Ansel Elgort, the actor who rose to prominence with his starring role alongside Shailene Woodley in The Fault in Our Stars, is set to play the precocious pianist Van Cliburn who famously got caught up in a cold war battle during a piano competition. Cilburn won first prize in the inaugural Tchaikosky International Piano Competition in 1958 but had to overcome a fierce political face-off.

Ansel ElgortAnsel Elgort will play precocious pianist Van Cliburn [Photo: Getty Images, credit: Ethan Miller]

The competition had been arranged to showcase Russian cultural majesty so a barnstorming performance from a young Texan, 23, didn't exactly fit the narrative. President Khrushchev was forced to intervene to allow judges permission to reward the American. 

Though Khrushchev had sought to dampen the tensions, the U.S chose to stoke the fires, with TIME magazine dubbing Cliburn "The Texan Who Conquered Russia". It would be the high point of an otherwise up and down life for the pianist, who described his adolescence as a "living hell" dominated by self-consciousness at his great height. Later in life, his partner Thomas Zaremba would file a palimony suit against him.

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Elgort is currently shooting Insurgent, the sequel to the dystopian sci fi thriller Divergent with Woodley. He should have no problem adopting the techniques of Cliburn, given he's a hugely capable pianist in his own right having trained at the LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts in New York. 

The currently untitled movie is being mounted by Temple Hill partners Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowed, along with Crystal City Entertainment. Godfrey and Bowen, who worked with Elgort on The Fault in Our Stars, will produce with Ari Daniel Pinchot and Robert M Johnson is executive producer, reports

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