GOTEBORG — Eight years after Danish director Per Fly’s first television series “Performances,” which won him a Golden Nymph in Monaco, his “Follow the Money,” a 10-episode serial, has been sold to, among major territories, the U.K. (BBC), Benelux (Lumière) and Canada (CBC), Australia (SBS); Endemol Shine Studios-Anonymous Content have acquired rights for a U-S. remake.
Scripted by Danish screenwriter Jeppe Gjervig Gram, the show stars Thomas Bo Larsen (“The Hunt, “Pusher”) as a Copenhagen police inspector who is investigating a murder, which he realizes is linked to high-finance crime. The cast includes Nikolaj Lie Kaaas, Natalie Madueño and Esben Smed Jensen.
Fly, whose local and international break was the award-winning 2000-2005 trilogy “The Bench”, “The Inheritance” and “Homicide,” about the Danish lower- middle and upper classes. He has most recently filmed in Sweden “Waltz for Monica,” the biopic of Swedish singer-actress Monica Zetterlund, which won four Gulbagga Awards, Sweden’s national film prize, including best director.
Fly is rollimg on “Backstabbing for Beginners” the first production for Denmark’s Creative Alliance, a Copenhagen company launched in 2013 by Fly, directors Lone Scherfig, Ole Christian Madsen, Dagur Kári, and producers Nikolaj Vibe Michelsen, Malene Blenkov and and Parts & Labor’s Lars Knudsen and Jay Van Hoy.
Scripted by Fly with U.S. screenwriter Daniel Pyne it is based on “My Crash Course in International Diplomacy,” written by Danish former U.N. employee and whistle-blower Michael Soussan. Soussan has landed the job of his dreams: programme coordinator for the U.N.’s Oil-for-Food Programme.
But he soon discovers that he is part of a multi-million-dollar fraud, with dysfunctional diplomats, cynical governments and greedy companies all trying to make money out of Iraqi oil. He realises corruption reaches the innermost U.N. circles, and that the only way to stop it is by disclosing everything.
So he starts, with the reputation of the U.N., the career of his boss, his love affair with a Kurdish woman and probably his own life at stake. Co-produced by Canada’s Scythia Films and Sweden’s Eyeworks Sweden, the film stars U.K. actors Theo James (Soussan) and Ben Kingsley.
Why did it take you so long time to return to television?
I have been busy making films – and this is the first time I have accepted to be a conceptual director and direct the first two episodes of a series. I didn’t even have the idea for it or co-wrote. But when I read it, I felt I had to do it. The economic structures of society have always interested me, and here they were made easier-to-come-at through very good characters.
Financial crime is not one of your usual themes?
These structures are complicated to understand, yet they are really decisive for the world and the life we humans are living. The line between legitimate greed and illegal wrongdoing is complex and delicate – there are masses of interesting dilemmas you can confront your characters with. As a director, I am first of all interested in people, and with a theme as greed there is a lot at stake for them; it is certainly not the simplest subject to describe, it is a question of transforming difficult calculations into understandable problems for the characters, and I thought “Follow the Money” had that possibility.
What was your personal focus in the series?
Obviously the theme of greed, both from a social and individual perspective. The characters represent all levels of society – we see greed reflected in both the lower, middle and upper classes. I like it when society is represented in a movie, and I think they are particularly good at it in the US. The part of life you come from, is part of whom you are. In Scandinavia we often forget this, probably because we have a large and homogeneous middle class.
In “Backstabbing,” have your Danish TV police inspector and the U.N. whistle blower the same motives for ensuring justice?
No, the Danish police inspector is driven by an uncompromising sense of justice, while the U.N. employee simply tries to steer right and get a career in international diplomacy, where moral areas are grey, and compromises are an everyday event. But with all the right intentions, he ends up at the heart of history’s greatest – at least documented – corruption scandal, a billion-dollar fraud.