Hollywood looks for ‘Easy Money’

'Snabba Cash' set for Hollywood remake

With more than 650,000 admissions and a box office take of over $8 million, Swedish thriller “Snabba Cash” — translated as “Easy Money” — is one of the country’s biggest domestic hits in years. The film has now spread its wings across the world and a U.S. remake starring Zac Efron is in the works.

Based on the 2006 Jens Lapidus novel of three interlocking stories set in Stockholm about friends who become involved with drugs and organized crime, the pic was helmed by Daniel Espinosa, with Joel Kinnaman playing the lead — a taxi driver and cocaine runner.

The film has been sold to a string of countries, including the U.S., where it has been picked up by the Weinstein Co. And two sequels will be shot in summer 2011.

“We are cocky. We think that films No. 2 and 3 will be even better than the first one,” says producer Fredrik Wikstrom.

The book was an immediate hit with both critics and readers. So far it has sold 650,000 copies domestically. Publication rights have been sold to 28 countries, and it will be published in the U.K. next spring and in the U.S. in fall 2011.

With the sequel “Never Fuck Up” (so far sold to 17 countries) and the novel he is finishing, Lapidus has created what’s been called Stockholm noir, a tough, violent trilogy about the underworld in the Swedish capital today. His spare prose has been compared to that of James Ellroy.

Hopes were high for the film adaptation of “Easy Money,” helmed by Daniel Espinosa and produced by Wikstrom for Tre Vanner. But these hopes were exceeded, Wikstrom proudly points out, as the film actually dethroned “Avatar” in the territory.

That, of course, generated lots of international interest. TrustNordisk started selling the film at the Berlinale, and so far it has been bought in a string of countries, including the U.S., Canada, Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The rest of the world, including South America and Asia, will be targeted in Cannes. And Wikstrom and Espinosa have spent parts of the spring travelling back and forth to L.A.

Espinosa has signed with UTA and has been offered several American projects. “I hope to be able to do one of them before we start with the sequels to ‘Easy Money’ next summer,” he says.

All major actors, including lead thesp Joel Kinnaman, have signed on for the sequels, which will be based on “Never Fuck Up” and the yet unpublished novel, respectively, as well as on unexplored themes from the first book.

The first film cost $4.2 million, and Wikstrom expects both sequels to both have roughly the same budget. Maria Karlsson, who wrote the script for “Easy Money,” is writing the sequels as well.

“The first sequel will take place in one day,” says Wikstrom. “The second will be our ‘Godfather’ and will span several decades. The films will shoot back-to-back, with the first one opening in 2012.

“It’s a good story with good characters,” says Espinosa. “There are no special effects; instead there is tension. … We don’t make any compromises.”

Several U.S. companies were fighting for the remake rights to “Easy Money,” and Warner Bros. recently announced that it won the bid. Atlas Entertainment’s Charles Roven and Richard Suckle will produce for the studio.

Efron, who set up his shingle at Warner Bros. earlier this year, will also produce, as will original producer Wikstrom. Michael Hjorth will exec produce. Thesp will play a financial wizard who hopes to strike it rich quickly by creating money-laundering schemes for a drug syndicate.

Jon Berg is overseeing for Warner Bros. Film is the first acquisition for Efron’s shingle.

Interest in the project was enhanced thanks to the recent popularity of another Swedish crime thriller, Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

Wikstrom notes that “in the Swedish version we did not go for name actors. We went the other way. Most of the actors were unknown, which added to the realism. Joel is a big name now, but this was his breakthrough.”