Paramount pushes back ‘Kite Runner’

Studio fears for actors' safety

LONDON — Paramount Vantage execs have been forced to push back the release of their much-touted awards contender “The Kite Runner,” based on Khaled Husseini’s best-selling novel, following fears over the safety of the three Afghan schoolboys who appear in the film.

Pic, about the friendship between Amir, a wealthy Pashtun boy, and Hassan, a working-class Hazara, spans three decades from the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to the Taliban’s rule, and features a rape scene that is proving increasingly contentious.

Pic’s release has been shifted back six weeks to Dec. 14 to allow Paramount execs to arrange a safe haven for the boys and their families in the United Arab Emirates, following fears that they may be attacked by offended Afghan tribes.

The boys’ school year ends Dec. 6, and Variety understands that the school’s principal had recommended the boys not be relocated until they had finished their studies. With a three-month winter break, Par execs are hoping that any furor may have subsided by then.

“The safety and security of the kids is an issue we are taking very seriously,” says Megan Colligan, head of marketing at Paramount Vantage.

While there is little theatrical infrastructure across Afghanistan, Paramount execs are wary of the impact pirated copies of “The Kite Runner” could have in the country once the film is released in Europe. Pic will bow in the U.K. on Dec. 26.

There are no plans to screen the film, which lensed entirely in China, in Afghanistan. “Our advisers have told us it wouldn’t be a smart idea to show the film in Kabul,” says Colligan.