‘Freedom’ rings at Par

Paramount's 'Writers' books Swank

Paramount Pictures will finance and distribute “Freedom Writers,” a Richard LaGravenese-directed drama starring Hilary Swank.

Project is based on “The Freedom Writer’s Diaries: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them,” written by high school teacher Erin Gruwell and her students.

Double Features’ Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher and Jersey Films’ Danny DeVito are producing. Trio hatched the project four years ago when they were partners at Jersey.

Gruwell was a 23-year-old teacher assigned to a class of kids deemed unteachable and at risk. By using the writings of Anne Frank and “Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo,” Gruwell was able to teach the kids tolerance. Teacher and class toured Amsterdam and Sarajevo, and each of Gruwell’s students graduated high school. Most are attending or have graduated from college.

Project first took root at Universal and more recently at Miramax. It became available when Harvey and Bob Weinstein exited the company. Par stepped up when the material lured Swank.

Pic will be supervised by Paramount’s Pam Abdy, who worked on the project when she was prexy of Jersey.

Swank will exec produce the film with Tracy Durning and will star in it after she completes the Stephen Hopkins-helmed “The Reaping” at Warner Bros. Swank is currently starring for director Brian De Palma in noir drama “The Black Dahlia.”

LaGravenese has a long history with Shamberg, Sher and DeVito. He did uncredited script work on “Erin Brockovich” and directed the Jersey-produced “Living Out Loud.” He most recently scripted “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” but has been working on “Freedom Writers” for several years.

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