EXCLUSIVE: Momo, one of the best-loved works by The Neverending Story scribe Michael Ende, is getting a big-canvas, English-language screen adaption from leading German producer Christian Becker (The Wave, Fuck You, Goethe) and bilingual writer-director Christian Ditter (How To Be Single).
The ambitious movie version of Ende’s popular fantasy novel will chart the story of the eponymous Momo, an orphan girl who must do battle with the soulless and otherworldly ‘grey men’ who stealthily take over her city and steal time. Ende’s book has long been considered a critique of consumerism, stress and unfeeling individualism, themes that should strongly resonate in a contemporary context.
Published in more than 40 languages, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the German book’s first publication and producers are hoping to begin filmmaking towards the end of 2023.
“For almost 35 years it was impossible to make a new adaptation of Momo,” explains Becker, who spent years with Ditter trying to disentangle the rights from Ende’s estate and other stakeholders such as Beta Film, which owned the remake rights to the only previous film adaptation, a 1986 German-Italian production which featured John Huston in his last on screen role.
“Momo is one of Michael Ende’s most successful books,” adds Ditter who has scripted the adaptation and will direct. “Everyone of our generation in Germany has read it. It was one of my favourite novels. But the rights were always very hard to get hold of. We weren’t the only interested group the estate met with. So, it took some sensitive negotiation. Naturally, they wanted to know the team would handle the novel carefully.”
Following a splashy but under-the-radar rights deal a few years ago, Becker and Ditter have spent the last couple of years crafting a script which they’re now taking out to potential partners on both sides of the Atlantic.
“We’re very happy with the script”, says Ditter. “The novel has multi-generational appeal. It’s a fantasy story which is poetic and personal but also about family and friendship. The book’s central premise, about mysterious creatures who steal the commodity of time, was an unusual concept in the ’80s, but in today’s world of long working hours, global corporations and the search for wellness and mindfulness, it becomes even fresher.”
Becker adds: “Our adaptation, which is a fantasy with sci-fi elements, is going to be a large, big-canvas, high-end international production with four quadrant appeal. The girl we’ll cast will likely be aged between 10-16.”
Ditter and Becker previously collaborated on the popular German film franchises Crocodiles and Vicky The Viking (specifically Vicky And The Treasure Of The Gods).
Becker is one of Germany’s most prolific and successful producers. Credits include Dennis Gansel’s breakout 2008 thriller The Wave, the Jim Button franchise, box office hits Vicky The Viking and Suck Me Shakespeare (aka Fuck You, Goethe, which is the fourth-biggest German film ever at the local box office), and more recently, Netflix thriller Blood Red Sky. His company Rat Pack, which is a subsidiary of German giant Constantin, is in post-production on Netflix action-war film Blood And Gold.
Ditter is known for German and English-language movies and series including Netflix’s Biohackers, Lily Collins starrer Love, Rosie, and New Line rom-com How To Be Single with Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann and Alison Brie. That movie took more than $110M. He is in post on Isla Fisher and Greg Kinnear comedy The Present, and co-wrote the script for Amazon’s upcoming YA fantasy movie Silver.
As we revealed last year, there is currently a tug of war going on for the rights to remake Michael Ende’s fantasy classic The NeverEnding Story.