The Sweden-based producer says that the US version of Headhunters could shoot as soon as 2012.
The fifth Film London Production Finance Market launched today with a keynote speech from Marianne Gray, a producer at Yellow Bird, the Swedish outfit that has enjoyed huge international success with its film and TV adaptations of Scandinavian crime dramas (most notably The Millennium Trilogy, the Wallander films and Jo Nesbo adaptation, Headhunters.)
Gray, who cut her teeth in Hollywood working with Dawn Steel, took the opportunity to tell an audience of producers and financiers at the Hilton Hotel, Tower Bridge, just why the Scandinavians have the knack for crime novels and movies…and why their fiction is so dark.
“There was a British journalist who was writing about it who said that when Swedish people getting up in the morning, they have two choices: breakfast or suicide!” Gray joked.
The Yellow Bird model is to develop mini-franchises based on books, not to make one-off movies. “One of the things we do is that we value very much the relationship with the author,” she said. Not that the success of the Stieg Larsson Millennium series came easily. The books, she noted, were turned down by several publishers. The film adaptations likewise were spurned by many potential financiers before The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo became a worldwide phenomenon.
Gray revealed further details of the English-language version of Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters that she will be producing for US company Summit.
Gray said the film, which will be budgeted between $30m and $40m, will be based directly on Nesbo’s novel, not on the Norwegian film version by Morten Tyldum that received its UK premiere at the London Film Festival this week.
“We’ve finalised the deal and we are now looking at writers,” Gray said, adding that the film may go into production as soon as next year. “The strategy is to have a script ready and then go to directors.”
Together with her Yellow Bird colleague Berna Levin and with Summit’s Michael Schafer and Erik Feig, Gray is currently in the process of attaching writers to the project. “I think it (Summit) is a great company because they tend not to develop a lot of projects – and they produce what they develop,” Gray added.
Meanwhile, Sweden-based Gray is also working with Nesbo on big budget TV series Occupied. Based on an original Nesbo treatment, the eight-episode series is set in Norway in the near future. The country is occupied by Russia, which has taken control of the country’s oil. The main character is a cop working for the Russians but who is also secretly part of the growing Norwegian resistance. “The country is occupied with a silk glove. Life continues as it always does. The question is who does anything about it?”
Yellow Bird is waiting to see if the NRK (the Norwegian Broadcasting Company) backs the drama; if not, Gray will look for international partners.
Gray is also producing Swedish TV series Commander Holger Meins, a drama about the occupation of the West German Embassy in Stockholm by the Red Army Faction in 1975. Germany’s ZDF has already boarded the project and SVT is in talks to back the 2 x 90 minute drama. The script is by Swedish writer Ulf Ryberg (whose other credits include the Norwegian Headhunters film and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest.)
With the fad for crime drama showing no sign of abating, the Yellow Bird producer revealed that she is on the verge of signing a deal with an American writer for a series of English-language crime thrillers. “It is something that we would produce in the US with European finance,” she said.
Gray also revealed that the Swedish company has various Henning Mankell adaptations in the pipeline, not all of them crime films. For example, Yellow Bird (owned by the Zodiak Group, which in turn is part of the vast De Agostini Group) is looking to make films of Mankell’s First World War-set Depths and of the prolific author’s Baltic-set love story The Italian Shoes. Mankell was heavily involved in Yellow Bird in its early years, and the company retains a first-look deal for his books.