EXCLUSIVE: Keanu Reeves has been approached to star in Antti J. Jokinen’s thriller The Criminal about organised crime in Finland and Russia.

Pitching the project at the first edition of the Northern Seas Film Forum (NSFF) in St Petersburg at the weekend, producer Markus Selin of Solar Films Inc. Oy and director Jokinen said that they are speaking to the Matrix star about headlining the crime thriller which is set to shoot next year.

The Criminal is based on interviews conducted with Russian and Finnish felons over the past four years and has the Organised Crime Unit of the Finnish Police now serving as an advisor on the screenplay.

Selin revealed that Ireland’s Subotica Films is already onboard as a co-producer and he is now looking for a Russian company to join the production.

The $16m (€12m) production would shoot in Helsinki, Dublin and St Petersburg in Russian and Finnish with the English actors speaking in Russian.

Jokinen made his feature debut in 2011 with The Resident, starring Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Christopher Lee in a UK-US co-production between Hammer Films and Spitfire Entertainment, and followed this with the award-winning historical drama Purge which has posted over 200,000 admissions and was Finland’s official entry for the Academy Awards last year.

Meanwhile, Finnish producer Minna Virtanen of Vertigo Production reported that Ireland’s Newgrange Pictures will serve as a co-producer with Sweden’s Illusion Film on Petri Kotwica’s suspense drama Cross Your Heart. Virtanen told that she had been introduced to Newgrange’s Jackie Larkin by Nicole Gerhards of Berlin-based production outfit NikoFilm.

The $2.5m (€1.85m) production, which already has backing from the Finnish Film Foundation, public broadcaster YLE1, and distributor Nordisk Film, aims to begin principal photography in winter 2014.


Pitching Welsh-born Lesley Manning’s $2.7m (€2m) sci-fi drama Telepathy, Dublin-based producer John Wallace of Black Sheep Productions revealed that the UK sales company Bankside Films will handle international distribution for this project, which is being produced by David Collins’ Samson Films.

Financing has already been confirmed from the Section 481 Irish tax incentive, the Irish Film Board and the Film Agency Wales Development for the drama between twin brothers, who are chosen as subjects for secret experiments in the Soviet Union of 1988.

Wallace was at NSFF to identify potential Russian co-producers for the project scripted by Stephen Volk who had previously worked with Manning on the controversial cult hit Ghostwatch for BBC1 in 1992. 

In addition, Swedish producer-screenwriter Börje Peratt named the leads for John Bauer - The Mountain King, a biopic on the internationally famous illustrator whose paintings inspired Walt Disney and J.R. Tolkien.

Bauer will be played by Gustaf Skarsgard, one of the Swedish acting dynasty whose recent credits include Kon-Tiki and the Arn feature films, while the love of his life, Ester, will be portrayed by Livia Millhagen, a film and theatre actress who has appeared in such films as Everlasting Moments and Wallander.  


Speaking at the NSFF on Monday morning, veteran Dutch film-maker Jos Stelling has unveiled plans for his third collaboration, Ljoeba’s Dance, with Evgeny Gindilis’ Russian production company TVINDIE Film Production.

“I was very jealous of Woody Allen being in Paris, Rome and Barcelona and thought that we have to do a comedy in Moscow, and then I found an idea for a film,” Stelling said about the project which is still at an early stage of development.

The film’s story, which Stelling describes as “the Dutch ode to Russia” centres on a Dutch journalist who is happily married, but finds himself in a midlife crisis. He reluctantly agrees to travel to Russia on business and is then confronted by a gamut of new experiences on his arrival in Moscow.

Gindilis, who will produce with Stelling’s own company Jos Stelling Films BV, pointed  out that “the next film by Jos in Russia should be different from what he has done there so far. We want to have a more actor-driven film with bigger names to appeal to a wider audience internationally.”

At this early stage, the film’s tentative budget of $3.3m (€2.5m) is being structured to include public and private funding from The Netherlands and Russia, Eurimages and funding from the City Of Moscow.

Ljoeba’s Dance follows two previous co-productions with TVINDIE: the 2007 Dutch-Belgian-Russian co-production Duska, which was the Dutch Oscar contender in 2008, and Stelling’s last feature The Girl And Death which was shot in Germany with Heino Deckert’s ma.ja.de. film.

Gindilis recalled that The Girl And Death was the first international co-production to be supported - as a minority Russian co-production - by the now defunct Russian Cinema Fund. The film was distributed in Russia and Ukraine by Drugoy Kino (Other Cinema) this year and generated box-office of around $100,000 on 50 prints from its release in April.