Virginia Madsen is to star alongside Hilary Swank and Richard Gere in the upcoming aviation biopic Amelia.

The Sideways actress will star as Dorothy Binney, the first wife of George Putnam, Amelia Earhart's publicist and later husband.

Shooting will begin on the project in Canada and South Africa later this month after Avalon Pictures took advantage of the writers' strike-induced postponement of literary adaptation Shantaram to contract Monsoon Wedding director Mira Nair.

Amelia will focus on the female pilot's groundbreaking career as well as her tumultuous relationship with Putnam (Gere).

Swank will play the pilot as her flight to fame began, when Putnam was engaged by socialite Amy Guest in 1927 to set up a non-stop flight across the Atlantic.

When Guest realised she was not capable of completing the journey herself, Putnam recruited Earhart, who had set the world altitude record for a female pilot in 1922.

Though she later admitted that co-pilot Wilmer Schultz did most of the flying on the trip from Trepassey Harbour, Newfoundland to Burry Port in Wales, the flight propelled Earhart to worldwide fame.

She disappeared in 1937 over the central Pacific Ocean while attempting to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe.

22/04/2008 08:49:33