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Mandalay Integrated Media Entertainment and Prelude Pictures have launched development of “The Heart of Man,” centered on 18th century antislavery crusader John Newton.

Mime and Prelude have optioned Lisa and Eric Rice’s script about Newton, who’s best known for writing the song “Amazing Grace.” He was shanghaied into the British Royal Navy, went AWOL, was captured, became a slave himself and took over a slave ship before beginning to campaign for the abolition of slavery.

Prelude execs first came across “The Heart of Man” script several years ago but had not been able to move forward on development because the front page with the authors’ names had been removed and the script hadn’t been registered with the Writers Guild of America. The shingle credited Walden Media president Michael Flaherty for helping track down the writers, following a recent discussion about Walden’s “Amazing Grace” biopic about another antislavery figure, William Wilberforce.

Prelude and Mime also have announced development of “Rabbi Paul,” a project focused on St. Paul, and family comedy “Our Father,” based on a story created by the late John Candy about a priest transferred from Beverly Hills to Detroit. The Mandalay-Prelude partnership is aimed at tapping the market for family-friendly features (Daily Variety, Dec. 9).

Mime is part of Mandalay Entertainment Group, chaired by Peter Guber. Prelude worked in the promotion and marketing of “The Passion of the Christ” via advance sales to faith-based orgs.