FINNISH CELEBRITIES IN HOLLYWOOD – PART 1

Reporter, pictures: Tomi Hinkkanen

One must humbly admit that Finland cannot even begin to compete with our dear neighbor, Sweden, when it comes to movie stars and other Hollywood luminaries. After all, Sweden has given us Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman and Lena Olin. Nevertheless, over the years there has been a steady Finnish presence in Tinseltown. Some of the Hollywood Finns have been serious artists, some shooting stars and some just famous for being famous. Here’s a  few mental sketches of some Finnish Hollywood celebs, whom I’ve met personally while working here as a journalist since 1994.

 

Renny Harlin signing a petition to keep the Consulate General of Finland in LA open, January 2012.

RENNY HARLIN

There has never been a bigger Finnish star in Hollywood than director-producer Renny Harlin. He has had a long and illustrious Hollywood career with hits such as Nightmare on Elm Street Part Four, Cliffhanger and Deep Blue Sea. I have met Renny several times over the years. The very first time we met was around 1985 or so, when his very first movie, Born American was shown in Hollywood. I was a film student then, lived in Hollywood and just happened to notice that his movie was being shown in a local theater. Renny had long hair back then that was tied in a ponytail. He was standing in the theater lobby and I walked up to him to introduce myself. He asked me, if I had seen the movie yet. No I haven’t, I said. He then gave me a ticket and invited me to a party in the Hollywood Hills after the screening. Later on I was a young journalist in Finland, when he brought his then-wife Geena Davis for a visit. It was a media circus. I have met Renny at various occasions after that. He is always a gentleman. Last January at the Scandinavian Film Festival in Beverly Hills, he spoke lovingly of his dog Little Harlin, who had died recently. During the post-production of his movie, 5 Days of War, the dog got a special permit on the Warner Bros. lot, where pets aren’t normally allowed. The reason was that Little Harlin was Renny’s muse that helped him edit the picture. Afterwards Renny signed our petition to keep the Consulate General of Finland in LA open.

Renny Harlin with girlfriend Erika Marchino

Harlin is a striking presence. Heads turn when he walks into a room. He is tall, handsome, blond, one of the most confident men I have ever met. Many ladies have lost their heart to the tall Finnish Viking. He’s been elusive about giving interviews lately, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Renny, if you happen to read this, I promise to make it real classy and do the best interview ever written about you.

 

Renny Harlin and Finnish model Pia Pakarinen at the Scandinavian Film Festival in Beverly Hills, January 2012.

TAINA ELG

I met Taina Elg when she toured with a theater group, performing in a musical version of Titanic in 1997. Elg played the real life character Mrs. Strauss, who rather went down with the ship to remain with her husband than to be rescued alone. Elg was extremely friendly and open, telling me her life story – how she was discovered by an American producer and as a result, went on to sign a seven-year contract with MGM. There her most famous movie was the musical Les Girls, directed by George Cukor. She won a Golden Globe for that role. Taina was not happy with the pictures I took of her with her hair in a ponytail, but let me publish them and the story anyway. Taina Elg is now 82. She lives in with her husband, professor Rocco Caporale in New York. This Summer Elg will appear at the Sodankylä Film Festival in Lapland.

 

Taina Elg in the 1950's.

MAILA NURMI AKA VAMPIRA

I wrote a whole piece about Maila on Finntimes recently. She was the most original person I have ever met. I know it’s a lot to say, but she was. Born in Petsamo,Finland, Maila created the alter ego Vampira, which she says is based on the Charles Addams character Morticia in the Addams Family. I got to know her after the Tim Burton movie Ed Wood had hit the screens in 1994.

Maila Nurmi in the autumn of her life.

She lived in a converted garage in a blue collar part of Hollywood. She had no car, but would be chauffeured around by young friends who would take her to parties and other events. Maila had been good friends with James Dean, who died tragically in a car crash at 23. She once told me that everybody had abandoned Dean during the production of George Stevens’ Giant – supposedly to strengthen his performance as a lone field hand who in the movie became a millionaire after finding oil. Maila had spent the last night with James before his death. She never quite recovered from it. Maila was an animal lover. She sheltered injured animals in her humble little adobe (I was never invited in), and had named every pigeon that she fed in front of her apartment. Maila had a fiery temper – everything was either black of white to her, there were no gray areas. Hence, her time in the limelight was brief. She introduced horror movies on KABC-TV in the mid-fifties but got into trouble with the management due to her uncompromising nature. She also appeared in a handful of Ed Wood movies, of which Plan 9 from Outer Space remains a cult favorite. Maila died at the age of 85 in 2008. She was a truly original Hollywood character.

