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Erstwhile teen angst queen Kirsten Dunst (Fargo, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People) is to make her debut as a director with an adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, according to Deadline.

While it won’t be her first time in the director’s chair (she’s previously directed a few film shorts), it will be her first feature. Though Dunst is not expected to act in the feature, she did co-write the script with Nellie Kim (it’s Kim’s first screenwriting credit).

Instead the acting work will fall to Dakota Fanning (American Pastoral, Twilight), the ex-child star who’s gone on to adult success with roles as diverse as Jane in The Twilight Saga and John Ruskin‘s wife in period drama Effie Gray. She’ll play Esther Greenwood, a young woman who finds herself feeling increasingly suffocated and mentally unstable after taking a summer job at a New York magazine, before eventually suffering a breakdown.

Fans of The Bell Jar are bound to greet the news with some wariness. Written just before Plath’s suicide aged 30, and first published a month after her death, the book is often assumed to be semi-autobiographical, while its study of intense mental anguish makes it notoriously difficult to adapt for the big screen.

That hasn’t stopped people trying, however. A 1979 film by Larry Peerce (Two Minute Warning) and starring Marilyn Hasset was poorly received, while 2003 biopic Sylvia avoided a straight adaptation by covering instead the writing of the poet’s only novel; it fared a little better, thanks in part to performances by Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig.

How Dunst’s adaptation will succeed remains to be seen. It’s due to start shooting in 2017.

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By Kat Sommers
Kat is a freelance writer for Anglophenia.