's subject, Dodd, makes for perfect fodder for potential inclusion. Here is a character so complicated -- a patriot and a politician, father and witness to history -- and so deserving of Hanks' stellar talents. We had also pondered the available options for the part of Martha, Dodd's daughter who is -- how shall we say this -- more Jenna Bush than Chelsea Clinton. More glitz than grit. More action than thought. More "I'm sorry" than "May I?" Considering Hollywood's current ingenue influx, the options seemed endless. Now, with the news of Hanks' role, comes whisperings of Natalie Portman's involvement. Given the heaviness of the subject matter of this true story of the early days of Hitler's approach to infamy and evil, Portman certainly has the dramatic acting chops to handle the role (see: "Black Swan," "V for Vendetta") as well as that certain timeless nymph-like naivety.

Two Oscar-winning actors need one more crucial piece of the equation for an Academy Awards-baiting trifecta: an Oscar-winning director, of course. Michel Hazanavicius, he of "The Artist" fame, is also in negotiations to join the project. So far, we're feeling good on where this adaptation is headed. Larson's book is extraordinary and deserves perfection in its handling -- and it seems that perfection is what it's destined for.

Read an excerpt to get a headstart on the story.

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson - Excerpt