Angelina Jolie is doubling down on directing and continuing to pursue her overseas interests while doing so: The globe-trotting actress, humanitarian and filmmaker has signed on to helm "Africa," a sweeping drama about the famed paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey and his battle against ivory poachers. Skydance Productions made the announcement Friday.
Featuring a script by Eric Roth, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "Forrest Gump," "Africa" marks the latest in a string of high-profile directing gigs for Jolie, who for all her stardom remains a relatively unproven filmmaker: To date, her only released feature has been the little-seen Bosnian war drama "In the Land of Blood and Honey."
That will all change soon enough, as Jolie's "Unbroken," a biopic about the Olympic runner and World War II hero Louis Zamperini, is scheduled for release on Christmas Day. The Universal release is regarded as a potential Oscar contender, but it's also something of a wild card. Few have seen the film, which hasn't played at any festivals.
Jolie certainly has Universal's confidence — the studio also signed on for her subsequent directorial effort "By the Sea," a relationship drama she wrote and will costar in with husband Brad Pitt. That movie is up next, with "Africa" potentially to follow."
"Africa" also further underscores that Jolie has been able to attract choice collaborators. There's Roth, who in addition to "Gump" has earned Oscar nominations for co-writing "The Insider," "Munich" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Also on board is the acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins, who has been nominated for 11 Oscars though somehow never won (he also shot "Unbroken").
Along with directing, Jolie will also serve as a producer on "Africa," with David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Jon Peters.
"I've felt a deep connection to Africa and its culture for much of my life," Jolie said in a statement, "and was taken with Eric's beautiful script about a man drawn into the violent conflict with elephant poachers who emerged with a deeper understanding of man's footprint and a profound sense of responsibility for the world around him."