‘Queen of the Desert’ Will Trade You a Naomi Watts For a Nicole Kidman

We’ve been hearing about Werner Herzog’s Gertrude Bell biopic, Queen of the Desert, for quite a while now. Not only is it an enticing project because it’s going to see a crazy man like Herzog taking a film crew out to the desert for a big shoot, but it was also looking like something everyone was going to look forward to because it had Naomi Watts starring as Bell. Everyone loves Naomi Watts, especially when she gets to play a strong character like Bell, who was an explorer, politician, archeologist, and who did quite a bit to influence policy in the Middle East during the early parts of the 20th century. Basically, she was Indiana Jones crossed with Obi-Wan Kenobi, but real. And a lady.

The bad news here is that Deadline is reporting Watts can no longer star in the film. And really, who can blame her? Being out in the desert with Herzog for who knows how long sounds scary as all get out. The good news is that the production still looks to be on, as Herzog has found another white lady with an accent, Nicole Kidman, to take her place.

This isn’t the first time a casting switch has been made on this project either. Already Jude Law has dropped out of the lead male role of Henry Cadogan and been replaced by James Franco. It would almost seem like this production was doomed to never actually happen, if not for the fact that Robert Pattinson has continually stood steadfast in his commitment to appear in it playing TE Lawrence, who you likely know as the protagonist of a little film called Lawrence of Arabia.

Clearly there’s some plusses and minuses to the switch for Kidman here. Kidman is definitely a step more famous than Watts, but Watts probably has a step more good will with critics and the like. Does this casting change do anything to dampen your enthusiasm for seeing a Herzog-directed desert epic, or is there pretty much nothing that could happen to make that idea not sound completely awesome?

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