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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Kristen Bell is putting on her ballet slippers for "Dance of the Mirlitons," giving the indie black comedy a second shot at the big screen.
With the "Gossip Girl" actress on board, writer/director Evan Greenberg and producers Daniel Dubiecki and Joel Michaely are now focusing on their a nationwide casting search for a young actress to play a precocious 10- to 12-year old.
"We're looking to discover an unknown," said Greenberg, adding he hopes to go down the route of movies such as "Billy Elliot" and "Little Miss Sunshine," both of which uncovered talented youngsters ("Elliot" was the screen debut of 13-year-old Jamie Bell, while "Sunshine" made a movie star of 10-year-old Abigail Breslin, who had only worked in TV).
Greenberg's script centers on an ambitious, slightly overweight ballerina with an overbearing mother (Bell) who will stop at nothing to become a star. The girl enters a "Mean Girls"-type environment when she has to prove her worth in class.
The story's first iteration was as a short story Greenberg wrote in middle school, which he turned into 50 pages of a script while attending NYU film school. "Mirlitons" generated enough heat to get picked up by Warner Independent, but when that division shuttered in 2008, the script became homeless.
"It took me a few years to get the rights back," said Greenberg. "Once I got the rights back, it was about the right partner."
That's when he met Dubiecki and Michaely. Dubiecki is an Oscar-nominated producer for "Up in the Air," and is a producer on "Passion Play," the Mickey Rourke-Megan Fox pic that will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month. Michaely is an actor who is moving into the producing world.
Dubiecki and Michaely made casting the mom a priority, figuring that a name lead would get the ball rolling in terms of securing financing.
"Kristen's combination of comedic timing and authenticity will bring this character to the next level, and give this crossover appeal," said Dubiecki.
The producers are location-scouting and hope to begin shooting in winter. Greenberg attributes his dedication to staying with the script to his unique connection with it. "I've never felt about anything like I do about this. It's etched in my psyche.
"I hope that one day people will talk about how it was one of those movie that came together, fell apart, came together again. The best projects are the ones that take the most elbow grease to get made."