Berger and Yerxa have acquired movie rights to Knausgaard’s New York Times Magazine articles, published last year, tracing the Vikings’ possible journeys from Newfoundland to Minnesota. Scandinavian producers Madeleine Ekman and Lizette Jonic at Zentropa Sweden are also producing.
Berger, Yerxa and Payne also collaborated on the 1998 comedy “Election,” in which Reese Witherspoon broke out as a comedy star.
Berger told Variety that he discovered Knausgaard’s article while on a flight to Scandinavia for a conference of independent producers and was able to start making the rights and producing deals during the trip. He also said that Payne’s ability to deliver road-trip comedies — “Nebraska,” “Sideways” and “About Schmidt” — convinced him that the director would be a good match.
“I think Alexander has the ideal sensibility for a comedy about cultural misunderstanding,” he added.
Payne has won Oscars for the adapted screenplays for “Sideways” and “The Descendants.” He was nominated for the best director Oscar for “Sideways,” “The Descendants” and “Nebraska.” Berger and Yerxa received a best picture nomination for “Nebraska.”
The producers are seeking a Scandinavian screenwriter to adapt “My Saga,” which starts with Knausgaard admitting that he had lost his driver’s license a year earlier.
The articles have a dry Scandinavian sensibility: “There is a saying in Norway that he who loses money shall receive money, and I think that’s true, because when you lose things, it means you’re not on your guard, you’re not trying to control everything, you’re not being so anal all the time — and if you aren’t, but allow yourself to be open to the world instead, then anything at all might come to you.
“I know that’s true, but at the same time I also know that the reason I say it is to turn all my faults and weaknesses into strengths. It’s good that I’m afraid to speak on the phone with anyone except my closest friends. It’s good that I always put off paying bills. It’s good that I never cash the checks I receive. That means I’m a writer, I think I’m not so focused on worldly matters, which in turn means that some day I just might write a masterpiece.”
The news was first reported by Indiewire.