Critically acclaimed John Abraham (Baabul, Kabul Express, Salaam-e-Ishq: A Tribute to Love) is Bollywood’s first actor to crack the West without playing an exotic character or an NRI. Instead, he will be taking on a full-fledged role opposite Rachel Weisz the Hollywood actress (The Mummy, Constantine and Constant Gardner), who won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Constant Gardner, in Deepa Mehta’s new film Luna. Weisz will essay the main character/protagonist Luna.

The film is based on the true story of Julia ‘Butterfly’ Hill, who protested against the felling of trees in the Redwood forests in the US by climbing a 180 foot Redwood tree. For 738 days ranging from December 1997 to December 1999, Hill lived atop the tree which she named Luna, in a small shelter. Hill’s protest drew the desired results as a resolution to preserve all the trees in the three-acre buffer zone of the Redwood forest was reached in 1999.

Mehta is set to direct for Baldwin Entertainment Group. Two-time Oscar winner David Ward has written the script for Luna.

Abraham is no stranger to a set run by Mehta. He worked with her on the controversial film Water, which dealt with the sad fate of Indian widows in traditional Indian society. This exposed him to a much wider audience in the West. In turn, he was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category.

Wanting the blue-eyed model-turned-actor in all of her films, Mehta says, “After working with John I realized what a wonderful human being he is. He just brings so much positive energy to the location. And he’s so willing to learn and participate. He was my first and last choice for Luna. The love for nature is another factor that binds me with John and of course the fact that my mother adores him just ends all discussions.”

Waiting to hit the floors also is Mehta’s film Exclusion, for which Abraham is already slated along with Amitabh Bachchan. At this point, with Luna taking precedent, Exclusion is on the back burner for now.