Jodie Foster to Star and Direct English Remake of ‘Woman at War’

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Jodie Foster is set to star in, co-produce and direct an English-language remake of “Woman at War,” an individual with knowledge of the project told TheWrap.

“Woman at War” is an Icelandic thriller directed by Benedikt Erlingsson that is the country’s official submission to the upcoming Academy Awards.

Foster will reinterpret the role of Halla (originally played by Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir), a lone eco-terrorist working to disrupt a corporation that’s harming the environment. But she soon becomes torn toward the dedication to her cause when she’s presented with an opportunity to adopt a child from Ukraine after a multi-year delay in her application, causing her to choose between motherhood and her beliefs.

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Foster will, however, relocate the movie from Iceland to the American West. Foster’s Egg Pictures will produce alongside Slot Machine, which produced the original “Woman at War.” No timetable has yet been set.

This is Foster’s fifth directorial effort and will be her follow-up to 2016’s “Money Monster,” which starred George Clooney and Julia Roberts. She also directed a 2017 episode of “Black Mirror” and starred in this year’s “Hotel Artemis.”

“Woman at War” debuted at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in May and was a nominee for the Critics Week Grand Prize. It does not yet have American distribution, but it is Iceland’s official submission in this year’s Oscars Foreign Language Film race.

Deadline was first to report.

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‘Woman at War’ Director on What Tom Cruise Could Learn From His Quirky Icelandic Thriller

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Here’s a list of what the Icelandic director Benedikt Erlingsson says is missing from his new film “Woman at War”: “No misery, no violence, no death, not even a gun, and no sex.”

Despite the absence of those mainstays, he said “Woman at War” is an action thriller with lessons for Hollywood films. It’s a tense, topical film of espionage, sabotage and personal demons about a lone eco-terrorist (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) being hunted by the Icelandic government and a massive corporation doing harm to the environment.

And because this is an Icelandic film, its hero has a trio of musicians who follow her across hill sides, rooftops and into her home providing the film’s brisk, invigorating score as she goes. At one point, a drummer seemingly tips her off to the danger awaiting her.

“I wish they would do more of this,” Erlingsson told TheWrap’s Steve Pond at a post-screening Q&A on Wednesday. “Imagine Tom Cruise with a band, saving the world.”

Also Read: ‘Woman at War’ Film Review: Goofy Icelandic Ecoterrorism Thriller Is a Beautiful Hoot

“Woman at War,” Iceland’s submission to the 2019 Foreign Language Oscars race, screened as part of TheWrap’s Awards and Foreign Screening series at the Landmark Theatres in Los Angeles.

While it has a peculiar sense of humor courtesy of its onscreen band, Erlingsson doesn’t consider his film a comedy, and he strived to make a film that tackles complex subjects like global warming in a way that could still be considered “accessible.”

“Everything you do really has to have some meaning. You have to have something to say. This subject is really complicated, and there are a lot of gray areas, and it touches many ideas,” Erlingsson said. “So the challenge was to really make an accessible, mainstream blockbuster film about this. An art-house blockbuster on a very complicated issue. Is that possible, in a feel-good film?”

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Beta Cinema

In that spirit, Erlingsson offered an optimistic perspective on the climate change crisis — based on his experience as an activist who once chained himself to a whaling boat to keep it from sailing out to hunt. (If you want to know how to take down an electricity pylon as the lead character Halla does in the film, he encouraged anyone to talk to him after the screening.)

These days, he has changed his lifestyle to become more environmentally friendly — and encourages aspiring politicians to share a similar message: “Vote for me, and I will fight that you will get less of everything. This is the challenge.

“If I was a publicist, you will get less of everything, but what you will get will last longer,” he said. “You will get a better lifestyle. More meat, more movement. The lifestyle change ahead of us is not so drastic. And you can throw in, ‘And I will give you more games, I will give you more films, love, sex, poetry, theater.”

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“Woman at War” also takes an unexpected turn away from politics, exploring how Halla juggles her guerrilla activism with the prospect of being a mom when a four-year-old adoption application suddenly comes through.

The character’s dilemma should be very relatable to a politically-minded American audience, Erlingsson said. “How am I going to change the world? Is it not to change myself? Should I save myself, or should I take action?” he asked. “This is an element we are all struggling with, and we have to do both.”

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‘Woman at War’ Film Review: Goofy Icelandic Ecoterrorism Thriller Is a Beautiful Hoot

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From the start, “Woman at War” lets you know that you’re in for a ride that will be as arresting visually as it is offbeat conceptually.

The Icelandic film, which premiered on Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival, opens with gorgeous shots of the rugged Icelandic countryside, where a woman short-circuits a string of power lines with only a bow and arrow.

The middle-aged ecoterrorist then flees across the gentle hills, as music from a small combo plays in the background — literally in the background, because when she stops to catch her breath, we see the three musicians who are playing the score standing on the heath behind her.

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That’s a wry touch that continues through the film: When Halla, played by Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, gets some news on the phone that makes her emotional, a gentle piano melody begins playing on the soundtrack — and it’s only a matter of time before she walks in the living room and we see the piano player tinkling the ivories in the corner.

