EXCLUSIVE: Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg, who scripted the Swedish The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and followed with the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee A Royal Affair, have found their next project. It’s a feature adaptation of The Power Of The Dog, the epic Don Winslow bestseller framed around the drug war and a 30-year struggle between a hard DEA agent and a family of cartel kingpins in Mexico.
Arcel will direct, and the script will be written by Heisterberg, Arcel and Shane Salerno. Salerno will produce through The Story Factory. This is the same Salerno who wrote, directed, produced and financed the J.D. Salinger documentary Salinger that earlier this week was licensed in the U.S. for an American Masters broadcast and is being shopped for feature distribution after a companion biography sold in a 7-figure deal to Simon & Schuster.
I’ve read most of Winslow’s novels, including The Winter Of Frankie Machine, Satori and Savages. His masterwork is The Power Of The Dog, with sprawling story lines that span from New York to Tijuana and involve DEA agents, an Irish hit man, vicious drug lords and mobsters, and a heroine whose loyalties are divided between a cartel leader, a crusading priest and the destructively obsessed DEA agent. It is to Winslow what The Given Day is to Dennis Lehane or The Stand is to Stephen King, in terms of ambition and time span.
For Arcel and Heisterberg, this is a decided change of pace from A Royal Affair, which they co-wrote and which Arcel directed. That was an 18th Century tale of an ill-fit marriage between a mentally ill King Christian VII of Denmark and a young queen who falls in love with the king’s doctor. As he buggers the queen, the doctor uses his new-found influence to author important social reforms that the self absorbed king is barely aware of. The duo was nominated for the Golden Globe as well as the Oscar.
The Power Of The Dog will be shopped by Salerno once they complete the script. It is the latest teaming between Winslow and Salerno; they scripted Winslow’s novel Savages with Oliver Stone, and sold it to Universal, which put it into production 11 months later. The $44 million film has grossed $90 million worldwide so far. Salerno and Winslow are also working on an adaptation of his novel Satori, which they set at Warner Bros with Leonardo Dicaprio attached to star and produce with them. Winslow is also writing an original crime thriller script with The Town novelist Chuck Hogan that Salerno will shop to studios later this year.
Winslow’s repped by CAA and The Story Factory, Salerno by CAA and attorney Robert Offer, and Arcel and Heisterberg by WME.