Film Announcements Are Always More Fun Aboard a Yacht
May 13, 2011
THE NEW YORK TIMES - ARTSBEATS
By Melena Ryzik
CANNES, France— We’ve traversed the red carpets and the publicity stunts. But there is another side to the film festival here: the maritime side. We’re talking, of course, about yachts. Big ones and bigger ones, they crowd the harbor, drawing gawkers and aspirants (and Diddy). Really, no trip to the French Riviera is complete without a yacht party. And though the festival may be the pinnacle of the “glamour racket,” as Manohla Dargis noted in The New York Times, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its share of left-field come-ons.
So on Friday, we stepped aboard the Clara One for an introduction to WR Films Entertainment Group, a company founded two years ago by a Norwegian actor, Ryan Wiik. Mr. Wiik and his partners had leased the yacht as an office to announce their acquisition of a Norwegian best seller, a decades-old serial called “Morgan Kane” which they intend to turn into an action-adventure franchise.
“It’s going to be like the James Bond of Westerns,” said John Michaels, the president of production at WR Films, who predicted international appeal. “It’ll have legs, it’ll travel.”
The 83-book serial, which started in 1966 and concluded in 1983, has sold 20 million copies worldwide, 11 million in Norway (population: 4.8 million) alone, Mr. Michaels said. “It’s their best-selling book of all time.”
The story concerns one Morgan Kane, a gunslinger turned United States marshal turned rancher turned bodyguard to Teddy Roosevelt in the 19th-century American Southwest. (There’s a lot of ground to cover in 83 books.) The author of the series, Kjell Hallbing – pen name Louis Masterson – worked in a bank before he became a writer, and never set foot in the United States, Mr. Michaels said. Yet somehow he created a hero of epic proportions. Well, not a total hero: “He’s a flawed character,” Mr. Michaels corrected. “And of course we have a great villain, the infamous Coyote.”
The first film, based on early books titled “El Gringo” and “El Gringo’s Revenge,” will be called “Morgan Kane: The Legend Begins,” Mr. Michaels said. Financing, mostly from Scandinavian investors, is nearly complete (Variety announced the acquisition earlier in May) but the company’s founders, all entertainment industry veterans, thought they could make a mark with their wood-paneled yacht, complete with private chef whipping up hors d’oeuvres for visitors.
It sounds lavish for anywhere but Cannes. “When you have to rent something for two weeks, and set it up,” Mr. Michaels said, “believe me, you’re better off in a yacht.”