Sonja and Young Astrid get Nordisk Film & TV Fond backing
by Jorn Rossing Jensen
- Anne Sewitsky’s biopic of Sonja Henie and Pernille Fischer Christensen’s depiction of the young Astrid Lindgren are ready to shoot
Five years after Norwegian producer Synnøve Hørsdal, of Oslo’s Maipo Film, announced that Norwegian director Anne Sewitsky would make a biopic of Norwegian figure skater-turned-Hollywood actress Sonja Henie, the film is now ready to roll, with Norwegian actress Ine Marie Wilmann playing the lead as the ten-time world, six-time European and three-time Olympic champion.
Scripted by Mette M Bølstad (Nobel) and Andreas Markusson, and produced by Hørsdal and Cornelia Boysen, the €6.3 million Sonja follows Henie, who won her first major competition – the senior Norwegian championships – in 1922, when she was ten, and took home more international trophies than any other female figure skater; she also introduced the costume of short skirt and white boots, and the use of dance choreography.
In 1936, she was signed to 20th Century Fox on a contract that made her one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood. She performed in ten films, also appearing in touring ice shows, until she died from leukaemia in 1969, aged 57. Co-produced by Danish major Nordisk Film and Ireland’s Subotica, Sonja will shoot on Gran Canaria, and in Romania and Norway from 19 June; Nordisk Film handles the Nordic distribution and Denmark’s TrustNordisk international sales.
Sonja will receive €265,000 in backing from the Nordisk Film & TV Fond, which has also chipped in €240,000 for Danish director Pernille Fischer Christensen’s biopic of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, and its latest support package also includes Finnish director Simo Halinen’s East of Sweden and Swedish filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson’s feature-length documentary The Untitled Peter Beard.
Danish screenwriter Kim Fupz Aakeson has scripted Young Astrid, which will be staged by Swedish producers Lars G Lindström, of Nordisk Film Sweden, and Anna Anthony, of Avanti Film. “Besides his scriptwriting career, Aakeson is also an established writer of children’s books. Lindgren is his idol, and he wants to pay tribute to Sweden’s great legend,” explained Lindström. The €4.9 million project will be staged with Germany’s DCM, Swedish regional film centre Film Väst, Nordisk Film and Sweden’s TV4, in collaboration with Danish pubcaster DR. Principal photography will start on 4 April; Nordisk Film is handling the distribution, while TrustNordisk is in charge of the international sales.
Already in production for Liisa Penttilä-Asikainen and Kaiho Republic, Halinen’s East of Sweden is a suspense drama about three men who meet while sharing a cabin on the northbound train to Oulu. A confrontation between them leads to an accidental death, and the two others are left with unfavourable options. Samuli Vauramo, Dominic Nzinga, Laura Birn and Andreas af Enehjelm play the leads in the €1.4 million feature co-produced by Zentropa International Sweden in cooperation with Finnish and Swedish pubcasters YLE and SVT. B-Plan will release the film in Finland in February in 2018, and Swedish-Finnish sales agent The Yellow Affair is in charge of international distribution.
Lastly, The Untitled Peter Beard is based on a film project originally initiated by US artist-photographer Peter Beard and Lee Radziwill (the younger sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) about Kennedy Onassis' relatives, the Beales of Grey Gardens. The footage, which was thought to be lost for decades, re-emerges in the film about Peter Beard and his family, who in the 1970s formed a creative community in Montauk in the USA. The movie is being produced by Tobias Janson for Story AB, with co-productions by US companies Louverture Films and Thunderbolt Productions and Denmark’s Final Cut for Real, in collaboration with SVT, DR and YLE. The film will be ready in May, and New York’s Cinetic Media has the international rights.