 

Maila Nurmi was a Hollywood original.

TONY HALME

Tony appeared on the Hollywood scene some time in the mid ‘90’s. The big and burly Tony boxed and wrestled and apparently was paid handsomely for both. He also had a big mouth. I never will forget the day I shot a TV segment with him. He climbed down laboriously from his second floor Venice apartment into a waiting limousine at the curb. I asked him about his limo usage. He responded: “I am chauffeured to the boxing matches and back home in a limousine and my adversary is taken to a hospital in an ambulance.”

Tony Halme appeared as "Viikinki" (the Viking), on the Finnish TV show Gladiators.

Tony got into some trouble later on when the police found illegal weapons and drugs in his apartment. He was detained and deported from the U.S. Later on Tony bounced back and got elected in the Finnish parliament (Eduskunta), on a populist platform that emphasized war veterans’ rights and shunned immigrants – refugees in particular. Frequent sick leaves marred his term and he was often incomprehensible. Then came the faithful day in July 2003. A handgun was fired in Halme’s Helsinki apartment. Tony was found inside unconscious. He remained so for days. After a DUI arrest and a stay in a mental hospital, Tony shot himself fatally in his apartment in January 2010. He was 47 years old.

Linda Lampenius had a whirlwind romance with Hollywood.

LINDA LAMPENIUS

Classically trained violinist Linda Lampenius had both looks and talent. After having excelled in music, modeling and acting In Finland, she came to Hollywood in 1997 and was instantly signed up by talent agent Mike Reynolds, who spoke very highly about her to me back then. Linda’s Hollywood premiere happened in the Century Club. She played the violin in a bikini, causing an instant sensation (if not something else as well among male audience members). TV roles in Fame L.A. and Baywatch followed. But then things started to go south. Her business relationship with manager Mike Reynolds soured amidst accusations of swindling. Lawsuits followed. Linda got a difficult reputation in Hollywood that virtually ended her career before it even had begun.

Linda turned heads in Beverly Hills.

I got to spend an afternoon with her. She was dressed in a two-piece outfit that left her midriff bare, showcasing her ample bosom. Heads turned and fire trucks honked. We had lunch in Beverly Hills. She had brought along an old issue of Playboy, in which she was featured. She showed the copy to the producers we met at Caffe Roma. With Linda, there was only one topic that was spoken all day – Linda. This was after her troubles in Hollywood. So, I asked her, if her Hollywood career was now over. She got very upset about that. I dropped her off at the Playboy Mansion, where she was staying. Later on Linda continued her musical career, moved to Sweden and married a Swedish lawyer with whom she had a daughter.

Linda Lampenius left Hollywood after a few TV roles and a whole lot of off-stage drama.

13TH SCANDINAVIAN FILM FESTIVAL L.A. – JANUARY 7, 8, 14, 15 AT WRITERS GUILD THEATER

SFFLA

 
The 13th SCANDINAVIAN FILM FESTIVAL L.A. (SFFLA) offers a smorgasbord of Nordic cinema at the Writers Guild Theater (135 S. Doheny/at Wilshire) in Beverly Hills January 7, 8, 14, 15. The program focuses on the five Nordic Oscar submissions in the context of additional current feature films, shorts and documentaries from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. The annual immersion course in Nordic film is part of the crescendo of film activity leading up to Academy Award nominations and the Awards themselves.
 
