Featured Player: Colin Nutley

Swedish helmer comes home

STOCKHOLM — This week, 59-year-old English filmmaker Colin Nutley is making his English-speaking debut.

For the past two decades, the director has been living and working in Sweden. A string of Swedish-speaking hits, such as “House of Angels” and the Academy Award-nominated “Under the Sun,” have made him known as the man who tells stories about the Swedes better than they do themselves.

Now he is finally turning his eye towards his old homeland, where he is about to start production on “The Queen of Sheba’s Pearls,” a family drama.

“It’s set in the south of England in 1952,” says Nutley, who grew up in the south coast town of Portsmouth. “It’s based on my memories from the time, but it’s not autobiographical.”

The pic’s $7.5 million budget is unusually high for a Swedish movie. As always, Nutley is making it through his own company, Sweetwater. Co-producers include Svensk Filmindustri, TV4 and the Swedish Film Institute, with Jude Hackett’s U.K-based AKA Pictures as the local partner.

Nutley has assembled a solid though hardly starry cast of seasoned Brit thesps, including Peter Vaughan, Eileen Atkins, Elizabeth Spriggs and Natasha Little. Rollo Weeks (“The Lost Prince”) plays the central role as 16-year-old Jack Carter who lives with his grandmother and is haunted by recurring dreams of his dead mother.

When a mysterious Swedish woman who is her spitting image comes to stay, it raises troubling questions about whether the likeness is a coincidence or whether there is life after death.

The double role of the mysterious Swede and the mother will be played by Nutley’s wife and regular leading lady, Helena Bergstrom.

“I use Jack to look into his family,” Nutley says. “It’s an odd time. The empire is crumbling but still standing. The king sits above everything. The ’60s have yet to happen. Boys still go to school in short, grey, itchy trousers. This is the period out of which the Beatles, the Stones and Monty Python came. We were innocent, so innocent that we still hanged people.”

Pic is to be shot in Dorset and Devon, with a mostly Swedish crew. Studio work will be done in Stockholm.

Nutley says that one downside of returning to England is having to deal with agents. In Sweden, he just deals directly with the actors. “I think we have a wonderful system in Sweden when it comes to making films. It’s an easy system. And so many things we have are better. We have world-class actors, wonderful lighting cameramen and very good film crews.”

Nonetheless, he’s relishing the challenge. “It’s going to be fun to go home to England as a foreigner. My other films, such as “House of Angels” or “Under the Sun,” could have taken place anywhere. For this one, though, I want the Englishness to come through, and I hope I can see my own country with a fresh eye.”

Nutley estimates that the film will be ready in March, with a release scheduled for Christmas 2004.