EXLUSIVE: On the day [May 20] that the Swedish Film Institute celebrates its 50th anniversary, details have emerged of an ambitious new biopic of Sweden’s greatest ever film star, Greta Garbo.

Dutch actress Carice van Houten (Black Book) is to play Garbo. She will also produce the film, which will tell the story of the plump shop assistant in a Stockholm department store who rose to become the brightest star in the MGM firmament, successfully made the transition from silent films to talkies, but then retired in her prime.

“I was raised with silent films. I have always maintained an endless fascination for that era. Greta Garbo has gotten to me more than any other movie star and never let me go. I am strongly drawn to her story, her art, her loneliness and her beautiful complex structure,” van Houten told Screen.

The script is being written Soni Jorgensen, an LA based Swedish screenwriter. Jorgensen recently worked on a ghost mystery for producer Brian Oliver at Cross Creek Pictures.

Van Houten will produce alongside Helena Danielsson of Swedish production outfit Hepp Film.

“We have got together on a dream project that Carice has nurtured in her head for many years,” Danielsson commented.

A screenplay for the English language project will be ready this autumn.

Van Houten has been in touch with Garbo’s estate.

The producers are promising a film that will be respectful but will offer a radically different perspective on Garbo, often stereotyped as a “Swedish mystery woman”.