When asked about the collaborative chemistry of filmmaking, transplanted British helmer Colin Nutley cites U.K. producer David Puttnam’s edict that “producers and directors should not like each other.”
It’s a curious reference considering that Nutley and his wife, Helena Bergstrom, have made 13 features together — he mostly behind the camera, she as his leading lady — but especially since Nutley produced Bergstrom’s first two outings as a director: “Mind the Gap!” and the currently shooting “So Different.”
“Sometimes it can be very trying to separate all the roles,” says Bergstrom, who has two children with Nutley.
They met 19 years ago, when Nutley made his second feature in Sweden, “Black Jack.” The two soon became an item. In 1992, Bergstrom starred in “House of Angels,” which became one of the most seen Swedish films ever.
Their collaboration “Under the Sun” (1998) was nominated for a foreign-language film Oscar, which translated into a brief flirtation with Hollywood. “We were in serious discussions with Kennedy Marshall, and we were very close to a deal,” says Nutley. “But then I started thinking about the film I had promised to do in Sweden. Should I just say to those actors, ‘Sorry, can’t do it?’ Besides, we had already done (‘Under the Sun’).”
“It belonged to the Swedish actors who were in it,” adds Bergstrom, once hailed as “the new Ingrid Bergman.”
Right now, Nutley is prepping the third film in the “House of Angels” trilogy, to be shot later in the year. He runs Sweetwater, the production company with offices in central Stockholm.
Although he has always maintained Sweetwater as a thoroughly independent entity, Nutley recently signed a three-year first-look deal with Svensk. “We have always worked very close,” he says of the Swedish conglom. “They have distributed most of my films.
“I’m still independent,” Nutley adds, “but the deal means we work even closer, and it makes the journey for Sweetwater safer in these troubled times.”
“So Different” is a comedy about two sisters, living different lives, who fall in love at the same time. It’s being shot in Stockholm and stars a string of character actors, among them Nutley regulars Rolf Lassgard, Rikard Wolff and Johan Widerberg.
Bergstrom does not appear in the film. She will, however, again play the lead when the third “Angels” film is shot this winter. Despite the success of the first two pics, which combined for 2 million admissions and attracted top ratings when aired on Swedish TV, Nutley contends that more than commercial rewards motivated the filmmakers to go another round in time for a December 2010 release.
“I always thought of this as a trilogy,” he explains. “The plot requires that Helena’s character should have a teenage daughter 15 years after the last film. That time has come now.”
As for Bergstrom herself, she tells Variety: “I’m really happy being able to mix acting and directing. Having made so many films with Colin as a director, I have learned so much.”