AFM Special Report: Scandinavia

A host of remakes are coming to the screen, from the most unlikely source

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In the market for a remake? Forget those French comedies, Hong Kong gangster films or Japanese supernatural horror pics; the hottest adaptations these days are coming out of Scandinavia.

And the hottest, at the moment, is Swedish blockbuster "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." The original, the first in a trilogy based on the best-selling novels by Stieg Larsson, is already the most successful Swedish film of all time. Producer Yellow Bird is expected to sign a deal shortly for an English-language redo.

But before that, a Nordic wave of translated tales involving Icelandic smugglers, dysfunctional Danes and Swedish teen vampires is set to hit the U.S. market.

First up is "Brothers," Jim Sheridan's family drama starring Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire and based on the 2002 Danish film by Susanne Bier. The story revolves around a young man who comforts his older brother's wife and children after his brother goes MIA on a military mission in Afghanistan. The Michael De Luca production is set for a Dec. 4 release through Lionsgate.

The Halcyon Co. has begun production on another Bier title: her 2006 Oscar-nominated "After the Wedding." Tom Wilkinson and Camille Belle star in Michael Caton-Jones' remake, which Halcyon's Victor Kubicek and Derek Anderson are producing.

There's actually even a third Bier adaptation out there: Zach Braff and Paramount Pictures optioned a remake of her 2002 Dogme film "Open Hearts," about a woman whose life is torn asunder after her fiance is paralyzed in a car crash and the woman falls in love with the man responsible for the crash. But Braff has reportedly put the project on hold.

Not so Overture Films, which is pushing forward with two Scandi remakes: "Let Me In," an adaptation of Swedish vampire romance "Let the Right One In" and "Jar City" based on the 2006 murder mystery of the same name from Iceland's Baltasar Kormakur.

Matt Reeves has begun principal photography on "Let Me In," which stars Kodi Smit-McPhee ("The Road") as a bullied boy who befriends his odd neighbor -- played by "(500) Days of Summer" star Chloe Moretz -- a 13 going on 300 vampire. Hammer Films is producing together with EFTI, the Swedish company behind the original.

The teen vampire genre is now red-hot thanks to "Twilight," but the deal for "Let the Right One In" actually closed in spring 2008, well before Robert Pattinson's rise to superstardom.

"When we bought the rights to the original novel (by John Ajvide Lindqvist), we immediately saw the potential for a remake," EFTI producer Carl Molinder says. "It was in Berlin two and half years ago, while we were still in the middle of producing the Swedish version, that (fellow EFTI producer) John Nordling and I started talking seriously about the remake."

Fredrik Malmberg of Paradox Entertainment started the ball rolling, bringing the Swedes together with Arsenal Films principals John Ptak and Philip Elway, who helped bring in Hammer and Overture. "Let Me In" is set for a 2010 release.

Overture plans to begin shooting the "Jar City" redo in the U.S. next year. The new version shifts the action from Reykjavik to Louisiana but keeps the original concept of small-town detective who, while investigating a murder, uncovers a trail of corruption and dark secrets.

Working Title has jumped onboard another Icelandic title, the smuggling thriller "Reykjavik-Rotterdam," Iceland's official entry for next year's foreign-language Oscar. The company has fast-tracked the English-language redo, signing up Mark Wahlberg to play the lead, a security guard whose financial troubles tempt him back into the smuggling business.

Aaron Guzikowski, the writer on Antoine Fuqua's upcoming Warner Bros. thriller "Prisoners," is penning the script. Producers include Working Title's Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner and "Entourage" exec producer Stephen Levinson.

Kormakur, who produced and starred in the original and controls all remake rights, is onboard to direct.

"The story of 'Reykjavik-Rotterdam' is actually even better suited to an American setting," Kormakur says. "It's easier to imagine this kind of genre thriller there than in a small country like Iceland."

Peaceful, socialist Scandinavia does indeed seem a strange source of inspiration for what's become a steady stream of crime, monster and melodrama remakes. If you were to judge the region by its cinematic output, you'd think there was a cannibal in every cabin and a murderer in every Fjord.

"One real trend you see in Scandinavia, especially in Sweden, is the crime/detective genre," Molinder says. "It's in films, books, TV, everywhere," Add to that a younger generation which has embraced genre filmmaking in all its glory.

Take for example Denmark's Nikolaj Arcel, the screenwriter on "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." His recent output includes a conspiracy thriller ("King's Game") a kung-fu fighting coming-of-age drama ("Fighter") and a sci-fi animated comedy ("Journey to Saturn"). Arcel also has a remake in the works, an adaptation of his 2007 family fantasy feature "Island of Lost Souls," which he has signed on to write and direct for Universal and Strike Entertainment.

"In recent Scandinavian cinema, you see a lot of emphasis on story, on plot. That's been the focus of the film schools here," Kormakur says. "When the story is the focus, instead of the visual style or whatever, there a much better chance of doing a remake deal."

Most deals aren't golden. A Danish producer with experience in the area estimates remake rights for a hit Scandinavian film often go for $100,000 or less.

"Still, financially it can help a lot," Kormakur says. "We (in the Scandinavian industry) can be quite badly paid, and in some cases you can make as much money for the remake as you did producing the original film. But, for me (a remake of) 'Jar City' is really a win-win. If the remake is great -- which I hope -- everyone will want to see the original. And if the film flops, everyone will say 'You should see the original, it was so much better.' "
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