Skarsgård to play Red Snake

Stellan Skarsgård is probably going to play one of the lead roles in a new Scandinavian Viking film, based on the famous book by Frans G. Bengtsson, Red Snake.

rödeormbok3 While in Cannes for the 2014 film festival, the Danish film producer Peter Aalbaek Jensen announced that Röde Orm, meaning “red snake”, will be adapted into a movie. Swedish Hollywood star Stellan Skarsgård will hopefully play the titular character. -This will be the first good Viking movie ever, says Aalbeak Jensen.

Frans G. Bengtsson (1894 – 1954) published the beloved two-part adventure novel in 1941 and 1945. The book is about a Viking named Orm, or Red Orm because of the colour of his hair. Orm, a name meaning snake or serpent, is captured by plundering Vikings but befriends his enemies and helps them raid a fortress in France. He becomes a slave in Spain, but returns to Denmark and visits Harald Bluetooth for Christmas. Later, Orm becomes a Christian in England, moves to Sweden and starts a family. He takes his son on a journey to find a huge treasure that his brother has hidden. In 1998, the book, which was called The Long Ships in English, was voted the third most important book by viewers of Sweden’s state channel, SVT.

The book has been adapted to a radio play, a comic book, a musical and audio books, and was translated to at least 24 languages. In 1963, Jack Cardiff directed an English-Yugoslavian film adaption, the hugely popular The Long Ships, starring Richard Widmark, Sidney Poitier, Russ Tamblyn and Rosanna Schiaffino. That film kept only a few things from the books, and is regarded as a separate franchise.

This is not the first time Scandinavians tried to film the Orm saga. In 2011 the first real plans for a proper Red Snake adaption were laid. Producers Patrick Ryborn (Kenny Begins, the Sune movies) and Joakim Hansson (the Johan Falk series) of Fladen Film hoped to shoot the film in 2013, after having negotiated with rights owner Sony/Columbia, who had owned spin-off and remake rights for The Long Ships. That project was planend to result in two movies and a TV series, budgeted at between 20 and 30 million euros.

Even before that, Hasse Alfredson, the Swedish comedian, actor and director (and father of Let the right one in director Tomas Alfredson), wanted to film the book in 1984, with Stellan Skarsgård playing the young Orm. When the American investors wanted the project to become a regular TV series, the project was laid dead. Now, Skarsgård will play the older Orm, but only if the script is good enough, Skarsgård says. He has not yet actually signed the contract, but producer Peter Aalbaek Jensen says that a younger member of the Skarsgård acting family might play the young Orm. -Stellan will get a lump of money and hand them out at the dinner table at home, he says, jokingly.

Stellan Skarsgård

With two failed attempts to look back on, and Viking movies not being the hottest trend right now, in spite of History Channel’s success with its series Vikings, Red Snake the movie is not necessarily guaranteed to hit cinemas. However, producer Peter Aalbaek Jensen is one of Scandinavia’s leading; he has produced almost 180 films since 1989, and is one of director Lars von Trier’s closest collaborators. This time von Trier is not going to direct, as that job has been given to Hans Petter Moland, a Norwegian director who has worked with Skarsgård four times earlier, including this year’s thriller comedy In Order of Disappearance. The principal team therefore seems to be in order for this 11 million euro movie, which may prove wether or not Vikings managed to re-establish Viking action as a popular genre. -That series has nothing to do with Vikings. It’s not a series that treats the themes in any serious way, Aalbaek Jensen claimed to Cannes media.

One of the things he pointed at was that during times of peace, the Vikings had democracy. -People made decisions together. The women were empowered and managed things on a daily basis, as the men were often away. They had warriors who read poems in the battle fields after having killed the enemy. All that is going to make a great movie, Aalbaek Jensen said.

Hans Petter Moland is clear about the source material: -Even if the books were published 70 years ago [the content] has not grown oldfashioned. There are ingredients and depictions of Vikings that have never before been told in movies, he said to Aftenposten. He adds that Bengtsson’s novels offers a political and social analysis of the times of the Vikings.

The production will be huge by Scandinavian standards, and actors from Norway, Sweden and Denmark are expected to join the cast. -It’s a really good story, with drama and humour and if it’s made the right way, it will be great. We’ll see, Skarsgård said in Cannes. He is of course not foreign to Viking films; he played Hrothgar in Beowulf and Grendel (2005) and Birger Brosa in the semi-Viking Arn films (2007 and 2008).

The plans include, once again, two movies and a 4-part TV miniseries edited from the films, like the two Arn films that were extended for television. Shooting of the Tobias Lindholm-written Red Snake films is planned for 2016 in West Sweden.


  1. As Sven suggests, stick to the book, it is a rollicking good yarn and would make a magnificent film.
    Stellen Skaarsgaard and his sons are great actors !!

  2. Just stick to the book and quit trying to dumb it down. It could/should be a classic along the lines of Gladiator, Braveheart, Apocalypto, etc

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