Lying Low on Location While Portraying Daniel Pearl

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Sunday, August 13, 2006

For all the buzz about Angelina Jolie portraying Mariane Pearl in the movie version of her story, we've learned that the real drama swirled around the actor playing her husband, slain journalist Daniel Pearl .

The handsome, popular Wall Street Journal reporter spent three years in Washington (he played fiddle on bluegrass nights at Madam's Organ) before he was abducted and killed in Pakistan -- four months before his wife gave birth to their son -- while researching a story about Muslim fundamentalists. Mariane's 2003 memoir, "A Mighty Heart," chronicles the desperate race to save her husband. Jolie made headlines last month with the news that she would star in the film adaptation.

But the announcement from Paramount made no mention of who would play her husband; with filming slated to begin this fall, most assumed no one had yet been selected. In fact, an actor was already cast and secretly preparing to film in Pakistan: Pearl is being played by actor/writer Dan Futterman , a Maryland native best known for his recurring role on "Judging Amy" and his Oscar-nominated screenplay for "Capote." The casting was kept under wraps because Futterman just returned Thursday from a closely guarded 10-day shoot on location in Karachi and Islamabad.

Futterman, director Michael Winterbottom and a skeleton crew went overseas to capture the flavor of the story. "It was important to shoot in the actual places where things happened," said Futterman, who agreed to be interviewed only after returning to the United States. Winterbottom ("Welcome to Sarajevo," "The Road to Guantanamo") has become known for making films in global hot spots; his 2002 "In This World" was about Afghans trying to leave a refugee camp in Pakistan. The crew shot on the streets of Karachi -- including the Village restaurant, where Pearl was last seen before his abduction -- and in the rural countryside. "There are lots of little things that were important to [Winterbottom]," Futterman said, "not least of all the people and the sound of the language spoken."

Security concerns were so high that all involved were sworn to secrecy. Because they hoped to be perceived as a documentary or news crew, the filming took place without any Hollywood trappings. There was also some concern because Futterman, like Pearl, is Jewish. "One thing I admire about Danny is how proud he was of his heritage, and how he refused to lie about it, no matter where he was," he said.

Futterman, 39, was picked for the part two months ago after a two-hour meeting with Winterbottom. "The movie's not about Daniel Pearl -- it's about the search for him," Futterman said. "We talked a lot about the balance, showing enough to make an impact. By all accounts, he and Mariane had a really blessed relationship." The actor has met with Pearl's parents: "They were extremely generous, but I was aware that it was an incredibly sad meeting to be having."

"A Mighty Heart" is scheduled for a 2007 release. This year, HBO will debut the documentary "The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl" on Oct. 10 -- which would have been Pearl's 43rd birthday.

Authoritative Models of Power Dressing

They legislate and look good doing it! Sartorial multi-tasking was apparently enough to land Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Joe Biden on Esquire's list of "The Best Dressed Men in the World 2006."

For the third year, the magazine selected 20 men "who get it exactly right." Obama was cited for his sober but well-tailored suits and "impeccable ties" -- but was outranked on the list by Biden, who was praised for power dressing that "unmistakably says 'authority' ": strong suits, bold ties, pocket squares, cuff links and chunky watches.

"This is unexpected and undeserved," Biden said Friday. "My dad was an elegant dresser, and he used to say, 'Anybody who can buy off the rack can't be that sophisticated.' "

For the Bushes, Cutthroat Backgammon!

Smackdown in Kennebunkport! The Bush family's obsession with backgammon is "really serious," according to George P. Bush : "One of the most-read books in our family is 'Backgammon for Blood.' "

The 30-year-old son of Jeb Bush says in the new issue of Men's Vogue that his grandparents, former president George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara , run a 64-person, single-elimination tournament for extended family and friends at the Bush summer home. Last year "some disgruntled losers" organized a second game after they were knocked out of the first, he says. "The losers renamed it 'the White House Cup.' "

"Backgammon's huge in this family," confirmed Jean Becker , 41's chief of staff. The former first lady needlepoints many of the backgammon boards at Walker's Point, and every grandchild learns early on how to play. The former president told the magazine that George P. should "keep on practicing, dusting off easier opponents, and wait for his glory to come."

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