Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto is set to star in and executive produce Spy Princess, a limited series based on Shrabani Basu’s Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan, the definitive biography of Noor’s life, from writer Olivia Hetreed (Girl With a Pearl Earring) and Red Room Films.
Hetreed will pen the adaptation based on the book, and Basu will serve as a consultant on the series.
Noor was the first female wireless operator sent into occupied France in 1943 – a role with a life expectancy of just six weeks.
“She was a fierce and amazing woman, the most unlikely heroine of World War 2,” Pinto said. “Sending women to the front line is controversial even now. Then it was unthinkable. Sending a Sufi mystic, who won’t use a gun, daughter of a long-haired Indian Guru who preaches love and peace – ridiculous! But Noor thrives, not in spite of her differences, but because of them. Her struggle to reconcile her values with the desire to find her own path and with her complex sense of duty, is something I am so excited to explore and to recreate.”
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Red Room Films’ founder, Claire Ingham, pursued the story after discovering a photograph of Noor in uniform. He will executive produce alongside Hetreed and her Sympathetic Ink partner, Andy Paterson. Anand Tucker, who worked with the Sympathetic team on the Oscar and BAFTA-nominated films Girl With A Pearl Earring and Hilary and Jackie, will direct.
“Olivia has crafted Noor’s story into something very powerful, thrilling and extremely relevant” says Pinto. “Noor is unlike all the other female superheroes, warriors and badass women I see in film and TV, who train so hard and are so great with all the physical stuff, almost leaving us mere mortals to believe that courage means being good at everything. Noor has a quiet strength that she’s not entirely aware of. Alone in Paris, she lives and loves more intensely in a few months than most of us do in a lifetime, helping establish the ‘Secret Armies’ of the Resistance who will rise up on D-Day, astonishing the men who said she should never have been sent to the front line.”
Hetreed co-wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-nominated Girl With a Pearl Earring. Her other writing credits include the features Wuthering Heights and historical drama Finding Altamira.
“At a time when conflicts about race, identity and patriotism have a new and frightening energy, Noor’s character and her nail-biting story of hair’s-breadth escapes and life and death choices, offer us the picture of a heroine who defies every prejudice and stereotype,” said Hetreed.
Added Tucker, “Olivia has created a spy thriller, a love story and a search for identity, the true story of a remarkable and complex woman doing the most dangerous job imaginable. Our series challenges ideas of heroism and the portrayal of Asian women on screen – often victims, sometimes terrorists – never the hero – and we are all thrilled to collaborate with Freida to bring Noor’s incredible story to life.”
Pinto also is producing and set to star in The Henna Artist, based on Alka Joshi’s bestselling debut novel which is in series development at Miramax TV. She is repped by CAA, Principal Entertainment LA and Cohen & Gardner.