Journo’s tale lights up at Beacon

Shingle adapting Levy tome about slain journalist

Beacon Pictures has set Josh Lucas to star and Kip Williams (“Door in the Floor”) to direct an untitled thriller inspired by the Bernard-Henri Levy book “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?” Beacon CEO Charlie Lyons will produce, and said production will begin this fall, with scouting under way in Morocco, Dubai, India, Libya and Tunisia.

In the book, the French author-philosopher described his daring journey into Pakistan to investigate the kidnapping and murder of the Wall Street Journal correspondent. Levy is convinced Pearl may have uncovered complicity between the Pakistani secret service and Al Qaeda.

Scripted by New York Times Magazine foreign correspondent Peter Landesman, the film has fictionalized the Pearl character (Beacon did not want to infringe on a film project based on a book by the journalist’s widow, Marianne Pearl). Levy, too, has been changed into an American TV newsman who sheds his media celebrity trappings to find answers in a terrorist hotbed.

Levy said he had no problem being Americanized into a broadcaster named Henry Bernard, partly because it created a more direct context for a cautionary tale about what is ahead in the U.S. battle against terrorism.

“To conquer terrorism you have to learn to know it, to understand it, from within, if possible,” Levy said. “And that, I hope, will be the contribution of this film.”

Project was set up with Ed Zwick directing, but he was in Africa filming “Blood Diamond,” and Beacon’s Lyons wanted to get a timely film into production. Williams will work on a polish with Landesman.

Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz will exec produce with Beacon chairman Armyan Bernstein, Patrick Wachsberger, Robert Benmussa and Alain Sarde. The latter three found the book when it was first published in French and got it to Lyons.

Reached in New Zealand, where he’s starting production on the Jay Russell-directed Loch Ness fantasy “The Waterhorse,” Lyons said distribution decisions both domestic and foreign will be made shortly. They are formalities, he said, because Beacon has the resources to keep its fall start date no matter what.

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