Watson changes tack: Teen sailor's voyage to become a movie

The solo round-the-world voyage of teenage sailor Jessica Watson is to become a movie.

The director of the Hollywood movies Soul Surfer and Bratz: The Movie, Sean McNamara, will shoot what's described as an ''inspiring drama'' called True Spirit in Australia next year.

It will be based on Watson's book of the same name about sailing around the world non-stop and unassisted as a 16-year-old. She was at sea for 210 days before arriving in Sydney Harbour in May 2010.

Watson, now 19, said she was excited about  the movie and looking forward to being involved as a consultant.

''At first you go, goodness me, really? A film?,'' she said. ''But it's going to be quite realistic and special and I'll be quite heavily involved.''

Producer David Brookwell said who would play Watson was yet to be decided but it would ''most likely'' be an Australian actress.

''There are some names that have knocked around but we haven't settled on anybody right now,'' he said.

The movie was announced by Paramount Pictures Australia at the Australian International Movie Convention on the Gold Coast.

The American production company Brookwell McNamara Entertainment is teaming up with Watson's manager, Andrew Fraser, and his partners in Sunstar Entertainment for True Spirit. Sunstar has previously made two documentaries on Watson - on her circumnavigation then her skippering of the youngest ever crew in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race last year.

One challenge for the writers, including Brookwell, McNamara and Australia's Matt Nable, will be making a dramatic story from a young girl on a boat alone for seven months.

'There's plenty of drama that happened along the way – not so much what was happening on the boat but what was happening with the team as a whole,'' said Brookwell. ''The book and the documentary and all the news reports followed the story quite closely but I think there was a lot of emotion and a lot of feelings that I don't think the general public knew about ...   This gives us an opportunity to take the audience on the journey with her around the world.''

Brookwell said the filmmakers were aiming for an accurate re-telling of the story.

''There's no need to manufacture any of the story. It's so incredible.''

McNamara also drew on real life for Soul Surfer, a 2011 drama about professional surfer Bethany Hamilton, who returned to competition after losing an arm in a shark attack.

The vice president of Paramount Pictures in Australia and New Zealand, Mike Selwyn, described True Spirit as ''a wonderful story of courage, perseverance and triumph that will appeal to all audiences".

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