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Renny Lauri Mauritz Harlin (Harjola)

Birthplace: Riihimäki, Finland
Immediate Family:

Son of Oiva Aarne Harjola and Liisa Leena Margareta Harjola
Husband of Private
Ex-husband of Geena Davis
Ex-partner of Private
Father of Private
Brother of Private

Occupation: Moviedirector, filmregissör, elokuvaohjaaja
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Renny Harlin

Renny Harlin (born Renny Lauri Mauritz Harjola, 15 March 1959) is a Finnish-American film director and producer. He is best known for Die Hard 2 (1990), Cliffhanger (1993), The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) and Deep Blue Sea (1999). His film Cutthroat Island (1995) is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest box office flop of all time.

Early life

Renny Harlin was born in Riihimäki, Finland to a nurse mother and a physician father. His mother often took him to see films at the cinema as a child, particularly those of Alfred Hitchcock, and he became enamored with the movies often citing Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969) as one of his favourites. Harlin had a video camera from a very early age and made his first short at the age of 12. At the age of 14 he decided to became a film director after he saw Don Siegel and Charles Bronson in Helsinki for the filming of Telefon (1977).

In 1980, Harlin was working as a commercial director for companies such as Shell Oil while he wrote and directed the 6-minute short Huostaanotto (a.k.a. Custody International) which received its belated premier on Finnish television on 4 November 1979. The following year, 1981, he was assistant cameraman on Läpimurto (a.k.a. The Breakthrough), directed by Janne Kuusi, and made a cameo appearance as a police officer. That same year he was also cinematographer on two short films; Posliinikissa directed by Kari Paljakka, and Jos minä olisin aikuinen directed by Per-Olof Strandberg. He then made the documentary short Hold On which won the Best Short Subject Award at the 1982 national film board awards hosted by YLE.

Harlin started working as a buyer for a Finnish film-distribution company and while on a business trip to L.A. he met up with aspiring film writer/producer Markus Selin. The two Finns would become long-term friends and collaborators. They quickly set to work on the script for their first film Born American (a.k.a. Arctic Heat). This was a feature length action movie about three Americans vacationing in Finland who cross the border into the Soviet Union. It was originally supposed to star Chuck Norris but he backed out when filming was delayed by funding problems and his son, Mike Norris, landed the lead instead. A Finnish production, this was at that the time the most expensive film ever to have been made in Finland but it was initially banned in Finland for a very short while as the film encouraged violence and hatred towards Russians. The international success of the film allowed Harlin to get his foot in the door in Hollywood.

Success in Hollywood

Harlin moved to the U.S. where he was initially put to work directing low-budget horror movies, but commercial success was soon to follow. In 1988, Irwin Yablans of Empire Pictures hired him to direct Viggo Mortensen, Chelsea Field and Lane Smith in the low-budget horror film Prison filmed at a former state prison in Rawlins, Wyoming. That same year Robert Shaye of New Line Cinema, after some initial doubts, hired him to direct another low-budget horror film, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, which became the highest grossing independent film at that time by earning $49 million in the US. Harlin cameos in the film as a student while a publicity poster for Prison can be seen in the background of a scene in a movie theatre.

Following this success 20th Century Fox approached Harlin with science fiction/horror sequel Alien 3. After working on the trouble-prone project for a year, he left in 1990 claiming not to be satisfied with any of the multiple scripts that had been drafted and stating that he wanted to do something completely different. The next day the studio offered him rock-and-roll comedy The Adventures of Ford Fairlane starring stand-up comic Andrew Dice Clay. Studio executives were so impressed by the dailies on this film that they offered Harlin action sequel Die Hard 2 starring Bruce Willis, which he set to work on immediately. The two films were edited simultaneously and were released just a week apart after being shipped to the theaters as "wet prints". The former flopped but the latter was another commercial success for the director. He achieved critical acclaim the following year, 1991, when he produced Rambling Rose, through his own recently formed Midnight Sun Pictures, for director Martha Coolidge which won him the Best Feature award at the 1992 Independent Spirit Awards and got his star and then partner Laura Dern a Best Actress Oscar nomination at the 1992 Academy Awards.

1993 was a big year for Harlin. Mario Kassar of Carolco Pictures, who had worked with him on Rambling Rose, offered him Gale Force a film about hurricanes with Sylvester Stallone attached to star. Harlin initially turned down the offer due to the script's similarities to Die Hard 2 but Kassar kept offering a bigger salary, changing the pay scale of Hollywood directors, until Harlin accepted. The film's projected cost spiraled and eventually the plug was pulled, but the project went on to evolve into Cliffhanger. This film was another commercial success and is credited with reviving Stallone’s flagging career. The actor became good friends with Harlin. This same year Harlin married American actress Geena Davis and also found time to return to his homeland to write and direct the TV series Gladiaattorit (the Finnish version of American Gladiators) with old friend and collaborator Markus Selin.

Later career in Hollywood

Returning to Hollywood, Harlin and his new wife formed a production company known as The Forge. Through this company Harlin produced comedy film Speechless for director Ron Underwood which got star Davis a 1995 Golden Globe nomination.

