A little surprise came to us today: the first pictures of The Zookeeper’s Wife was released by Focus Features via USA Today.
The upcoming drama is based on Diane Ackerman’s 2007 book chronicling Anonina and Jan Zabinski’s real-life efforts to save Jews in Poland during World War II. Jan (Belgian actor Johan Heldenbergh) was running the Warsaw Zoo and wife Antonina (Chastain) took care of ailing animals in their villa when the city was bombed in 1939. The zoo was obliterated, many animals were killed, and the Zabinskis convinced a former associate of theirs, Nazi zoologist Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl), to keep the place open as a pig farm.
But he was unaware that the Zabinskis were also using it as a sanctuary for Jews, hiding them in the cages, tunnels and basements where the creatures once lived. They saved more than 300 people.
“It was a wonderful story about not only animal nature vs. human nature but about radical compassion and humanity. The Zabinskis sheltered Jews at tremendous risk to themselves for a very simple reason: because it was the right thing to do.” (Jessica Chastain)
While Chastain is known for playing strong-willed characters, Caro says she brings a “tremendous delicacy” to Antonina, a woman who was very good with zoo creatures but not so much with people before they started their rescue missions. “We see Antonina caring for her guests with the same tenderness and respect that she treated animals.”
“There wasn’t a creature on that set, human or animal, that she couldn’t mesmerize. It was a wonderful experience.”
The Zookeeper’s Wife will hit theaters next March 31. Check in our gallery the first images in HQ.