Inside the Hunt for the Next Stieg Larsson (Cannes 2011)

Cannes Film Festival

Several Scandinavian authors are promoting their products in Cannes in the hope of replicating the success of the late author's "Millennium" series.

CANNES -- The global success of the Millennium films — $175 million worldwide 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 – were walking the Croisette this week, promoting adaptations of their bestselling 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 in Cannes, but still on the Nordic to-watch list are Jens Lapidus, whose Stockholm noir trilogy spawned the hit film Easy Money, 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 book in a planned eight-book series, is being adapted for the big screen by Swedish Hollywood-director Lasse Hallstrom.

Aside from geography, what these authors share with Larsson and what’s causing buyers to salivate, is they bring with them proven franchises with books that have sold in dozens of territories. Marklund’s series on tabloid crime journalist Annika Bengtzon have 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, including The German Child, have moved 8 million copies worldwide.

Lackberg just returned from a U.S. tour to Cannes, where TrustNordisk is pre-selling The Fjallbacka Murders, planned as two features films and 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 joked, adding that the success of Millennium “opened up the door for Scandinavian writers. Suddenly, we’re on the map.”

Norwegian author Jo Nesbo doesn’t like the Larsson tag but the link hasn’t hurt Headhunters, which had its market premiere in Cannes on Monday. Magnolia pre-bought U.S. rights for the story of a corporate headhunter and secret art thief after seeing a five-minute promo in Berlin in February.

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 told The Hollywood Reporter. “They said, ‘We produced Fargo.’ I said: ‘I’m listening.’”

Such is the clout of Scandinavian crime scribes these days that Nesbo was able to wrangle out veto rights on the director and screenwriter for The Snowman film, which is still in development.

But Jenny Gilbertsson, the producer who is adapting Marklund’s Annika Bengtzon books for the big screen, warns of expecting any of these new authors to duplicate Stieg 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 said. “But these are all very different writers and 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.”