EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures, Temple Hill producers Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen and Will Ferrell will build a movie around the most unlikely snowy Arctic expedition in history — when a group of Minnesota guys in 1968 acted on a whim hatched on a night of drinking and set off to ride snowmobiles to the North Pole. They’ve acquired Guy Lawson’s article for The New York Times Magazine, with a title that tells you everything you need to know: “Ice Pack: An Insurance Salesman and a Doctor Walk Into a Bar, and End Up at the North Pole.” They will build the film around Ferrell.
Lawson’s Rolling Stone article “Arms and the Dudes” was adapted into a book and then the Todd Phillips-directed Warner Bros film War Dogs, starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller. That movie, to be released August 19, is about a couple of stoners who won a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan. The North Pole escapade is even harder to believe, and the intention is to make a buddy comedy in the vein of Wild Hogs and City Slickers. Jonathan Kadin is overseeing the project for Sony.
The expedition was led by Ralph Plaisted, an insurance salesman who with his doctor friend Art Aufderhiede teamed with local Honda dealer Walter Pederson (they needed a mechanic for the snowmobiles) and geography teacher Jerry Pitzel (the navigator who initially had the group going the wrong way) and an athletic French Canadian named Jean Luc Bombardier. They got sponsors for whiskey, designer watches and the dehydrated food used by the Apollo program. Even though they failed a psychological stress test administered by a local college and were spurned by the National Geographic Society (which was protective of the 1909 Robert Peary expedition it had backed), the small group gathered their whiskey and snowmobiles and made it to a base camp on the precipice of a frozen Arctic Ocean.
There, they saw 425 miles of ice boulders, bottomless crevices, ice floes, open expanses of black water and hungry bears. Somehow, these amateurs overcame temperatures so low the whiskey froze. Melting ice caps nearly drowned them, yet they became the first successful expedition to reach the North Pole on Ski-Doos — though nobody seemed to care much at the time.
Lawson, who is repped by Jody Hotchkiss of Hotchkiss and Associates, had his book Octopus bought by HBO, where Peter Gould is adapting, and his GQ article “The Knife” was acquired for a potential TV series by CBS.
Ferrell’s repped by UTA and Mosaic.