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Pitt ponders film on Daniel Pearl

Los Angeles, Oct. 18 (Reuters): The tragic story of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal correspondent who was kidnapped and murdered last year while trying to contact radical Islamic groups in Pakistan, is headed to the big screen.

Warner Bros. has taken feature film rights to a memoir about the slain reporter written by his wife and fellow journalist Mariane Pearl, titled A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl, a spokeswoman for the movie studio said yesterday.

The project will be developed for the Time Warner Inc.-owned studio by Plan B Prods., the Warner-based film company owned by celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, the spokeswoman said.

No director or screenwriter has yet joined the project and casting choices will not be made until a script is produced, she said. A spokeswoman for Plan B added: “There are no plans at this point for Jennifer or Brad to act in it.”

Financial terms were not disclosed, but a source familiar with the deal confirmed a report in the Hollywood trade paper Daily Variety that the studio paid a high-six-figure sum for the rights.

Warner Bros. outbid two rival studios, Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures, to option the book, the source said.

Pearl, 38, a Wall Street Journal correspondent, disappeared in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city, on January 23, 2002, while investigating possible links between shoe bomber Richard Reid and the al Qaida network of Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden.

A group claiming to have abducted Pearl, calling itself the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, accused him of being a spy — first for the CIA, then for Israel.

A grisly videotape of Pearl’s murder surfaced weeks later, and his dismembered body was found last May in a shallow grave outside Karachi.

A Pakistani court last July sentenced a British-born Islamic militant to death and three accomplices to life in prison for their roles in Pearl’s kidnapping and slaying.

A Mighty Heart, published last month by Scribner, chronicles the month between Pearl’s abduction and the news of his death, during which his French wife, then pregnant, led a harrowing and ultimately futile search for her husband.

The memoir is seen as a hot property in Hollywood, combining as it does themes of international intrigue and journalistic heroism found in such acclaimed films as The Year of Living Dangerously, The Killing Fields and The Quiet American.

Universal is a unit of Vivendi Universal. Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.

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