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'24' Exec Producer Tackling Mother Teresa Biopic

Mother Theresa Calcutta, India 1979 - P 2014
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Mother Theresa in 1979

"Hotel Rwanda" scribe Keir Pearson has been hired to write the screenplay.

Tony Krantz, the former head of Imagine Entertainment's television division and executive producer on shows such as 24, has teamed up with Origin Entertainment and the Mother Teresa Center to bring the story of Mother Teresa to the big screen with a biopic titled I Thirst.

Keir Pearson, the Oscar-nominated scribe who co-wrote Hotel Rwanda, has been tapped to pen the script telling the story of the Albanian-born Catholic sister whose work with the poor in India made her a worldwide icon.

Krantz, whose credits also include NBC's Dracula, Felicity and Sports Night, will produce the project via his Flame Ventures banner along with Origin's Jamey Volk. Also involved are the legal trustees of Teresa's estate, giving this biopic an official stamp of approval as well as access to rarely seen archives.

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The producers say Pearson will conduct research in Kolkata, India, and Tijuana, Mexico, and begin writing by the end of February.

Volk said he hopes to begin shooting the movie by the end of 2014 with an eye toward a release in spring or summer 2015.

Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, helping lepers, orphans and the sick in the early 1950s. In 1965 she opened its first international branch in Venezuela, and her organization spread to dozens of countries by the end of the 1970s. She won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and brokered a temporary cease fire in Beirut so she could evacuate 37 children from a frontline hospital but engendered criticism from certain quarters for the poor health conditions in the hospices and hospitals she set up.

The film originated when Krantz was working with attorney Corey Field of Ballard Spahr on an unrelated project. When that fell apart, Field, who liked how Krantz handled himself, revealed that he also repped Teresa's estate and the Missionaries of Charity. Would he be interested in telling Teresa's story?

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The estate and the charity had seen Hollywood come their way before, but "they never had creative participation," Krantz tells The Hollywood Reporter. The producer believed that any project should be done in "lockstep with the Missionaries of Charity. They should not just be a part of it but also be one of the authors."

The parties made a deal so the estate has creative and business approval, even veto power. Krantz does not believe this will dilute or whitewash the telling of Teresa's story.

The narrative, he says, is not a cradle to grave biopic but one that will focus on Teresa's arrival in Calcutta in the 1950s, her starting out on her lifelong journey, and the existential and spiritual doubt that would plague her for years.

"That aspect is fundamental to our story," says Krantz. "The Missionaries of Charity and the people who are in charge of her legacy have been interested in telling her real story and putting her out there as a real human being -- a real woman who had a sense of humor, who was tough, was smart, and who was up against major odds."

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Reece Pearson, Flame's head of production and development, and Origin's CEO Dick Lyles will executive produce. The Mother Teresa Center will serve as technical consultants.

Despite heavy TV credits, Krantz has worked in film. He directed The Big Bang, which starred Antonio Banderas, and was a producer on David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. He is also prepping a sci-fil thriller he wrote and will direct titled Six.

Origin, which finances and packages projects that tell inspiring stories, is executive producing Mary, the story of how Christ's mother and little Jesus escaped King Herod.

Pearson is repped by MetaMorphic Entertainment and Del, Shaw. Teresa's estate is repped by Ballard Spahr.