U develops tale of student slain in South African riots

Witherspoon to play Biehl in adaptation

Universal Pictures has acquired Sindiwe Magona’s novel “Mother to Mother” for Reese Witherspoon’s Type A Films. U will develop the project for Witherspoon to star.

Although “Mother to Mother” is fiction, the novel is based on the true story of Amy Biehl, a 26-year-old Stanford student and Fulbright scholar who was murdered in 1993 by rioting South African youths.

Biehl had traveled to South Africa to help residents prepare for the first democratic elections in their history. Magona tells the story through the eyes of the mother of one of Amy’s killers, who reaches out to Biehl’s mother in hopes of creating some understanding of what happened.

Producing with Type A is Anant Singh’s Distant Horizon. Singh’s credits include “Cry, the Beloved Country” and current Paramount Classics release “I Capture the Castle.”

Type A’s Jennifer Simpson brought the project into the company. Overseeing the project for U are production president Mary Parent with production exec Regina Lee.

Beacon Press published the novel in September 2000. The author was repped by APA on behalf of Aaron Priest.

Witherspoon is shooting “Vanity Fair” for Focus Features.