Jockeying begins for Pearl bios

Zwick picked for politically charged pic

Beacon Pictures and director Ed Zwick have joined forces to make a politically charged drama based on the book “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?” by French author-philosopher Bernard-Henry Levy.

Levy, a foreign correspondent, journeyed to Pakistan to try and unravel the forces behind the kidnapping and murder of the Wall Street Journal correspondent.

Suspicions that Pearl was killed for being an American and a Jewish journalist gave way to Levy’s discovery that Pearl’s alleged killer was likely a scapegoat killed because he uncovered ties between Pakistan’s secret service and Al Qaeda.

Project becomes the second high-profile project based around Pearl’s murder. Warner Bros. and Plan B hired John Orloff to adapt “A Mighty Heart:The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl,” a memoir by Mariane Pearl. WB paid a seven-figure sum for the book with designs for Plan B partner Jennifer Aniston to play the widow.

Charlie Lyons, CEO and partner in Beacon Pictures, secured the rights before the French author’s book was translated to English.

The Levy character will be Americanized to attract a star, and parts of the story will be fictionalized, leaving it an open question as to whether it will conflict with the other Pearl project. The Zwick pic will be more about the perils facing journalists than it is specifically about Pearl’s murder.

“At this moment, Pearl is in the script, but Bernard’s book is speculative and suggests a number of ways this plot can end up,” Zwick said.

Lyons will produce with Zwick and his Bedford Falls partner Marshall Herskovitz. Beacon, which has a deal at Walt Disney’s Touchstone Pictures, will arrange the financing.

“Who Killed Daniel Pearl?” also joins a flurry of movie and TV deals made recently for films about terrorism and the war in Iraq.

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