Beacon Pictures has staked Peter Landesman to a first-look writing and producing deal. Landesman, a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine whose foreign dispatches have been optioned for six movies at various studios, will write three scripts for Beacon under the deal.
Landesman’s pact came after he was the catalyst behind an adaptation of the Bernard-Henri Levy book “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?” for which Beacon just signed director Ed Zwick.
Landesman has penned a first draft of that film and will rewrite it under the supervision of Zwick. Like Levy, Landesman has reported from Pakistan and other parts of the post-9/11 Middle East and knew the dangerous terrain Pearl braved before he was murdered.
Landesman also brought Beacon into a deal with Initial Entertainment’s Graham King on a Scott Burns-scripted vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio about mercenaries used by governments and companies to wage war. Landesman hatched the concept with Appian Way prexy Brad Simpson.
Beacon CEO Charlie Lyons, who with chairman Armyan Bernstein made the deal, has a soft spot for journalists. His mother, Anita Chester, was a longtime producer for Edward R. Murrow and Chet Huntley. He wanted a savvy catalyst to spearhead Beacon’s efforts to make topical hot-button films, a genre that’s attracting big directors and stars.
Landesman will work out of Beacon’s Santa Monica headquarters, but his deal allows him to continue to be a foreign correspondent and write several articles each year.
Landesman has several outside deals to write scripts based on his journo dispatches.
He’s scripting for Michael Mann and Universal a film inspired by “Arms and the Man,” his article about Russian arms trafficker Victor Bout. He is penning a drama for Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner on refugee-smuggling based on his NYT Magazine article “Light at the End of the Chunnel.” He’s also working on an original script for Oliver Stone and Intermedia about the inner workings of a Gotham newspaper.