Ron Howard and Dustin Lance Black Team Up To Adapt UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN for Warner Bros.

     July 19, 2011

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The great thing about being Ron Howard (aside from that sweet beard pictured above) is that when one of your projects gets shot down, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’ll land on your feet. Case in point: only one day removed from Universal passing on his ambitious adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, the Oscar-winning director has already landed another gig. Per Deadline, Howard will join forces with Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Milk) on Warner Bros. adaptation of the Jon Krakauer novel Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith. Briefly, Heaven tells the story of a pair of brothers who murder their younger brother’s wife and infant daughter only to claim they were acting on orders from God.

Howard will also co-produce the pic alongside his Imagine cohort Brian Grazer. Jason Bateman, Stephanie Davis, and Shannon Costello will co-produce as well. In addition to Heaven, you may remember that Howard also has Rush starring Chris Hemsworth and a Spy vs. Spy adaptation waiting in the wings. As for Black, he penned the script for director Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer, and Josh Lucas. Warner Bros. releases that pic on October 21st. For more on Heaven, hit the jump for a synopsis of Krakauer’s novel.

under-the-banner-of-heaven-book-cover-imageHere a synopsis/review for Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven [from Amazon]:

In 1984, Ron and Dan Lafferty murdered the wife and infant daughter of their younger brother Allen. The crimes were noteworthy not merely for their brutality but for the brothers’ claim that they were acting on direct orders from God. In Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer tells the story of the killers and their crime but also explores the shadowy world of Mormon fundamentalism from which the two emerged. The Mormon Church was founded, in part, on the idea that true believers could speak directly with God. But while the mainstream church attempted to be more palatable to the general public by rejecting the controversial tenet of polygamy, fundamentalist splinter groups saw this as apostasy and took to the hills to live what they believed to be a righteous life. When their beliefs are challenged or their patriarchal, cult-like order defied, these still-active groups, according to Krakauer, are capable of fighting back with tremendous violence.

While Krakauer’s research into the history of the church is admirably extensive, the real power of the book comes from present-day information, notably jailhouse interviews with Dan Lafferty. Far from being the brooding maniac one might expect, Lafferty is chillingly coherent, still insisting that his motive was merely to obey God’s command. Krakauer’s accounts of the actual murders are graphic and disturbing, but such detail makes the brothers’ claim of divine instruction all the more horrifying. In an age where Westerners have trouble comprehending what drives Islamic fundamentalists to kill, Jon Krakauer advises us to look within America’s own borders.

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