The film A Mighty Heart is an adapted screenplay based on Mariane Pearl’s book A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl (New York: Scribner, 2003). The book was dedicated to her slain husband Daniel and her son Adam. Within the text, Mariane, who at the time had been working for French public radio, closely details her marriage, how she and Daniel met, their mission to produce honest journalism, and the horrific event of Daniel’s abduction and subsequent beheading. As the South Asia Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal, Danny had been covering various stories within the region. The book explains how on January 23, 2002, he had sought an interview with the hopes of uncovering information relating to Richard C. Reid, the infamous shoe-bomber. The days and weeks that followed would become what was a nightmarish episode that served as the main content for Mariane’s book.
Director Michael Winterbottom (The Road to Guantanamo) and screenwriter John Orloff (HBO’s Band of Brothers) both affirmed attempting to steer as closely to Mariane’s memoir as possible. Winterbottom felt that it was necessary to tell the story strictly from Mariane’s perspective because it was, after all, a movie based on of her own account. Critics have scrutinized the film because Daniel Pearl’s role on screen seemed minimized and at most times nonexistent. Winterbottom and Orloff attested, though, that it was more important to replay this episode as Mariane experienced it rather than try to hypothesize Daniel’s actions and those of his abductors. Where the film and movie differ are in areas of detail. Mariane elaborately describes the personal traits of Danny and the characteristics that made him special to her, their family, and his colleagues. When reading the book, the reader actually feels a sense that he or she knew Daniel on a personal level, familiar with his quirky sense of humor and his affection for music. Because the film’s runtime was only 108 minutes, it was harder to include these details as Mariane has done.