Helen Mirren has joined the cast of Marc Forster’s White Bird: A Wonder Story. Based on Palacio’s 2019 graphic novel, the story centers on Julian Albans, the 11-year-old bully who left Beecher Prep, who is still waiting for the insight of how kindness has the power to save lives when he is visited by his Grandmère from Paris and is transformed by her remarkable story of compassion and courage. Grandmère’s fairy-tale life before the war abruptly changes as the Nazis occupy France, and the outcast classmate who she once shunned becomes her savior and best friend. Alongside Mirren, who joins previously cast Emmy winner Gillian Anderson, the cast has also seen the additions of Ariella Glaser, Bryce Gheisar and Orlando Schwerdt. Gheisar will be reprising his role from the first film as Julian while Mirren will star as Grandmère, Julian’s Parisian grandmother, Glaser as Sara, the younger version of Mirren’s character in Nazi-occupied France, and Schwerdt as Julien, a classmate who chooses to hide Sara from the Nazis along with his parents, his mother who is being played by Anderson. “I am deeply honored to have Helen Mirren join us on this journey,” Forster said in a statement. “Beyond being a brilliant actress, Helen brings an immeasurable level of depth, humanity, and empathy to her roles, elevating any project she is a part of. She is a true artist and I couldn’t be more excited to have her alongside our incredibly talented cast.” The script for the adaptation is being penned by Mark Bomback (The Art of Racing in the Rain, War for the Planet of the Apes), with the film set to be produced by Mandeville Films’ David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman, who produced the original film, alongside Palacio, with Renée Wolfe attached to executive produce with Alex Young.
“Helen Mirren is a screen legend – one of our industry’s most accomplished and talented actresses – so, obviously, it’s hugely exciting to know that she loves this story as much as we do and wanted to be a part of it,” Nathan Kahane, President of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, said in a statement. “We’re equally excited to showcase Ariella and Orlando’s talents – as they take on their first major roles, they’ll bring heart, emotion, and magnetism to their performances and we are thrilled Bryce will return to bridge his role from Wonder. White Bird: A Wonder Story is the kind of movie that the world needs now and it’s a thrill to have these incredible actors bringing to life this story of compassion, empathy, kindness, and hope.” Wonder, directed by author-turned-filmmaker Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), starred Owen Wilson (Loki), Julia Roberts (Homecoming) and Jacob Tremblay (The Little Mermaid) and received rave reviews from critics and audiences alike and was a box office hit for the studio, grossing over $305 million at the global box office on a $20 million budget.