Hunt for the Next Larsson


Scandinavian authors pitch their books at Cannes in hope of replicating the success of the late author's "Millennium" series.

The Millenium Film trilogy's global success -- $175 million, not counting David Fincher's upcoming U.S. remake -- has buyers in Cannes scrambling to find a Scandinavian crime machine to replace Millennium's late author Stieg Larsson.

Some of the prime candidates -- including Norway's Jo Nesbo and Swedish crime queens Camilla Lackberg and Lisa Marklund -- have been walking the Croisette to promote adaptations of their best-selling chillers. These films -- Headhunters, The German Child and Nobel's Last Will -- are some of the first Scandi crime dramas to hit the market post-Millennium, so anticipation is high.

Not at Cannes but on the Nordic to-watch list are Jens Lapidus, whose Stockholm noir trilogy spawned the hit film Easy Money, which has been picked up for the U.S. by the Weinstein Co. and for a U.S. remake by Warner Bros., and Lars Kepler, whose The Hypnotist, the first in a planned eight-book series, is being adapted for the big screen by Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom.

Aside from geography, what these authors share with Larsson -- and what's causing buyers to salivate -- is that they bring with them proven franchises with books that have sold in dozens of territories. Marklund's series on fictional tabloid crime journalist Annika Bengtzon has sold some 10 million copies. Nesbo's novels, including those featuring alcoholic Oslo detective Harry Hole, are available in 40 countries. Lackberg's Fjallbacka Murder books have moved 8 million copies worldwide.

Lackberg jetted from a U.S. tour to Cannes, where TrustNordisk is pre-selling The Fjallbacka Murders, planned as two features and a TV series based on the adventures of small-town author and crime solver Erica Falck.

"I know everyone's looking for the next Stieg Larsson. Well, I'm available," Lackberg jokes, adding that the success of Millennium "opened up the door for Scandinavian writers. Suddenly, we're on the map."

Norwegian author Nesbo doesn't like the Larsson tag, but the link hasn't hurt Headhunters, which had its market premiere in Cannes on May 16. Magnolia prebought U.S. rights to the story of a corporate headhunter and secret art thief after seeing a five-minute promo in February at Berlin.

For his even-more-successful Harry Hole franchise, Nesbo has done a deal with Working Title for a version of the latest book, The Snowman.

"For a crime writer, they had the best pitch," Nesbo says. "They said, 'We produced Fargo,' and I said, 'I'm listening.' "

But Jenny Gilbertsson, the producer who is adapting Marklund's Annika Bengtzon books for the big screen, warns of expecting any of these authors to duplicate Larsson's jaw-dropping success.

"These are very successful authors, and they are very good, and Millennium has definitely improved the market for Scandinavian crime internationally," Gilbertsson says. "But Stieg Larsson -- the way he told a story and his creation of this nearly autistic hacker Lisbeth Salander -- was unique, not just in Swedish crime but worldwide."