October 25, 2010 / 9:05 AM / 7 years ago

Former hostage, ex-husband in rival movie deals

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - For six years, four months and nine days, Colombian senator and presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt was held hostage by terrorists in the South American jungle. Now her story is being developed for the screen in very different ways in Hollywood's latest example of dueling movie projects.

The Kennedy/Marshall Co. has acquired rights to Betancourt's recently published book, "Even Silence Has an End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle." On Sunday, a spokesperson for producer Kathleen Kennedy confirmed that work is under way on a script based on the book, which is Betancourt's story about what happened while she was held and her eventual rescue in July 2008.

Separately, Los Angeles-based Venezuelan-American writer-director Betty Kaplan has acquired rights to two books written during Betancourt's captivity by Juan Carlos Lecompte, who was her husband. His Spanish-language books -- "In Search of Ingrid" and "Ingrid y Yo: A Sweet and Sour Freedom," tell the story of his love and the search for Betancourt throughout her captivity. Shortly after her return, they divorced amid accusations of infidelity on both sides.

Betancourt, who has Colombian and French citizenship, lives in France, where her case and its aftermath have been headline-making events. After her rescue, she was greeted by France President Nicolas Sarkozy and first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and given the Legion of Honor among other awards.

Both film projects will deal primarily with the period of her captivity, though apparently in different ways.

The Betancourt book was written for Penguin Press, which signed her to a $1 million publishing deal in 2008. It is exclusively about the captivity, which has been the subject of other books that have raised questions about her behavior during that period.

The Lecompte books acquired by Kaplan focus on his love for his wife and his search.

"I've never seen a man fight so hard for his wife's freedom and existence for seven years," Kaplan said. "It made me angry how she treated her husband from the moment she descended from the helicopter (after her release)."

Kaplan, who plans to write the script and direct, said she is not sure whether she will make a feature, a miniseries or a combination of both (a feature could be sold internationally as a miniseries). She also is considering whether to make her movie in English, Spanish or both.

Kaplan, who already has developed a treatment, said her ultimate purpose is to put a light on the thousands of others held hostage worldwide. She said she would create a love story and thriller that would be "a voyage through the heart of the families who wait and suffer their loved ones' disappearance. Death is easier handled than kidnapping, as there is no end."

Kaplan previously adapted and directed movies based on Latin American books including Isabel Allende's "Of Love and Shadows," which starred Antonio Banderas; "Dona Barbara," by Romulo Gallegos; and "One Hot Summer," by Carolina Garcia Aguilera, which last year became a high-rated Lifetime movie.

Kaplan did not acquire the latest book by Lecompte, a former publicist, "Ingrid et Moi," which goes into the story of their bitter divorce. That legal battle continues: in September, Lecompte went to court in Colombia to seek an order to freeze Betancourt's assets, and to include revenue from her new book among the properties to be divided between them.

Betancourt caused controversy when she sought a large payment for her suffering from the Colombian government, an effort she dropped after a flurry of negative publicity.

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