Helen Mirren To Star As ‘Cursed’ Gun Heir In Winchester Mystery House Thriller

Helen Mirren is finalizing a deal to play Sarah Winchester in a new supernatural thriller about the world-famous Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA. Sarah was the wife of William Winchester, whose father built the Winchester Repeating Arms empire. Deadline reports the news from Cannes that the project is simply titled Winchester, and comes from Aussie directors Peter and Michael Spierig, the duo behind Daybreakers and Predestination.

Following the sudden deaths of her young child, husband, and father-in-law, Sarah inherited the Winchester estate and became convinced that her family had been cursed by the spirits of those killed by “the gun that won the west.” A psychic advised the multimillionaire heiress to move out west in 1884 and build an elaborate estate to protect her from the spirits. The psychic warned Sarah that if construction on the house ever ceased, the spirits would claim her life.

Mrs. Winchester built a 24,000-square foot, 160-room home that is now known as the Winchester Mystery House. The home was under construction 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day for 38 years. It has 47 fireplaces, 17 chimneys, and two basements. The mystery house includes windows that look out on walls and doors and staircases that lead to nothing. The estate now serves as a tourist attraction.

The website says the following.

“Winchester Mystery House™ is an extravagant maze of Victorian craftsmanship – marvelous, baffling, and eerily eccentric, to say the least. Tour guides must warn people not to stray from the group or they could be lost for hours!”

The film was developed by Imagination Design Works, which owns the rights to the house, so Winchester will be the first to shoot on the premises of the actual home that has been dubbed one of the “Most Haunted Places in the World.”

The Spierig brothers wrote the most recent draft of the script after Tom Vaughan wrote the first draft. Diamond Pictures and Bullitt Entertainment are co-financing the pic with Australia’s Blacklab Entertainment. Production is set to kick off later this year in Australia.

Oscar-winning Mirren most recently starred in the hit Eye in the Sky as well as Trumbo and Woman in Gold. Some of her other notable film roles include the 1984 film Cal, for which she won the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, The Madness of King George, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, and the action-comedy films Red and Red 2. In 2003, she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for Services to the Performing Arts. In 2013, Helen was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Construction on the Winchester Mystery House stopped on September 5, 1922, the day Mrs. Winchester died in her sleep of heart failure at the age of 83. Sarah’s will named her niece, Mrs. Marian I. Marriott, heir of the estate. Whatever belongings Marian didn’t want from the home were auctioned off. Sarah was a private person so there are no interior shots of the oddities inside the mystery house. The furnishings that exist in the home today are donations or loans that reflect the period. Following her death, the estate was auctioned to the highest bidder who then opened it up to the public in February 1923, five months after Sarah died.

The Winchester Mystery House now allows overnight visits and boasts a full-service restaurant with alcohol. Funny fact: during the 1906 earthquake, the seven-story house collapsed and Mrs. Winchester became trapped in one room for several hours as a result. It took staff a while to find Sarah because she slept in different rooms every night (to confuse the spirits), per sfist.

[Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP Images]