Cate Blanchett, Susanne Bier circle Sutton Hoo drama

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Oscar-winning Danish director Susanne Bier is attached to direct the feature, which is written by Tamara Drewe and Byzantium writer Moira Buffini.

Buffini’s buzz script, adapted from John Preston’s novel The Dig, explores the story and characters behind the 1938/9 excavation of Sutton Hoo, whose sixth and seventh century riches included a 27-metre ship and which is the likely burial site of King Raedwald of East Anglia.

Blanchett, who picked up a second Oscar earlier this year for her lead role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, is in talks to play amateur archaeologist Edith Pretty, one of the driving forces behind the excavation.

Producers are Murray Ferguson of Clerkenwell Films, former Clerkenwell exec Ellie Wood, and Philomena producer Gaby Tana with backing from BBC Films, whose head Christine Langan serves as executive producer.

Set against the impending Second World War, Preston’s story charts the unearthing of one civilisation by another, itself on the verge of annihilation.

One industry source described the script as “a layered piece with great emotional weight in the tradition of films like The Remains of the Day, spanning love, life and death.”

The story is understood to hone in on the personalities involved in the dig, including Pretty, who was still coming to terms with the death of her husband when she enlisted archaeologist Basil Brown to excavate the site.

A sales company has yet to be attached to the film, which is generating significant buzz from top financiers ahead of Cannes.

The production, which would be a first theatrical feature for Misfits producers Clerkenwell Films, is aiming for a late 2014 shoot.

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