Fifth Season to Distribute ‘The Man Who Died’ with New Kaurismaki Star Jussi Vatanen (EXCLUSIVE)

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Fifth Season has acquired international distribution rights to Elisa Viihde original series “The Man Who Died.”

The company, formerly known as Endeavor Content, is behind “The Lost Daughter” or “Cha Cha Real Smooth.” It also handles global distribution for such hit shows as “Killing Eve,” “The Morning Show” or “Normal People.” 

Based on the bestselling book by Antti Tuomainen, the six-episode series – written by Brendan Foley – is led by Jussi Vatanen, who will next be seen in Aki Kaurismäki’s upcoming feature “Dead Leaves.” Saara Kotkaniemi and Sara Soulié, his co-star in Solar Films’ drama “Forest Giant,” also star.   

Since its premiere on June 19, “The Man Who Died” has been the most watched series on Finnish streaming service Elisa Viihde Viaplay.  Produced by Helsinki-based ReelMedia Ltd. and Germany’s ndF International Production, the series follows mushroom entrepreneur Jaakko (Vatanen) who discovers he has been slowly poisoned. Jaakko is a man in his prime, with a thriving business and keen customers, but his world shatters when a doctor reveals his days are numbered. During his hunt for the killer, people have a habit of dying or vanishing. And yet he feels gloriously alive, for the first time in years. 

Rights for the award-winning book have sold widely, from Czech Republic, France, Germany, Norway, Poland to the U.K., South Korea and the U-S.. 

Vatanen appreciated the series’ black humor, he said.  “We have all seen these Nordic Noirs, which all look the same and are just dark. It was refreshing to have a series that at least tries to be funny.”

Already a household name thanks to the popular franchise “Lapland Odyssey,” he is no stranger to comedy. Even when it skews a bit darker. 

“It just feels familiar, this kind of humor. Also, tragedy and comedy are best friends. When you are serious, you can also be funny. I guess it’s something that comes naturally to me,” he added.  

“[In ‘The Man Who Died’] the whole story is seen through Jaakko’s eyes. He is constantly present. The challenge was not to lose the comedy, while at the same time being real about his situation. He is terribly ill. He is going to die. How do you combine that? We talked about it a lot with director Samuli Valkama and the author.” 

“The Man Who Died” marks another interesting choice for the Jussi-nominated actor, who opted not to return for “Lapland Odyssey’s” fourth outing. The film – once again penned by Pekko Pesonen – will premiere in December. 

“It was an easy decision. I didn’t have anything else to give to this character, to these films,” he admits.  

The Man Who Died Credit: Kristiina Salmen/Reel Media

“Five, six years ago I was still doing these live comedy shows and I got this feeling that I wanted to do something else. I didn’t enjoy them anymore.”

“I came to the conclusion that time is the most valuable thing we have, so how do you want to spend it? If you are not sure about a project, and it will take months of your life, maybe it’s better to do something else? You could say I had an awakening,” he says. 

“I love every single one of my roles. But I want to focus on productions that are meaningful and important to me now.”

That includes Aki Kaurismäki’s highly anticipated and secretive new film, which Vatanen was shooting this summer. He will star alongside “Tove’s” Alma Pöysti. 

Produced by Kaurismäki’s production company Sputnik, it will premiere in 2023 and will be distributed in Finland by B-Plan Distribution.

“Every time you take on a new project, you have to treat it in the same way. But in this case, it was hard to keep that in mind,” he admits.  

“When I was growing up, Kaurismäki’s films were considered ‘real’ cinema. These actors, these characters, were just close to me. So, of course, it wasn’t a normal job.” 

“Still, after a few days on set, I just got used to it. I wasn’t that nervous anymore. It was a big deal, sure. But you have to convince yourself that it’s normal in order to keep on going.