EXCLUSIVE: An American version of Norwegian bestselling crime author Jo Nesbo’s new TV series Occupied is being talked about. That’s what I’m told by Swedish producer Marianne Gray, who gave the keynote speech at the Film London Production Finance Market this morning. American actors and a U.S. director are also being considered for the 8-episode Norwegian TV series, which is awaiting a green light from state broadcaster NRK. Then there’s Nesbo’s novel Headhunters, which played at the BFI London Film Festival last night. The U.S. version is being adapted by Summit Entertainment as a $30M-40M movie and is now out to writers. Working Title is separately developing a feature film version of The Snowman, another bestseller by Nesbo whose books starring detective Harry Hole have sold 9 million copies worldwide.
There are parallels here to the way Hollywood has been got for Steig Larsson’s crime novels. Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which Yellow Bird made into a feature film, has been remade by Sony and David Fincher. The Swedish version has grossed $104 million worldwide — $10 million of that in the U.S. alone, which is almost unheard of for a subtitled film. The Stockholm-based Yellow Bird also made TV versions of the other two books and Music Box released them as feature films. Then there’s the original Swedish TV version of local detective Wallander, which the BBC has remade starring Kenneth Branagh. Yellow Bird co-produced the UK version with Left Bank Pictures too. Its own $5 million feature-film adaptation of Nesbo’s Headhunters, about a thieving corporate headhunter who steals a client’s valuable painting, has been picked up by Magnolia for U.S. release later this year. Gray revealed that Nesbo may write a sequel to his original Headhunters novel. Occupied is set in the near future: Russia has invaded Norway’s oil fields and the country is under occupation.
Gray has just come back from the U.S. after meeting with L.A.-based studios and producers and tells me: “People are saying Occupied has the potential to be a U.S. series. There are parallels with the German occupation of Norway during the Second World War. The question is, how far do you collaborate when everything on the surface is pretty much the same?” Gray started her career in L.A. at studios including Disney, Warner Bros. and Fox, and says there is greater desire now for American companies to work with European production companies such as Yellow Bird. The strategy is to identify bestselling crime novel series, and then convert them into high-end television drama, often giving them a theatrical outing first. Says Gray, “One American executive said to me, ‘International is the new DVD.’ ”