EXCLUSIVE: Two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster will direct, co-produce and star in an English-language remake of Woman at War, the spirited and eccentric eco-thriller that Iceland has officially submitted for the Foreign Language competition at the upcoming 91st Academy Awards.
Foster will reinterpret the role of Halla (played in the original film by Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir), a genial middle-aged music teacher hiding a secret life as an outlaw environmental activist with a grudge against the local aluminum industry that is despoiling the pristine Highlands of Iceland. Halla is escalating her one-woman campaign of sabotage when an unexpected letter arrives with news: her adoption application has been approved and a baby girl is awaiting her in the Ukraine.
It’s nature vs. nurture, so to speak, as the unlikely eco-avenger finds herself questioning her political convictions and destiny even as government agents hunt for her and an orphaned child awaits to fulfill Halla’s dream of motherhood. Halla decides she will commit one final act of sabotage, her boldest mission yet.
“This movie thrilled me beyond words,” Foster said of the original film. “I am so excited to helm a new American imagining of this relevant, beautiful, inspiring story. The character of Halla is a warrior for the planet, a strong woman who risks it all to do the right thing. But not without some serious mishaps along the way.”
Woman at War premiered in May at the Cannes Film Festival (winning the best script prize in the Critics’ Week section). The film was also screened at festivals in Haifa, Hamburg and Melbourne. The film picked up the Nordic Council’s lucrative Nordic Film Prize in October and last month it added the 12th Lux Film Prize, the European Parliament award recognizing the year’s best European film.
Woman at War was originally released under the Icelandic title Kona fer I strid and was the second feature film directed by Benedikt Erlingsson, following his debut effort Of Horses and Men. Erlingsson has described Woman at War as a feminist fable missing many of Hollywood’s favored hallmarks: “No misery, no violence, no death, not even a gun, and no sex.”
Magnolia Pictures will release Erlingsson’s version of Woman at War (with English subtitles) in the United States on March 1.
Foster said she will relocate the film’s setting from the ashen austerity of Iceland to the American West. She declined to share any timetable details. Woman at War will be the fifth film directed by Foster and her first since Money Monster, the 2016 drama that starred George Clooney and Julia Roberts and also centered on an outraged citizen fighting a corporate giant with outlaw tactics.
Foster’s first three films as a director — Little Man Tate (1991), Home for the Holidays (1995) and The Beaver (2011) — each delved into the imperatives of parenting, the vulnerability of children and the dynamics of family. Those themes echo in the new project but Foster said it was the daft charisma and integrity of the Halla character that seized her attention when she first watched Woman at War.
“I can’t wait to play her,” Foster said. “I’m always drawn to a bold and quirky mixture of humor and emotion. This one speaks for our time. It is an honor to take the reins from the talented director Benedikt Erlingsson and his producing partner Marianne Slot.”
The original version of Woman at War was written by Erlingsson and Ólafur Egilsson (Trapped, The Oath). It was produced by Slot and Carine Leblanc for Slot Machine (France) & Benedikt Erlingsson for Gulldrengurinn (Iceland).
Slot will also produce the new film, which will be a joint venture between Slot Machine and Foster’s Egg Pictures. Slot has been the historical French partner for Lars von Trier’s films.
“Jodie Foster is a unique artist,” Slot told Deadline. “She’s a very sharp woman with a beautiful sense of humor and a very engaged human being. I can’t imagine anyone more prefect than her, to incarnate ‘Woman at War’ and to have the artistic freedom to direct her as well.”
Below is the trailer for the Icelandic film.