10 Directors to Watch: ‘Heart of a Lion’ Director Dome Karukoski Tests Limits

Take-no-prisoners Finnish director targets gay-themed 'Tom of Finland' biopic next

“Liberation inspires me,” says Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukoski.

As someone who “doesn’t control himself,” Karukoski, the director of the neo-Nazi family drama “Heart of a Lion,” lives the same way he likes his cinema: without compunction.

“If I have a small hint that I will be ashamed of something, I’ll do it,” says the helmer. “Shame is one of the greatest obstacles for a director: If you’re feeling shame, it’s difficult to portray anything greater on the bigscreen.”

In “Heart of a Lion,” for example, he brazenly displays the brutality of the neo-Nazi life. “We wanted to make the violence as true as possible so it aches and traumatizes,” he says.

Karukoski’s films aren’t all vicious. Although his second film “Home of the Dark Butterflies” shows the ruthless goings-on at a Finnish boys’ school, he has also made a music-driven romantic drama (his debut “Beauty and the Bastard”), a distaff coming-of-age film (“Forbidden Fruit”) and a dark comedy (“Lapland Odyssey”).

“I always want to do something different,” he says. “I don’t seek security. After three dramas, I did a comedy, and we started it with five suicides.”

Karukoski, a self-described actors’ director, cites a range of movie influences. In his Helsinki office, he has posters of “The Godfather” and Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Blue” on the wall. He was so taken with the latter film that when he saw it on his 18th birthday — “with its use of music and melodrama,” he says — he stole the poster from the theater’s wall.

After unveiling “Heart of a Lion” at Toronto, Karukoski scored an ICM agent and momentum for his highest-profile project yet: “Tom of Finland,” the story of the larger-than-life gay erotic artist that he hopes to shoot next year.

He’s also finishing up his latest Finnish film “The Grump,” and preparing to look for Hollywood-based projects. And though his U.S. reps want him to conceive of a 20-year-plan, the Finnish answer to that, he says, “is to make films that are not totally shit — that’s our way of showing encouragement.”

Stats:
› Age: 37
› Home base: Helsinki
› Agencies: ICM Partners; Actors In Scandinavia; The Lisa Richards Agency

More Film

  • Mark Wahlberg Six Billion Dollar Man

    Mark Wahlberg's 'Six Billion Dollar Man' Moved Back a Year to 2020

    “Liberation inspires me,” says Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukoski. As someone who “doesn’t control himself,” Karukoski, the director of the neo-Nazi family drama “Heart of a Lion,” lives the same way he likes his cinema: without compunction. “If I have a small hint that I will be ashamed of something, I’ll do it,” says the helmer. […]

  • 'Sicilian Ghost Story' Bought by Strand

    Cannes Winner 'Sicilian Ghost Story' Bought by Strand Releasing (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Liberation inspires me,” says Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukoski. As someone who “doesn’t control himself,” Karukoski, the director of the neo-Nazi family drama “Heart of a Lion,” lives the same way he likes his cinema: without compunction. “If I have a small hint that I will be ashamed of something, I’ll do it,” says the helmer. […]

  • George RR Martin

    George R.R. Martin Developing Animated 'Ice Dragon' Movie With Warner Bros.

    “Liberation inspires me,” says Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukoski. As someone who “doesn’t control himself,” Karukoski, the director of the neo-Nazi family drama “Heart of a Lion,” lives the same way he likes his cinema: without compunction. “If I have a small hint that I will be ashamed of something, I’ll do it,” says the helmer. […]

  • Helen Hunt Ana de Armas John

    Helen Hunt, Ana de Armas, John Leguizamo Join Tye Sheridan's 'Night Clerk'

    “Liberation inspires me,” says Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukoski. As someone who “doesn’t control himself,” Karukoski, the director of the neo-Nazi family drama “Heart of a Lion,” lives the same way he likes his cinema: without compunction. “If I have a small hint that I will be ashamed of something, I’ll do it,” says the helmer. […]

  • Idris Elba Hunchback of Notre Dame

    Idris Elba to Star in and Direct 'Hunchback of Notre Dame' for Netflix

    “Liberation inspires me,” says Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukoski. As someone who “doesn’t control himself,” Karukoski, the director of the neo-Nazi family drama “Heart of a Lion,” lives the same way he likes his cinema: without compunction. “If I have a small hint that I will be ashamed of something, I’ll do it,” says the helmer. […]

  • Jay Ryan It Chapter Two

    'It: Chapter Two' Casts Jay Ryan as Adult Ben

    “Liberation inspires me,” says Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukoski. As someone who “doesn’t control himself,” Karukoski, the director of the neo-Nazi family drama “Heart of a Lion,” lives the same way he likes his cinema: without compunction. “If I have a small hint that I will be ashamed of something, I’ll do it,” says the helmer. […]

  • Dan Lin Warner Bros

    Warner Bros. Re-Signs 'It,' 'Lego Movie,' 'Sherlock Holmes' Producer Dan Lin

    “Liberation inspires me,” says Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukoski. As someone who “doesn’t control himself,” Karukoski, the director of the neo-Nazi family drama “Heart of a Lion,” lives the same way he likes his cinema: without compunction. “If I have a small hint that I will be ashamed of something, I’ll do it,” says the helmer. […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content