Juha Wuolijoki’s Joulutarina/Christmas story
 
Opening day, Saturday Jan 7 begins with Finnish Director Juha Wuolijoki’s feature film “Christmas Story.” It’s a film for “kids of all ages” and is preceded by a Norwegian animated short “The Last NorwegianTroll.” “Labrador (Out of Bounds)” from Danish Director Frederikke Aspock follows. “A cinematic chamber play under the open skies” the work wrestles with humanity’s efforts to keep up appearances, and clumsy ways of dealing with secrets.The day continues with an entertaining exploration of issues of gender and of justice– identity and isolation. A delightful Norwegian short, Bald Guy sets the tone, followed by a Norwegian documentary Gender Me. Then comes the Norwegian Oscar submission Happy, Happy from Norwegian filmmaker Anne Sewitsky, whose directorial debut made her a World Cinema Jury Winner at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
 
The festival opening gala leads into the evening with a reception and buffet preceding a screening of the Swedish Oscar entry– Beyond. Know for her on-screen work, the film is Pernilla August’s directorial debut and stars among others Noomi Rapace who garnered attention for her work as The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo, in the Millennium Trilogy.
 
Day two– January 8– doesn’t depart from issues of gender and justice as the day “kicks off” with the Norwegian documentary “A Balloon for Allah” from Director Nefise Ozkal Lorentzen followed by an award winning Swedish short “Bekas” from Glenn Lund. Iceland’s Oscar submission follows as “Volcano” from Director Runar Runarsson smolders, rumbles and erupts on the screen. Premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, it has been called “a mature and emotionally devastating film directed with extraordinary sensitivity.”
Nefise Ozkal Lorentzen’s A Ballon for Allah

 
The day continues with a special screening of an American film from Finnish Director Renny Harlin. Harlin, who is at home in Hollywood, is an American success story with many blockbuster films. He will present his film “Five Days of War” and be “on board” for Q & A. Next in line is the Finnish Oscar submission “Le Havre” from the inimitable Aki Kaurismaki. Is it any wonder in a global world that the Finnish Oscar submission is a film in French!?

Renny Harlin’s Five Days of War

 
The day comes to a comic climax with the Danish Oscar submission Superclasico from Director Ole Christian Madsen. Known both on-screen and as a director, Paprika Steen stars in the mad-cap film about a Danish wife and mother who absconds to Buenos Aires to become a sports agent and falls in love with one of Argentina’s biggest futbol stars, where she is pursued by her estranged husband, who is determined to win her back. “The film is risible proof that all Nordic films are dark and dreary!” says SFFLA Founder/Director James Koenig.
 
Ole Christian Madsen’s Superclasico
The second week-end unreels on Saturday January 14 with a beautiful Swedish feature documentary “Women and Cows.” Director Peter Gerdehag and shows that also in film making “the cream rises.” Once the cows are out to pasture, the day continues with an Icelandic feature film “Either Way” the feature film debut of Director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson. The film which took top prize at the Turin Film Festival is said to be reminiscent of Aki Kaurismaki’s early style–“at one and the same time” comic,naive, and semi-surrealistic. A Finnish historic period piece follows with Juha Wuolijoki’s “Hella W.” a biopic about a complex and widely talented Finnish woman of influence who as entrepreneur, playwright and politician collaborated with the likes of Bertold Brecht and Maxim Gorky and was ostracized by Finland’s intelligentsia, which disliked the popularity and incendiary politics of her plays, which are now regarded as modern classics. The afternoon continues with Finnish director Zaida Bergroth’s “The Good Son,” the story of a an actress, who after a scandalous premier takes refuge at the old family summerhouse with her two sons. After a raucous week-end party one guest stays on to arouse– in one, love, in another, suspicion.
Zaida Bergroth’s The Good Son
 

 The evening starts with the presentation of the now annual SWEA (Swedish Women’s Educational Association) film grant. This year’s recipient, Hanna Andersson, will be awarded the grant and offer her short– Erika & Sally to the SFFLA audience. Finally, the day ends with “A Rational Solution” from Swedish Director Jorgen Bergmark, whose film is described as “Two-thirds belly-laugh comedy to one-third precisely observed tragedy…a smart, funny film made for adults that focuses on passion between middle aged protagonists– one of whom played by Pernilla August whose directorial debut (Beyond) is the Swedish Oscar submission.
 
