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Beattie to write film about Fred Cuny

Element, Spitfire option book, documentary

Element Films and Spitfire Pictures will turn the life and death of U.S. aid worker Fred Cuny into a feature film. The companies have acquired “The Man Who Tried to Save the World,” a book by Scott Anderson (“Spring Break in Bosnia”), as well as rights to 1997 “Frontline” documentary “The Lost American.”

Stuart Beattie (“Collateral”) will write the screenplay once the writers strike is resolved.

Nigel Sinclair and Guy East will produce for Spitfire, and Sam Nazarian and Adam Rosenfelt will produce for Element, which will finance the film. Spitfire’s Tobin Armbrust and Alex Brunner will exec produce. “Frontline” founder David Fanning will also be an exec producer.

The film will focus on the death-defying disaster-relief exploits of Cuny, a Texan who became known as the Master of Disaster for his accomplishments in unstable places like Iraq, Ethiopia, Somalia, Bosnia and Chechnya. He went missing in Chechnya in 1995 as he tried to negotiate a ceasefire. It is believed that he was murdered there.

“I have been involved with Fred Cuny’s story for many years, thanks to David Fanning and ‘Frontline,’ ” said Spitfire’s Sinclair. “When Stuart called me out of the blue, saying he had been independently pursuing a story on Fred’s life, I knew we had found the perfect creative partner.”

Spitfire most recently produced “Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who” and, after teaming with Martin Scorsese on the Bob Dylan docu “No Direction Home,” will work with the helmer on a George Harrison doc. Spitfire is also working with “Frontline’s” Fanning on “Snitch,” a Justin Haythe-scripted New Line drama to be directed by Carl Franklin.

Beattie, whose last scripting credit came on the horror hit “30 Days of Night,” completed a rewrite of “G.I. Joe” just before the writers strike that prompted Paramount to schedule an early 2008 start date. He’s scripting “Bra Boys,” a feature that Russell Crowe will direct, based on the docu.

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