Scribe Pearson set to pen Al Qaeda pic at Par

Paramount has tapped Oscar-nommed screenwriter Keir Pearson to pen a script based on the story of Abdurahman Khadr, who was raised in Osama Bin Laden’s Afghanistan compound and became a CIA informant.

Project has been set up with Vincent Newman, who acquired film rights to Khadr’s story (Daily Variety, Jan. 10). Move by Paramount comes as studio chief Brad Grey and prexy Gail Berman look to place more emphasis on cutting-edge projects.

Pearson told Daily Variety that he’d been inundated with offers for true-life projects following his nomination, along with director Terry George, for writing “Hotel Rwanda.”

“I was in New York for the first World Trade Center bombing and for 9/11, so this was a story that I could be passionate about,” Pearson said. “I see it as a story of a rebellious teenager that transcends all cultures.”

Khadr, the subject of a PBS “Frontline” documentary last year, was groomed to become a terrorist because his father was a member of Bin Laden’s inner circle, but he became increasingly disillusioned with Al Qaeda as he matured. He escaped the compound after 9/11, was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and was recruited by the CIA as an informant at Guantanamo Bay and in Bosnia; he was due to be sent to Iraq before deciding to blow his cover and move to Canada.

VP Matt Jackson is overseeing the project for Paramount.

Newman’s a producer on New Line’s “A Man Apart” and “We’re the Millers” as well as women’s volleyball project “Dig” at Paramount.

Pearson has also optioned “Boys on the Tracks,” Mara Leveritt’s account of the 1987 deaths of two teenagers in Arkansas.

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