Roenning & Sandberg: Ad-savvy duo sets sail with epic

10 Directors to Watch 2013: Joachim Roenning & Espen Sandberg

Using Hollywood math, Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg’s sumptuous “Kon-Tiki” — about Thor Heyerdahl’s harrowing expedition across the Pacific on a balsa-wood raft to prove Polynesia was settled by South Americans — would have been made for at least $50 million. That they brought it in for $15 million can be considered a major coup by anyone other than themselves.

“You have to keep in mind that this is the biggest budget ever for a Norwegian movie,” says Roenning. “This is huge in Scandinavia. We are not used to big budgets (because) there’s no market to justify it.”

The epic biopic, funded by 24 financiers, including the Norwegian Film Institute, and shot in five countries in both Norwegian and English, earned a Golden Globe nomination — a first for Norway — and has attracted the attention of Hollywood, where Roenning and Sandberg recently took meetings with producers and studio executives all over town.

Popular on Variety

The pair’s prior feature, “Max Manus,” was seen by a record 1.2 million people in Norway, more than one-fifth the country’s population.

Like the Scott brothers, Roenning and Sandberg hail from commercials. Their acclaimed 2000 Super Bowl spot for Budweiser, “Rex’s Bad Day,” about a movie dog trying to find his motivation, gave the filmmakers a taste of L.A., where they lived for almost two years, and where they’re likely to return from their native Oslo early this year — this time with their families.

Weinstein picked up the domestic rights to “Kon-Tiki,” and it’s just a matter of time before the filmmaking tandem will be announding their next big-screen venture, with Paramount, Universal and Warners Universal being the most aggressive suiters.

According to Sandberg, the directors seek stories with a strong emotional core, epic feeling and fantastical element. “We have that in ‘Kon-Tiki,’ and there are several projects that we are now closing in on.”

Homebase: Oslo, Norway
Inspired by: Seeing “E.T.” made Roenning want to become a director. Sandberg names “My Life as a Dog” by Sweden’s Lasse Hallstrom: “We were lucky to meet him in L.A. That was a great inspiration.”
Reps: Agents: Ramses IsHak, Michael Sheresky (UTA); Manager: David McIlvain (Brillstein Entertainment Partners); Lawyer: Warren Dern (Sloane Offer Weber & Dern)

More Scene

  • 'Little America' Team on Creating Immigration

    'Little America' Team on Creating the Immigration Anthology Series for Apple TV Plus

    Respect and authenticity were the key words at the screening of the new Apple TV Plus series “Little America” on Thursday in Los Angeles. Produced by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon and inspired by true stories featured in Epic Magazine, “Little America” is an anthology series focused on immigration. For executive producer Sian Heder, [...]

  • 2018 Sundance Film Festival - Egyptian

    Sundance 2020: The Ultimate Party Guide

    Heading to Park City? From intimate dinners and cocktail parties to late night bashes (that end just in time to head to brunch), there’s plenty to keep this year’s film festival attendees out of the cold between screenings. Here is Variety’s ultimate party guide for Sundance 2020:  Thursday, Jan. 23 “Summertime” Premiere Party Lyft Lounge, 8-11 [...]


    Jenna Andrews Hosts Zhavia Ward, Lennon Stella at Jed Foundation Fundraiser

    Jenna Andrews, the Canadian singer-songwriter, record producer and executive, hosted a pre-Grammy event in partnership with The Jed Foundation at Alice and Olivia in West Hollywood on Tuesday.  The non-profit Jed is dedicated to protecting emotional health and preventing suicide. The foundation has partnered with high schools and colleges in order to “strengthen mental health, [...]

  • Coldplay - Chris Martin

    Grammys 2020: The Ultimate Party Guide

    Let the music play, indeed. The Grammys are just days away and dozens of parties are happening every night this week leading up to the big day, Sunday, Jan. 26. And the partying continues with several bashes following the ceremony. (All events listed are by invitation only unless marked otherwise; this list is being updated [...]

  • Jared Harris arrives at the 26th

    No, Jared Harris is Not Playing Doctor Octopus in Marvel's 'Morbius'

    The first-ever trailer for Marvel and Sony’s next Spider-man spinoff “Morbius” left comic book fans reeling with theories. While the plight of the main character, Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) – a scientist dying of a rare blood disease who accidentally turns himself into a vampire – seemed ripped right out of the comics, the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content