It was an unfortunate blow for Alexander Payne when, this past October, Netflix halted production on a father-daughter road movie the director was set to helm with star Mads Mikkelsen. However, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker has finally found his first project to take on since 2017’s “Downsizing.” As originally reported by Deadline, that film will be a reimagining of Gabriel Alex’s 1987 “Babette’s Feast,” which was the first Danish film to win the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.
Payne’s version will transport the original’s 19th-century religious community setting to small-town Minnesota, where two spinster sisters take in a refugee who brings buried resentments and regrets to the surface over the course of a lavish meal. In the 1987 film written by Axel from a Karen Blixen short story, the pious Danish sisters take in a French refugee of the Franco-Prussian War. Payne’s take will be written by comedian Guy Branum, who’s written for TV including on the shows “The Other Two,” “The Mindy Project,” “Awkward,” and “Chelsea Lately.” Payne’s “Babette’s Feast” was set up by Unique Pictures, from former New Line founder Bob Shaye and his late partner Michael Lynne. Jennifer Wachtell will also produce, with Benni Korzen and Josi Konski, all of whom are new to the Alexander Payne universe.
Payne’s shuttered Netflix project crashed over a rights issue, as the film’s subject, Danish writer Karl Ove Knausgård, had a change of heart over handing his life story to Payne and Netflix. The film was set to shoot in Sweden, Denmark, and the U.S. with a screenplay penned by Norwegian novelist and screenwriter Erlend Noe.
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Payne’s last film “Downsizing” starred Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as a couple who volunteer to be shrunken to miniature size in order to live in a small community and offset the devastation caused by humankind’s mass consumption of natural resources. That film failed to spark buzz for Payne or its cast, a rare misfire from the director whose adored, awards-anointed filmography includes “Sideways,” “The Descendants,” “Nebraska,” “Citizen Ruth,” and “About Schmidt.” Alexander Payne has two Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars, for “The Descendants” and “Sideways.”