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SF Studios Boards Action Thriller ‘The Nation’s Gambit,’ Directed by ’Beforeigners’ Helmer Jens Lien, Adapted From Bestselling Novel (EXCLUSIVE)

Johan Høst, Jens Lien
Jonas Laumann

Norwegian director Jens Lien (“Beforeigners,” “The Troublesome Man”) is set to direct “The Nation’s Gambit,” a feature film adaptation of up-and-coming author Johan Høst’s bestselling debut novel “En nasjon i sjakk.”

The action thriller will be produced by the Norwegian production company Stig og Stein Studio. SF Studios will distribute the film in the Nordics, while Reinvent Studios handles international sales.

Høst’s novel, published by Vigmostad & Bjørke, has recently been nominated for the Norwegian Boksellers Award 2022 and a sequel novel is on the way.

The story of “The Nation’s Gambit” kicks off as Norway’s prime minister is kidnapped by a terrorist and disappears without a trace. The terrorist demands that the politicians in power play a game of chess over the prime minister’s life. The chess pieces represent people who work for the state or as leaders in society. If the politicians win the game, the prime minister will live, but every time the terrorist takes a piece, a human must pay with their life. The politicians and their appointed rescue team, the Delta Squad, are faced with an impossible dilemma with only 24 hours to save the prime minister.

Penned by Rakel Kraft Biørnstad and Christopher Grøndahl, the movie will revolve around the Delta Squad’s operational leader Anton Block and his right-hand man Björk Jónsdottir.

“En nasjon i sjakk” is part of a trilogy, and the second novel is under development. “Now the story lives on and will get new perspectives and angles in a big action film setting,” said Høst, who ran his own advertising agency before becoming an author.

“I have long been a fan of Jens Lien, and the fact that he is going to make a film of my book is a surreal out-of-body experience for me,” Høst continued. He added that he was inspired to expand the Delta Squad storyline into a trilogy and is currently writing the second opus.

Lien’s latest film “The Troublesome Man” won three Amanda Awards and a flurry of international laurels. “The Nation’s Gambit” will mark Lien’s comeback to feature films after 10 years of directing TV series, including the HBO hit series “Beforeigners.”

“Johan has written quite a story where the shock effect is obviously one of the ingredients. At the same time, he balances seriousness, playfulness, brutality and style in a way you don’t see much of in Norwegian film,” said Lien, who described the story’s “heroes” as “superb, funny and smart, while the villains are evil and transgressive.”

Lien said he also found “Johan’s cocktail of grand politics, chess, terror and revenge to be both modern, fresh and daring.” The director added that the film is reminiscent of action thriller classics from the 1990s such as “The Negotiator” and “Seven.”

“The Nation’s Gambit” is produced by the Norwegian production company Stig og Stein Studio with
producers Stig Hjerkinn Haug, Fredrik Støbakk and Tale Bryn Teigene.

“Johan’s debut as a writer is completely unparalleled in the Norwegian context. The reviews, the
feedback from readers and the enormous volumes that the book has sold make us humble in our mission to bring this story to the big screen,” said the producers, Stig Hjerkinn Haug, Fredrik Støbakk and Tale Bryn Teigene.

Silje Nikoline Glimsdal, senior acquisition manager at SF Studios, said the book was a page-turner with a “thrilling plot and high concept” that “made it clear that this could be adapted into a cinematic success.”