Sunday Jan 15 starts with “A Journey in my Mother’s Footsteps” from Danish director Dina Rosenmeier, sets out on a journey in the footsteps of her mother Jessie Rosenmeier who since the 1970’s has worked as an activist to improve the lives of orphans and street children in India. Then “Epoca” a short by Danish born Soren Hellerup leads to Danish feature film “Room 304,” Birgitte Staermose’s multi-plot drama which revolves around a mysterious gunshot resonating in the hallways of a Copenhagen hotel. Finnish director Johann Karento’s short “Liv” leads us into the incredible Finnish feature film “Priest of Evil” from Director Oli Saarela, following a serial killer with incredible performances from Peter Franzen and Irina Bjorklund whose work is well know to SFFLA audiences. Then it’s “Headhunters” from Norway and Director Morten Tyldum in which an accomplished headhunter risks everything to obtain a valuable painting owned by a former mercenary.
 
The festival wraps up with Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nilsson’s award winning Swedish-French comedy-crime film “Sound of Noise.” It tells the story of a group of musicians who illegally perform music on objects in various institutions of a city. The film is a follow up on a 2001 short screened at SFFLA call Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers. The title comes from the Italian futurist Luigi Russolo’s 1913 manifesto The Art of Noises.
Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson’s Sound of Noise

 
Parent organization of Scandinavian Film Festival is the American Scandinavian Foundation of Los Angeles. Support for the festival includes individuals, organizations, and corporate sponsorship, with the assistance of The Danish Film Institute, Swedish Film Institute, the Norwegian Film Institute, the Finnish Film Foundation, and the Icelandic Film Centre. The festival is proud to partner with ELMA—European Languages and Movies in America, the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, SWEA (Swedish Women’s Educational Association), the Royal Norwegian Consulate, and the Finnish Consulate, with help from the local honorary Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Icelandic Consulates in the concerted effort to bring Nordic film culture to the Los Angeles/Hollywood cultural scene.
 

For further information, and a complete schedule of all films and events, and information on becoming a donor or purchasing tickets, log on to:
http://www.sffla.net or http://www.scandinavianfilmfestivalla.com

or call 323-661-4273

 
COMPLETE SCHEDULE OF FILMS:
 
January 7, 2012
10:30 The Last Norwegian Troll (Animation 12 minutes 23 seconds)
11:00 Christmas Story (Finnish feature film) Juha Wuolijoki
1:00 Labrador/ Out of Bounds (Danish feature film 72 minutes) Frederikke Aspock
3:00 BALD GUY (Norwegian short 12 minutes)
GENDER ME (Norwegian documentary)
4:30 Happy, Happy (Norwegian Oscar submission Anne Sewitsky
6:30 Opening gala– reception, buffet
8:00 Beyond (Swedish Oscar entry) Pernilla August
 
January 8, 2012
10:30 A Balloon for Allah (Norwegian documentary 58 minutes) Ofize Okal Lorentzen
11:30 Bekas Short Sweden Glenn Lund
1:00 Volcano (Icelandic Oscar submission) Runar Runarsson
3:00 p.m. Five Days of War (Presenting Finnish director Renny Harlin with his American film).
In conjunction with Cinema Without Borders
6:00 Le Havre (Finnish Oscar submission 93 minutes) Aki Kaurismaki
8 p.m. Superclasico (Danish Oscar submission) Ole Christian Madsen
 
January 14, 20121
10:30 A Journey in my Mother’s Footsteps” Danish feature documentary 77 minutes Dina Rosenmeier
12:30 Either Way (Icelandic feature film) Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson
2:30 Hella W. (Finnish feature film) Juha Wuolijoki
5:00 Good Son (Finnish feature film 83 minutes) Zaida Bergroth
7:30 SWEA film grant presentation and screening of recipient’s short film
Erika & Sally Hanna Andersson
8:00 A Rational Solution (Swedish feature film) SWEA Reception after screening Jorgen Bergmark
 
January 15, 2012
10:30 Women with Cows Peter Gerdenhag (Swedish feature/documentary) 93 minutes
12:15 Epoca Danish short– Soren Hellerup
12:30 Room 304 (Danish feature film 88 minutes)
2:30 Liv (Finnish short Johann Karento)
2:00 Evil Priest (Finnish feature film) Oli Saarela
5:00 Headhunters (Norwegian feature film) Morten Tyldum
7:30 The Sound of Noise (Swedish feature film) Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nilsson