Tom Hiddleston, Willem Dafoe to Star in Biopic of Famed Everest Mountaineer Tenzing Norgay for See-Saw Films, Rocket Science

Oscar-winning indie banner See-Saw Films (“The King’s Speech,” “The Power of the Dog”) is lining up a biopic of Tenzing Norgay, the legendary Nepalese-Indian mountaineer who summited Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953, becoming one of the first men to stand on the top of the world.

Variety has learned that “Tenzing” will star Tom Hiddleston as Hillary and Willem Dafoe as the English expedition leader, Colonel John Hunt. A search is currently underway to cast the lead role of Norgay. The film is being introduced to buyers at Cannes with Rocket Science launching sales. UTA Independent Film Group and See-Saw’s Cross City Films are co-repping the U.S.

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“Tenzing” comes from acclaimed filmmaker Jennifer Peedom (“Solo,” “Sherpa”) who has the exclusive rights to tell Tenzing’s story via his family and has a close relationship with the Sherpa community.

Peedom is known for her gripping, intimate portraits against epic cinematic landscapes, including the internationally renowned feature documentaries “Solo,” “Sherpa” and “Mountain.” The project is written by Academy Award-nominated Luke Davies (“Lion,” “Beautiful Boy”) and produced by Liz Watts, Emile Sherman and Iain Canning for See-Saw Films, alongside Jennifer Peedom and Davies. Executive producers are Simon Gillis, David Michôd and Norbu Tenzing.

“I could not be more thrilled to be bringing Tenzing Norgay’s story to the screen,” said Peedom. “I’ve been working towards this film my whole career, and I’m incredibly grateful to Tenzing’s family for entrusting me with it. I am excited to work with See-Saw Films and our amazing cast to bring this story to life. Tom Hiddleston and Willem Dafoe are two of the most generous and talented actors in the business, so pairing them with our brilliant Himalayan cast is going to be electric. I have no doubt this film will resonate widely. We all have our own mountains to climb, and this film shows us what human beings are truly capable of.”

Tibetan born Norgay alongside New Zealand mountaineer Hillary, both outsiders on a British Expedition, defy insurmountable odds to achieve what was once thought impossible, reaching the summit of the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest. After six previous attempts, Tenzing risks everything for one final venture. He must navigate treacherous politics and perilous weather as he embarks on the most significant climb of his life. Through it all, he does so with humor, warmth, and generosity towards his fellow climbers, but also deep reverence and respect for the sacred Mother Goddess of his Mountain, Chomolungma.

“We are so excited to embark on this exhilarating ascent led by one of the most inspirational directors we’ve encountered, Jennifer Peedom,” said See-Saw’s Sherman and Canning. “Her award-winning experience in the world of high-altitude filmmaking, alongside her unique relationship with the Sherpa community and her masterful storytelling skills make her the perfect director for this film.”

Added producer Liz Watts: “This is an extraordinary story, fueled by Luke Davies’ incredibly powerful script. With Jen Peedom’s authentic and captivating direction, and with our exceptionally talented cast, we can’t wait to bring Tenzing’s awe-inspiring story to audiences worldwide.”

Norbu Tenzing, son of Tenzing Norgay added: “Jen is somebody who has earned the respect of our people, understands the community, and is deeply immersed in our culture. She’s a great human being and someone that we trust, and she has had a lifelong interest in the story of my father Tenzing Norgay. I am delighted that she has taken on this project and can’t wait for the world to see who my father was.”

Having landed numerous awards for “The Power of the Dog,” See-Saw Films has been relatively quiet on the feature front recently, with its TV output — particularly its hits “Slow Horses” and “Heartstopper” — getting much of the attention. However, Variety recently broke the news that the company was bringing children’s classic “The Neverending Story” back to the big screen with a new adaptation.

Dafoe is represented by WME and Circle of Confusion in the U.S. as well as The Artists Partnership in the U.K. Hiddleston is represented by UTA, Hamilton Hodell, and Johnson Shapiro Slewett & Kole.

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