Maria Bello Joins Slain Photojournalist Movie 'Journey is the Destination' (Exclusive)

Maria Bello Headshot - P 2014

Maria Bello Headshot - P 2014

Bello has a personal connection to the mother of the slain photojournalist on whom the indie movie is based: "He is an inspiration."

Maria Bello has signed on to star in The Journey Is the Destination, the story of slain photojournalist Dan Eldon.

The drama has a special personal connection to Bello, as the actress is close friends with Eldon's mother. In fact, Bello will be portraying Eldon's mother when cameras roll in South Africa this month.

Based on the book The Journey is the Destination: The Journals of Dan Eldon, the indie centers on photojournalist Dan Eldon, an artist and an avid adventurer who, by the age of 22, he had traveled to more than 40 countries, led an aid mission across Africa and fallen in love.

"He is an inspiration for any young person who thinks outside the box," Bello tells The Hollywood Reporter.

The young man, who was beaten to death at the age of 22 in war-torn Somalia, led an inspirational life, and the Creative Visions Foundation — a global organization that supports creative activists who use media and the arts for social impact — was founded in his honor.

The book, edited by Dan's mother Kathy Eldon, featured more than 200 pages from Eldon's journals and was published by Chronicle Books in 1997.

In the feature project, Bello will play Kathy Eldon, with whom she forged a friendship about five years ago after getting involved in the Creative Visions Foundation.

"It's not intimidating to play her as she's my friend, but I feel this will be a very healing journey for her after losing her son to such a tragedy," says Bello of Kathy.

Bello, who is also executive producing, told THR that in the funeral scene in the film, Bello will read the eulogy that Kathy actually read in real life. Kathy, and many people who knew Dan, will be in the audience. Adds Bello: "I feel like she and I will be holding each other up in this movie together."

Bello, who just dyed her hair red to match Kathy's signature look, adds that she's been passionate about bringing this story to the big screen for many years.

"She found a way to turn her pain into compassion," says Bello of Kathy. "Although Dan led a very short life, he led the perfect life he was supposed to live and made such a huge impact. And he'll be able to impact a lot more people through this film."

Bronwen Hughes (Forces of Nature) is directing from a screenplay she wrote with Jan Sardi.

Ben Schnetzer, who starred in gay activist drama Pride, is portraying Eldon while Ella Purnell and Sam Hazeldine are also attached to the project.

Martin Katz, Kweku Mandela, Richard Arlook and Kathy Eldon are producing. Bello will serve as an executive producer. Voltage Pictures has acquired international distribution rights.

A film adaptation of Eldon's story has long been in the pipeline, with Daniel Radcliffe and Orlando Bloom both attached at different times to play Eldon.

Bello was most recently seen in McFarland, USA; Prisoners and Grown Ups 2. Her upcoming films include Sony’s YA adaptation The 5th Wave and sci-fi adventure film Max Steel. She's repped by CAA and John Carrabino Management.