Period drama fans have been familiar with Hayley Atwell for a few years now, following her turns in films like Brideshead Revisited and The Duchess, as well as the Pillars of the Earth TV mini-series. However, thanks to her role as the capable soldier gal, Peggy Carter, in this past summer's Captain America: The First Avenger, Atwell is now a much more in-demand starlet.
Deadline says that Atwell is onboard to appear in Captain Nemo, which is a sequel to Jules Verne's classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea story. However, the actress' rep is also stressing that, should Atwell be offered the female lead in Oblivion, she will pass on the former - in order to work on Kosinski's big-budget sci-fi production.
Captain Nemo looks to star Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) as the (in)famous captain of the Nautilus, who is freed by U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant from prison - in order to uncover the truth behind mysterious "sea monsters" that are destroying ships off the Atlantic Coast. David Morrissey (the Red Riding trilogy) and Atwell are up to co-headline the $10 million project, which will be shot entirely on sound stages and use green screen/CGI "sets" (a la Zack Snyder's 300).
The Oblivion adaptation is an expensive Universal production which will star Tom Cruise as a drone worker - one who makes his living on the desecrated surface of a post-alien invasion Earth - whose world is turned upside down when he encounters a mysterious woman. Atwell, Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds), and Underworld franchise leading lady Kate Beckinsale are all frontrunners to portray said "unusual" female character.
Atwell has proven herself to be a reliable and capable actress, so her appearing in either film reads as a plus. That said: it does make sense for her to prioritize a higher-profile release like Oblivion over Captain Nemo - especially since the latter will probably be overshadowed by director David Fincher's impending 3D 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea adaptation in the future.
Principal photography on both The Return of Captain Nemo and Kosinski's Oblivion adaptation is slated to get underway by the first quarter of 2012, so we should soon find out for certain which project Atwell will headline next.