Gary Susman
November 01, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

Denzel Washington is apparently not too daunted by recent news events to consider starring in a new Twentieth Century Fox movie that could court controversy because of its similarity to recent kidnapping stories. The film is ”Man on Fire,” in which he’d play a Marine-turned-bodyguard who takes a job protecting a rich couple’s little girl in an abduction-prone country, only to see her kidnapped and killed. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the thriller would shoot in February under Washington’s ”Crimson Tide” director, Tony Scott.

The movie is an adaptation of A.J. Quinnell’s 1980 novel, which was set in Italy, though Scott may move the action to Mexico City, Variety reports. This despite the recent high-profile kidnapping of pop diva Thalia’s sisters there — one was in captivity for more than two weeks, the other for more than a month, before the family apparently paid a ransom and saw them return home safely. Also, the real-life abductions and killings of several young girls in the U.S. this summer helped kill the box office potential of the similarly-themed ”Trapped,” which Columbia released in September with minimal publicity, resulting in minimal ticket sales.

Plus, the property already has a less than promising track record. ”Man on Fire” was filmed once before, in 1987, with Washington’s ”Training Day” costar Scott Glenn in the lead, but it scored negligible box office, less than $500,000, according to the Reporter.

On the other hand, Washington is on a roll lately. He won an Oscar this spring for ”Training Day,” recently joined the $20 million club for starring in the upcoming thriller ”Out of Time,” and is already earning Oscar buzz for his directorial debut, December’s ”Antwone Fisher,” in which he plays a supporting role.

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