Deadline revealed today that Lily James (‘Downton Abbey’) is set to star in Young Woman and the Sea by sportswriter Glenn Stout. When I initially read the book about American Gertrude Ederle – the first woman to successfully swim the English Channel, I was completely absorbed. But I also remember thinking it would be difficult to bring the project to the screen since so much of the saga focused on the nearly 15 hour open water swim. In fact Stout provided such a detailed account of Ederle’s swim that readers feel like they are accompanying her across the Channel.
Set against the backdrop of the roaring 1920s, Young Woman and the Sea is the dramatic and inspiring story of Ederle’s pursuit of a goal no one believed possible, and the price she paid. The moment Trudy set foot on land, triumphant, she had shattered centuries of stereotypes and opened doors for generations of women to come.
Ederle, who was hearing impaired, was the greatest female swimmer from 1922 through 1925, winning three medals, including a gold, in the 1924 Olympics. She took up distance swimming after the Games and, struggling against the most treacherous waters anywhere, the relentless Ederle overcame all odds and completed her Channel crossing — two hours faster than the fastest man to date. Dressed in a two-piece bathing suit she designed herself, Ederle was greased head-to-toe before tackling sharks, jelly fish, strong currents, etc. to prevail. At 20 years of age she was a true pioneer who left a lasting legacy.
In the hands of lesser filmmakers I would worry that this project might fall flat but it’s been set up at Paramount Pictures by producer Jerry Bruckheimer. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” writer Jeff Nathanson (also “Catch Me If You Can”) will adapt the book and executive produce.
Lily James’ credits include “Downton Abbey” and Cinderella. Her upcoming projects include “War and Peace,” The Kaiser’s Last Kiss, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and Baby Driver.
Look forward to seeing this historic swim drama and all the backstory and unexpected ramifications that occurred after the history-making event.