Now that Priyanka Chopra has married husband Nick Jonas for the trillionth time (a rough estimate) and returned from her lavish tropical honeymoon, she has some downtime to prepare for her next big role: playing former cult spokesperson and attempted murderer Ma Anand Sheela.
While sitting down with Ellen DeGeneres on Wednesday, the Quantico alum revealed that she’s indeed signed on to play the real-life cult figure, whose name was abuzz last year when Netflix’s Wild Wild Country docuseries reintroduced her infamous legacy to a whole new generation. Sheela was the right-hand woman of self-pronounced Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, aka Osho, who was the leader of the Rajneeshees, a sex-positive cult in rural Oregon in the early 1980s. The stateside arrival of the Rajneeshees rocked the neighboring town of Antelope (population: 40), the state of Oregon, and eventually the entire country, with news coverage digging into the cult’s criminal activity, poisonings, and more.
“We are developing it as the character Sheela, who was this guru who originated from India,” Chopra told DeGeneres of the role. “[She] was his right-hand woman, and she was just devious.”
After seeing Chopra’s work in Quantico (which was recently canceled), Baywatch, and the upcoming Isn’t It Romantic, it’ll be fun to see her tackle a role as complex as Ma Anand Sheela, who became a fiery, divisive figure due to multiple controversial TV appearances when the popularity of the Rajneeshees was at an all-time height. For instance, Sheela not only managed the gun-heavy sex cult but also helped mastermind a bioterror food poisoning attack, as well as a foiled plot to murder a federal prosecutor who was threatening the cult’s way of life. (There are many, many more charges against her, which you can check out by watching Netflix’s enthralling doc.)
Chopra will not only star as the Indian-born Sheela but also produce the biopic, which is being directed by Rain Man‘s Barry Levinson. What makes Chopra’s involvement even more interesting, though, is the fact that Sheela is alive and well. After escaping imprisonment for her crimes, the 69-year-old now lives in Switzerland managing a nursing home. She even appeared at a Netflix panel last year, telling the crowd, “It was a beautiful life I have lived.”
See photos of Sheela in action from Wild Wild Country ahead.