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Credit: Sony Pictures

Casting: Michelle Williams boarding The Challenger; Rose Byrne voicing robot Mother; Jumanji star facing Annabelle

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Oct 2, 2018, 7:10 PM EDT

Kicking off today's notable casting news, a four-time Oscar nominee will lead a film about a real-life space tragedy

Although her new movie Venom has space-based aspects to it, Michelle Williams will soon tackle a heartbreakingly true story of the cosmos. According to Deadline, Williams will play the late Christa McAuliffe in The Challenger, an upcoming film about the 1986 space shuttle disaster that killed McAuliffe and all six of her fellow crewmates.

McAuliffe was a high school teacher from New Hampshire who was selected by NASA to be the first educator sent into space. But plans for her to teach classes from orbit were shattered when the Challenger exploded just 73 seconds after lifting off from Cape Canaveral on Jan. 28, 1986.

The tragedy, which was seen on live TV, brought the nation together in grief. McAuliffe posthumously received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, had many schools named after her, and is remembered to this day as someone who strove to expand the parameters of human knowledge.

Production on The Challenger is slated to begin next May under the direction of Martin Zandvliet (Land of Mine). Williams, who has been nominated for an Oscar four times, will next be seen as attorney Anne Weying, the love interest of Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) in Venom, opening on Friday, Oct. 5.

X-Men Apocalypse Rose Byrne

Credit: Getty Images

Elswhere, Deadline also reports that Rose Byrne, best known as Moira MacTaggert in the recent X-Men movies and for her lead role in the Insidious series, will voice the title robot in the sci-fi thriller I Am Mother. The film follows a lonely young girl named "Daughter" (Clara Rugaard) who has been raised by a robot named "Mother" (Byrne) as part of a plan to repopulate the Earth after humankind has been wiped out.

The relationship between "Mother" and "Daughter" comes under fire when a woman (Hilary Swank) covered in blood shows up at their home, threatening to reveal the truth about Daughter, Mother, and what is really going on in the outside world.

The Australian production is being directed by first-timer Grant Sputore, who also conceived of the premise with screenwriter Michael Lloyd Green. Byrne said, "So excited to be part of Grant’s unique, eerie, unnerving and visionary science fiction piece. He is such an exciting talent to come out of Australia and I am so flattered to be on board with such an incredible artist.”

There's no word yet on a North American release date or distributor, but it's worth noting that it took visual FX powerhouse WETA Workshop (The Lord of the Rings, Avengers: Infinity War) more than a year and a half to design and build the robot.

Madison Iseman

Credit: Getty Images

Finally, breakout Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle star Madison Iseman has landed a lead role in the next Annabelle movie, the third in the The Conjuring spin-off series about an evil doll, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Iseman, who played the social media-addicted mean girl who turned into Jack Black inside the Jumanji game in the hit sequel, will star opposite McKenna Grace in the new Annabelle entry. Grace will play the daughter of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, played in previous films by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, whose appearance in this one is not yet confirmed. Iseman will handle the role of a babysitter who, alongside Grace, is terrorized by Annabelle.

The movie doesn't have an official title yet, but it's been written by Gary Dauberman, who has worked on both chapters of It and most of the movies in the Conjuring universe, including the two previous Annabelles and The Nun. Dauberman will make his directorial debut on this one, which begins filming this month for a Jul. 3, 2019 arrival.