Entertainment & Arts

Downton star set for Jane Austen zombie film

Lily James
Image caption James has also appeared in TV series' Just William and Diary of a Call Girl

Downton Abbey star Lily James has landed the leading role in a big screen adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Australian actress Bella Heathcote and On the Road star Sam Riley have also been cast, Deadline Hollywood reported.

James, who plays Lady Rose in Downton, will star as Elizabeth Bennet in the mash-up film directed by Burr Steers.

Black Swan actress Natalie Portman, who was originally cast in the lead role, remains on board as a producer.

Riley will star as Mr Darcy, while Heathcote will play one of the Bennet sisters.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Riley won plaudits for his breakthrough role playing Joy Division's Ian Curtis in 2007 film Control

Grahame-Smith's novel focuses on the romantic entanglements Austen created in the original between different social classes in 19th century England.

But he has added a new subplot in which the story takes place as the dead rise from the grave.

It sees Elizabeth Bennet as a kung-fu expert dedicated to wiping out the zombie menace in the quiet village of Meryton.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Heathcote first found fame on Australian soap opera Neighbours

The novel was an instant success, selling more than 1.5 million copies and appearing on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 41 weeks.

A film adaptation has been in the pipeline since 2009 but due to various changes in cast and crew, it has taken five years to get to this point.

Shooting is now due to begin in September, with a script by Steers and David O Russell - the five times Oscar nominee, whose films include The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle.

James can next be seen in Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella, while Riley recently appeared in Maleficent alongside Angelina Jolie.

Heathcote's credits include Tim Burton's 2012 film Dark Shadows.

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