Prod’n for ‘Smilla’ thriller a $ 25 miller

Firing one of the first big-budget salvos for the coming American Film Market , Constantin Film head Bernd Eichinger on Thursday confirmed production plans for an adaptation of Peter Hoeg’s bestseller “Smilla’s Sense of Snow,” to be directed by Bille August.

Budget of the film is expected to top $ 25 million, rating the project as potentially one of the largest new business ventures to make the rounds at the Feb. 24-March 4 American Film Market in Santa Monica.

The suspense thriller is currently being adapted by “Geronimo” and “48 HRS.” screenwriter Larry Gross. August has directed such pix as “Pelle the Conqueror, “”The Best Intentions” and “The House of the Spirits.”

Eichinger said discussions on the sale of the film will start at AFM but that pre-sales are not necessary to start production. “We’re financing it on our own, ” he said.

Currently astride the New York Times bestseller list, “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” is about a woman scientist, an expert on glaciers, who travels from her Copenhagen home to the ice fields of Greenland and the ice floes of the North Atlantic in an attempt to avenge the death of a neighbor’s child.

The lead character was described in People magazine as “a short, female Schwarzenegger.” Eichinger said he hopes the material will deliver a top female star to fill the role. He acknowledged that the Arctic setting for the pic could prove a challenge to filmmaker August but added “an outstanding main character, an intense subject matter and very unusual settings make this whole thing” a potential U.S. success.

More aggressive

Parent company Neue Constantin has emerged as one of the more aggressive foreign financiers of product. The company is behind the coming Meryl Streep/Glenn Close/Jeremy Irons “The House of the Spirits” and earlier projects “The Neverending Story,””The Name of the Rose” and “Christiane F.”

Constantin Film is the U.S.-based development company of Neue Constantin, which is one of the largest operations of firstrun screens in Germany. The exhibition component is key to the international success of its pictures. For example, “The House of the Spirits” has grossed $ 45 million in its European release.

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