Ron Howard to direct 'Under the Banner of Heaven' film

Published: Wednesday, July 20 2011 5:18 p.m. MDT

Warner Bros. is currently bargaining for the rights to Jon Krakauer's controversial book, "Under the Banner of Heaven," according to a report from The Wrap on Wednesday. If negotiations are successful, Ron Howard ("The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons") will direct the film and Dustin Lance Black ("Big Love" and "Milk") will write the film's script, the story also reported.

Krakauer's non-fiction book chronicles the story of two Mormon-fundamentalist brothers who, in 1984, committed the gruesome murders of their sister-in-law Brenda Lafferty and her baby Erica.

Using the Lafferty's case as his guide, Krakauer explores violence in modern fundamentalist offshoot groups of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His book received considerable praise by some, for example Washington Post's Anne Rule called it, "a tour de force that must be read carefully and savored." Yet, it was criticized by others, "… It would have been nice to see some of religion's upside. Something must explain the vibrancy of mainstream Mormonism, and I doubt it's just the dark energy of residual authoritarianism. Religion, like patriotism, can nurture virtue within the group even while directing hostility beyond it," said Robert Wright of the New York Times.

Inside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the book was met with considerable disapproval.

"This book is not history, and Krakauer is no historian," said Mike Otterson, director of Media Relations for The LDS Church, in a 2003 statement about Krakauer's book. "He is a storyteller who cuts corners to make the story sound good. His basic thesis appears to be that people who are religious are irrational, and that irrational people do strange things. He does a huge disservice to his readers by promulgating old stereotypes. He finds sufficient zealots and extremists in the past 150 years to help him tell his story, and by extrapolation tars every Mormon with the same brush."

Richard E. Turley, the Assistant Church Historian of The LDS Church, also criticized Krakauer's book. "Despite having grown up in Oregon and having many Latter-day Saint friends and acquaintances, (Krakauer) does not bring the same background, preparation or perspective to his treatment of violence among 'Mormon Fundamentalists' that he brought to his mountain-climbing sagas ('Into the Wild' and 'Into Thin Air')."

Only time will tell how Dustin Lance Black, an ex-Mormon, and Ron Howard, who drew heat for his depiction of the Catholic hierarchy in "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons," will treat the origins of LDS faith.

EMAIL: hboyd@desnews.com

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