By the end of the movie, Halla is being cued to upcoming events by the presence of her musicians: When she’s in a security line at the airport and there’s a drummer in the car outside pounding an insistent beat, she’s seen enough suspense movies to know she might be in trouble.

Director Benedikt Erlingsson could be commenting on how film scores can be their own kind of spoilers or acknowledging that we all need a band to serenade our lives — or perhaps this filmmaker has both a great eye and a great fondness for silliness.

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Erlingsson’s last film, “Of Horses and Men,” was a twisted but delightful gem, an episodic comedy of human and equine manners that represented Iceland in the Oscar foreign-language race in 2013. (It didn’t even get shortlisted, for which I blame the Academy far more than the director.)

“Woman at War” is more straightforward in that it tells one story, not six interlocking ones. But straightforward is a relative term when you’re dealing with a director who has Erlingsson’s fondness for deadpan absurdity.

Halla is a mild-mannered ecoterrorist who roams the heath striking back at the industrialization that threatens her country, then hiding from the drones, infrared cameras and helicopters full of cops that try to track her down. And by the way, she’s a choirmaster who is trying to adopt a 4-year-old Ukrainian girl. And she has a twin sister. And a new friend who lives in the country with a loud dog and a bunch of sheep.

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All of this will prove to be important. And funny. And serious.

Erlingsson is dealing with elemental matters here — the destruction of the environment, the degradation of politics into a sideshow, the yearning for human connection — but he’s having too much fun to get all solemn about it. He’s a prankster with a purpose, an artist unafraid to get goofy.

And “Woman at War” is a beautiful hoot.

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Cannes Film ‘Woman at War’ Domestic Rights Nabbed by Magnolia Pictures

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Magnolia Pictures has acquired the North American rights to writer-director Benedikt Erlingsson’s buzzy Cannes dramatic comedy “Woman at War,” the company announced Friday.

The film, a unique modern day fable about an Icelandic activist taking on big industry, recently premiered in Cannes Critics’ Week to high acclaim and won the SACD prize, which recognizes a screenplay from the French writers guild, and also won the Critics’ Week Grand Rail d’Or.

In “Woman at War,” Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) declares a one-woman-war on the local aluminum industry. She is prepared to risk everything to protect the pristine Icelandic Highlands she loves… until an orphan unexpectedly enters her life.

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“‘Woman at War’ is a blast,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles. “Director Benedikt Erlingsson has fashioned an incredibly bracing, original and modern tale and Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir is an electrifying revelation in the dual roles.”

“I feel blessed to be in such good hands with Magnolia to meet the American audience,” said Erlingsson.

Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson and written by Erlingsson and ?”lafur Egill Egilsson, “Woman at War” was produced by Marianne Slot, Benedikt Erlingsson, and Carine Leblanc. Co-producers are Serge Lavrenyuk, Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson, and Birgitta Björnsdóttir.

The deal was negotiated by Magnolia co-EVP Dori Begley and Magnolia SVP of Acquisitions John Von Thaden, with Beta Cinema’s CEO Dirk Schuerhoff on behalf of the filmmakers.

“We are very proud and honored that Magnolia Pictures picked ‘Woman at War,’” said Schuerhoff. “We feel in very good hands and it is great to see Eamonn, Dori, John and the whole team, believing so strongly in this unique film.”

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Majority of Cannes Critics’ Week Competition Films Were Directed by Women

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In what is believed to be a first, the French Union of Film Critics selected a majority of films by female directors for competition in the International Critics’ Week sidebar at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

The seven competition titles in Critics’ Week, announced Monday, will include four directed by women: Agnieszka Smoczynska’s “Fugue” (pictured above),  Anja Kofmel’s “Chris the Swiss,” Rohena Gera’s “Sir” and Sofia Szilagyi’s “One Day.”

They will compete against Benedikt Erlingsson’s “Kona Fer I Strid” (Woman at War”), Camille Vidal-Naquet’s “Sauvage,” and Gabriel Abrantes & Daniel Schmidt’s “Diamantino.”

“Wildlife,” Paul Dano’s adaptation of a Richard Ford novel starring Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal, will open the sidebar in a special screening. The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, is the only American film chosen.

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Guillaume Senez’s “Our Struggles” will also be presented as a special screening, while Alex Katz’s “Guy” will close the section.

Critics’ Week is run independently of the main festival but takes place concurrently. The selection is devoted to first and second films from new directors — and its directorial debuts, including “Wildlife,” are eligible for Cannes’ Camera d’Or for the festival’s best first film.

International Critics’ Week (Semaine de la Critique) is organized by the French Union of Film Critics, which is made up of 244 critics, writers and journalists. The oldest parallel section to the Cannes Film Festival, it began in 1962.

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The winners will be chosen by a jury headed by Danish director Joachim Trier and also including American actress Chloe Sevigny, Argentinian actor Nahuel Perez Biscayart, festival programmer Eva Sangiori and French journalist Augustin Trapenard.

Critics’ Week also announced 10 short films in competition, three of them by female directors.

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