Joe Wright to direct Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina

The award-winning director begins filming Tolstoy's great love story this month

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Joe Wright, director of award-winning Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, is set to direct Tom Stoppard’s adaptation of Anna Karenina.

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Keira Knightley, in her third starring role for Wright, will play the tragic heroine of Leo Tolstoy’s epic love story, with Jude Law as her cold, bureaucratic husband Alexei Karenin.

The Russian classic, considered by many to be Tolstoy’s best work, follows the passionate affairs of a cluster of wealthy aristocrats and officials at the heart of 19th-century high society.

As beautiful adulteress Anna, Knightley will take on one of the great heroines of literature. She is the latest in a line of glamorous actresses to star in the many film versions of the book, including Greta Garbo (1927), Vivien Leigh (1947), Jacqueline Bisset (1985) and Sophie Marceau (1997).

A supporting cast of leading British and Irish actors includes Aaron Johnson, Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfadyen, Domhnall Gleeson, two-time Academy Award nominee Emily Watson, Olivia Williams and Ruth Wilson. Matthew Macfadyen played Mr Darcy in Wright’s Pride & Prejudice.

Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are producing with Paul Webster and filming will begin in the UK and Russia this month. The trio were nominated for Academy Awards as the producers of Atonement.

Bevan commented, “Everyone at Working Title is proud to affirm a long-time collaboration with Joe Wright through this, our fourth picture together. That we are able to reconvene cast and crew from Pride & Prejudice and Atonement makes it all the more exciting. We anticipate that this will be a defining screen version of Anna Karenina.”

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The film is expected to be released in the second half of 2012.