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Universal in ‘Pursuit’ of Morel

'Taken' director takes on film inspired by photog Howe

Universal Pictures has attached “Taken” director Pierre Morel to direct action thriller “Pursuit.”

Project is based on the early career of conflict photographer Jason Howe, who fell in love with a woman while on assignment in Colombia, only to discover she was an assassin.

The film will be produced by Captivate Entertainment’s Jeffrey Weiner and Ben Smith; Jennifer Dana; and Andrew Lauren. Jerry Kalajian will exec produce.

Weiner and Smith, who also control the rights to the library of Robert Ludlum thrillers through their Captivate shingle, are using the “Pursuit” project to help broaden the company’s purview to include original properties in the same elevated action-thriller genre.

Howe’s life rights have been acquired for the project.

Morel, who spent a long career as a camera operator and cinematographer before becoming a director, was drawn by Howe’s courageous photo work, and saw his real-life ethical dilemma as strong inspiration for a fictionalized thriller. The studio is out to writers.

“Aside from the d.p. and camerawork, I have been shooting still photography since I was a kid and have been fascinated by the reportage in war zones,” Morel said. “If I’d been courageous enough, I might have done that myself. There is the sentimental side of a man in love, and a journalist trying not to become involved in the story he is covering.”

Morel said that he and Luc Besson are taking their time trying to come up with a sequel to “Taken,” which became a surprise hit earlier this year.

Morel is in post-production on the John Travolta starrer “From Paris With Love.”

Besson co-wrote and produced Morel’s directing debut, “District 13,” and did the same with “Taken” and “From Paris With Love.”

Morel is repped by WME and Artist Talent Management.

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