'This Is for the Mara Salvatrucha'

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

May 29, 2008

The deal

Paramount Vantage ("No Country for Old Men") options the rights to Samuel Logan's "This Is for the Mara Salvatrucha," about the life of Brenda Paz, a teenage member of the notorious MS-13 gang who was killed by other gang members after becoming a federal informant.

The players

Di Bonaventura Pictures ("Transformers") is producing; the screenplay is to be written by Rupert Wyatt ("The Escapist"). Logan is represented on literary rights by Rebecca Friedman at Sterling Lord Literistic; Logan and Greg Hunter, Paz's attorney, are represented on dramatic rights by Sean Daily at Hotchkiss and Associates. The book will be published by Hyperion.

The back story

Long before it became the basis for a book and potential movie, the tragic story of Brenda Paz made national headlines: A street-smart, charismatic girl from Honduras who fell in with the dangerous Salvadoran gang, she had become a federal informant in 2002 and entered the witness protection program. But the 17-year-old grew lonely, reaching out to gang members whom she had befriended. After they learned about her cooperation with the federal authorities, gang members brutally murdered her.

When news of Logan's book surfaced, the battle for film rights grew intense. "We usually see a lot of stories about government informants, but not one where a lawyer and client develop something like a father-daughter relationship," Daily said. "That made it unique." Still, despite the power players involved, Logan and Hunter had concerns that they made known to Wyatt and others in conversations since the deal was agreed to several months ago.

"Cinematically, the film works better with a strong male lead [like Hunter] but the main character in the book is Brenda," said Logan. "I didn't want her story lost, but I have real confidence that Rupert won't take dramatic license to make the story more dramatic than it already is."

As for Hunter, he told Wyatt about the El Monte girl's human side: How she wept after reading "Crime and Punishment," how she wrestled with low self-esteem, refusing to believe a Spanish author had written "Don Quixote." "I hope the movie shows we pay a big price for ignoring or dismissing people like her," he said. "Brenda was such a brilliant, beautiful light to be around."

josh.getlin@latimes.com

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