The Journalist and the Jihadi, the new HBO documentary about the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, may be headed for the boards. Ramesh Sharma, who co-directed and produced the documentary, tells B&C that an "operatic musical" based on the intersecting lives of Pearl and Omar Sheikh, the radical Islamist who was convicted of organizing his kidnapping and murder, is in the "very, very early stages."
"The story itself is extremely operatic," says Sharma, who has no background in opera. "It is a classical example of good and evil."
The project began when Sharma, convinced that Pearl’s story deserved a more expressive treatment than straight documentary, proposed the idea of an opera to his friend Rory O’Connor, a filmmaker, journalist and president of media firm
"When Ramesh first mentioned the idea, I frankly thought he was dreaming," O’Connor says. "I came to the conclusion that he instead was brilliant."
O’Connor introduced Sharma to Tony Taccone, the artistic director of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, who recently directed the acclaimed Bridge & Tunnel on Broadway.
While no project has been formally commissioned, Taccone invited British playwright David Edgar to take a crack at the material. Whether or not an adaptation will have a musical component, however, remains to be seen.
Says Taccone, "I have a hard time imagining Omar Sheikh breaking into song."