Nordisk has acquired rights to author and historian Tom Buk-Swienty’s upcoming books about the pair. Currently in development are The Lioness, a feature film and mini-series about author Blixen (aka Isak Dinesen) and her life as a coffee farmer in Kenya from 1914-31, and feature The Great Dane, about scientist Bohr, one of the fathers of the nuclear bomb.
“This deal is the culmination of a year-long search for the right collaboration to turn the lives of two of the greatest Danes who ever lived into film”, said Mikael Rieks, producer of Oscar-nominated Danish drama Land Of Mine. Rieks will produce both films with Jakob Weis (That Time Of Year) penning both scripts. The Lioness is due to be adapted first.
Blixen, born in 1885, came from an upper class Danish background but spent much of her life seeking independence from her overbearing Victorian family. Gambling health and family fortune, she journeyed to become a coffee farmer in colonial Kenya. After 17 challenging years, marked by World War I, poor harvests due to various natural disasters, the onset of the Great Depression and a tragic love affair, she was forced to abandon her farm.
According to Nordisk, author Buk-Swienty — whose biography of Blixen will be published later this year — has gained access to never before used source material documenting the business of the Karen Coffee Company. The material outlines Blixen’s role as a pioneering female CEO, in charge of more than 1,000 workers and describes her often troubled dealings with her uncle, the wealthy businessman Aage Westenholz, who, as the main investor in the farm, lost a fortune on the failed business venture of his niece.
Robert Redford and Meryl Streep starred in the multi-Oscar winning 1985 film adaptation of Blixen’s autobiographical work Out Of Africa. Blixen also penned the story Babette’s Feast, which too was adapted into an Oscar-winning film.
”Karen Blixen had an insatiable appetite for wild adventure and her life was truly larger than life. I have followed her every step during her seventeen years in Africa – from the outbreak of World War I to the aftermath of the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Her life in Africa was marked by one magnificent, wonderful, and at the same time, brutal and dangerous event after another. She is both fabulous and terrible, reckless and spoiled, desperate and in love, but she never ceased to be an undaunted warrior with a heart of gold. She loved and admired the Africans and in her relentless struggle for the rights of her “black brothers” as she called the native people, she was way ahead of her time”, commented Buk-Swienty.
Buk-Swienty’s book on Bohr is due to be published in 2022. The acclaimed Nobel laureate was a towering figure among scientists of the 20th Century. Due to his Jewish heritage, Bohr had to flee German-occupied Denmark in 1943 to neutral Sweden, only narrowly escaping before being smuggled to the UK. Then under a cover name, he was sent to the U.S. to participate in the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. The film will chronicle Bohr’s breakthroughs in the field of quantum physics and the road to the nuclear bomb. According to the producers, it will also tell the story of Bohr’s deep misgivings about the bomb and his campaign amongst world leaders to prevent a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union.
”For a long time, I have wanted to turn the life of Niels Bohr – and especially the events during and after World War II – into an international film. More than ever before, Tom Buk-Swienty’s biography on Niels Bohr will give us a much more intimate look at the scientist and the private man,who had a remarkably loving relationship to his wife Margrethe whom he, to his great dismay, had to leave behind in Stockholm when he went to the U.S. during the war. I have no doubt, that I’ve found the best possible starting point for an epic tale of war and love, creative power and curiosity, triumph and despair”, said Rieks, producer at Nordisk Film Production.