Magazine article Variety

'Kon-Tiki' Sails on English-Lingo Raft

Magazine article Variety

'Kon-Tiki' Sails on English-Lingo Raft

Article excerpt

The historical seafaring epic "KonTikin may be the first Osear-nommed film to shoot identical scenes in two languages, in this case Norwegian and English - with its makers hoping a duplicate all-English version can avoid the arthouse ghetto that traps most foreign-lingo fare.

The story of the legendary 1947 Pacific Ocean raft voyage of explorer Thor Heyerdahl (played in the pic by Sverre Hagen) presents an interesting marketing challenge for the Weinstein Co., which is set to release the Englishlingo version after millions of Oscarcast viewers saw it as a foreign language contender.

Following 16 years of failed attempts to finance a narrative version of the tale for the Hollywood screen, HanWay Films chairman Jeremy Thomas partnered with Denmark-based Nordisk Film's Aage Aaberge to produce "KonTiki" in Heyerdahl's native Norway with helmers Joaquim Roenning and Espen Sandberg. It was Thomas' idea to film extra takes with Norwegian actors in English for more than 60% of the film. (The rest of the scenes, set mainly in the U.S., feature the actors speaking in English in both versions, just as their real-life counterparts did.)

Thomas raised an extra $1.3 million of the film's $15 million-plus budget from Germany-based DCM Prods, for the extra takes, which had added costs in several scenes beyond the additional shooting time involved - some duplicate special effects were needed.

The extra work made all the difference to the Weinstein Co., which had passed on the pic after seeing the Norwegian version in Toronto last September, but snapped up rights for the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Italy after watching the English version at AFI Fest two months later.

"It's a much more immersive experience, because you're not reading, and (therefore can take) in more details about the characters," says HanWay managing director Thorsten Schumacher. "We were finally able to agree on a number, because they could see you can sell it as an English language movie for their ancillary deals. You get two versions for one (price)."

Though TWC bought "Kon-Tiki" after it was named Norway's official Oscar entry, and was well on its way to becoming the top-grossing Norwegian film of the year, TWC will be releasing only the all-English version theatrically, and, according to a TWC rep, the subtitled Norwegian version likely will not be released in the domestic ancillary market, either.

Yet the distrib screened the (mainly) Norwegian version for the film's awards push, snagging it best foreign film noms at the Golden Globes and Oscars. …

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