At last year’s Norwegian Intl. Film Festival in Haugesund, Norwegian veteran producer John M. Jacobsen completed the grand slam in Norwegian film: he was awarded two Amandas – Norway’s national film prize – for producing best Norwegian feature (“Børning,” directed by Hallvard Bræin, which also won the Audience Amanda, and best Norwegian children’s film (“Operation Arctic,” directed by Grethe Bøe-Waal).
A few months earlier he had received the national television award, Gullruten, for best TV drama, for his first miniseries, “The Heavy Water War,” which tells the story of the Allied effort to thwart Nazis from developing an atom bomb during World War II. In 1943, Operation Gunnarside successfully destroyed Norsk Hydro’s Vemork heavy water factory at Rjukan.
The $9.7 million Norwegian-Danish-UK co-production was directed by Per-Olav Sørensen and starred Christoph Bach, Dennis Storhøi, Maibritt Saerens and Espen Klouman Høiner; “The Heavy Water War” set a record of viewers for a drama series when Norwegian pubcaster NRK aired the first episode.
Jaacobsen has no films in the running for the the 2016 Amanda awards on Aug. 26, but in 2017 he will have three candidates for nominations, including Norwegian director Vibeke Idsøe’s “The Lion Woman” (“Løvekvinnen”), the period drama which opened the Norwegian festival on Aug. 21.
Starring Rolf Lassgård, Connie Nielsen, Burghart Klaussner and Kjersti Tveterås, the approximately $10 million adaptation of Norwegian author Erik Fosnes Hansen’s 2010 novel is set between 1912–1937, portraying Eva, who is born with hair covering her whole body. “Essentially, ‘The Lion Woman’ is a story about being different and refuse to be destroyed by it – most people know how it feels, and can easily identify and empathize with the situation,” explained Jacobsen. “Originally Denmark’s Zentropa Entertainments had bought the rights and asked us if we would co-produce, but in the end we took over the project.”
Besides “The Lion Woman,” he has set “Børning 2,” the sequel to “Børning,” which in 2014 became the most popular Norwegian film (No 2 on the charts from 381,648 admissions, winning four Amandas). While the first Nordic car racing comedy, in the tradition of “Cannonball Run” and “Smokey and the Bandit,” sent 26 drivers from Oslo to the North Cape, the route now goes from the Norwegian West Coast through Sweden and Finland to Murmansk in Russia.
Scripted by Linn-Jeanethe Kyed and Anne Elvedal, directed by Bræin and produced by Jacobsen with Marcus Brodersen, the film stars Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Ida Husøy and Sven Nordin, and will be domestically released on Oct. 12 by SF Studios (which also handles international sales). Jacobsen promised the same ingredients as in the predecessor: “hot cars, unbelievable driving, comedy, charming characters and an engaging human background story.”
He produced “Børning 2” without state production funding – “we applied seven times – no result. But he audiences wanted another ‘Børning‘ and they will get it.” he says. However, the Norwegian Film Institute chipped in $900,000 for his next, “Kings Bay,” which has already been shot and will premiere in January. Written and directed by Stig Svendsen, the film, Jacobsen said, is “the first real political thriller made in Norway.”
In 2016 a group of journalists in Tromsø tries to uncover what really happened on Nov. 5, 1962, when 21 Norwegian workers were killed by an explosion in the Norwegian mines at Kings Bay, Svalbard, the Arctic; they have found old tapes with new information about the event – a public investigation critized the security measures in the mines, which later forced the Social Democratic government to resign, making way for the first right-wing ruling party in Norway. “But what if it wan’t an accident after all,” asked Jacobsen, who has Jørgen Langhelle, Erik Hivju and Maria Kock in the leads.
His next project after that is most likely be “Three Came Back,” based on the late Norwegian pilot Jens Müller’s 1946 autobiographical book about his experiences during World War II. Müller was one of the 76 prisoners of war who escaped through a 110-meter tunnel from the Stalag III camp 160 kilometres from Berlin on March 24, 1944 – only three reached freedom, including Müller.
“The flight has already been depicted in several films, including John Sturgess’ ‘The Great Escape’ with Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough; we will tell the story from the Norwegian Müller’s point of view,” concluded Jacobsen, who is currently casting the movie. It will be scripted by Norwegian screenwriter Christopher Grøndahl and helmed by Norwegian director Per-Olav Sørensen (“The Heavy Water War”).
Pictured above: “The Lion Woman”