In 1995, Harlin set to work on a pirate movie called Cutthroat Island with Michael Douglas attached to star. Harlin convinced producer Mario Kassar that, despite being known for light-weight comedy roles, his wife Geena Davis was perfect for the female love interest in this action blockbuster. After Kassar agreed Harlin set about beefing up Davis’ role until Douglas left the production giving her the lead. The $92 million production, in which Harlin cameos as a pirate, went on to be a major critical and commercial failure entering the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest loss of money for a studio ever. That studio, Carolco Pictures, went bankrupt as a result. Undeterred Harlin returned to New Line Cinema in 1996 for his next production and action/thriller called The Long Kiss Goodnight starring Davis and Samuel L. Jackson. This was another commercial failure that effectively ended Davis' movie career. The couple went on to executive produce the HBO TV movie Mistrial but the marriage was virtually over.

Harlin and Davis were divorced in 1998, after he acknowledged fathering a son in 1997 with Tiffany Browne, an assistant on several of his films. That same year (1998), looking for a summer blockbuster for 1999, Warner Bros. re-teamed Harlin with Jackson for the shark movie Deep Blue Sea. The film, in which Harlin cameos, was mistakenly thought to be a comedy by some and was not the box office hit the studio had wanted. It did, however, make a respectable $73 million domestically and $164 million worldwide. Harlin went on to produce the comedy Blast from the Past through both The Forge and Midnight Sun Pictures for director Hugh Wilson. The following year, 2000, he returned to TV appearing in a couple of episodes of old friend Markus Selin's Finnish series Susi rajalla and directing the pilot episode for Fox Television's T.R.A.X. which was not picked-up. At this relative low point in his career, in 2001, it was old friend Sylvester Stallone, who helped Harlin out by bringing him on board as producer and director of race-car movie Driven in which he also cameos, however the final product was a yet another critical and commercial failure.

Harlin's next project was to be a movie adaptation of Ray Bradbury short story A Sound of Thunder but he was fired because he made a creative decision that made Ray Bradbury very unhappy (and this film's producers decided to support Ray Bradbury).

Harlin picked up the reins on slasher movie Mindhunters when original director Peter Howitt dropped out and spent a long time editing and re-editing this thriller but the release was delayed by studio conflicts. He then went on to re-shoot a more traditional horror version of Exorcist: The Beginning when the studio were unhappy with the psychological drama cut from director Paul Schrader. Due to the delays with Mindhunters both films ended up being released in 2004 and both were moderate successes.

In 2006, Harlin re-teamed with old friend and collaborator Markus Selin to direct a biopic of Finnish President and General of the Cavalry Gustaf Mannerheim, but the budget projection spiraled and the project was put on hold. Instead Harlin made yet another foray into low-budget horror with The Covenant, which was another moderate commercial success. In 2007 the Mannerheim film project temporarily moved on, and Harlin returned to Finland. Production began in 2008 with Mikko Nousiainen starring as Mannerheim. However, 30% of the funding was cut by one of the financiers with reference to the current global economic recession, and the delay over winter meant that the time window for shooting the winter scenes during the spring of 2009 passed. The project has an uncertain future, but Harlin remains confident.

Harlin directed the WWE Studios action movie 12 Rounds, starring John Cena, which was his first film collaboration with 20th Century Fox since 1990's Die Hard 2. It was released 27 March 2009.

Despite Harlin's string of failures since the mid-1990s, he is still ranked as one of the top-grossing directors of all time, with his movies having produced a combined U.S. domestic gross of $506,543,064 as of June 2010, which places him 86th on the list of highest grossing directors (based on U.S. domestic gross revenue alone).

He was in Georgia in 2009 shooting 5 Days of War, a film depicting the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia in the region of South Ossetia. Filming began in the beginning of October 2009, and ended mid-November. In the film, President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili is played by Cuban-American Hollywood actor Andy García. The film failed to get a cinema release and went straight to DVD in 2011.

Harlin had been involved with the film Mannerheim, based on the life of Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, since 2000. Despite a decade long problem with financing the movie its pre-production commenced in 2010. However, Ilta-Sanomat has now reported that Harlin has now abandoned the project due to a lack of faith in its success. In August 2011 the project was assigned to director Dome Karukoski. Harlin has however expressed interest in filming his own version of Mannerheim in the future.

In 2010, Harlin also served as a judge in screenwriting contest The Script-a-thon and selected "Crawl" by Gregory Scott Houghton as the winner in the action category.

In 2011, Harlin directed the episodes Fail Safe and Breaking Point on the TV series Burn Notice.

Future projects

In pre-production is an adaption of the comic-book series Brodie's Law.

Currently he is planning a sequel to The Long Kiss Goodnight.

Projects outside film industry

Harlin has been involved in few projects outside the film industry. In the 1990s Harlin was involved in establishing the Planet Hollywood restaurant in Helsinki. At the same time he was one of the new owners of the Planet FunFun indoor amusement park in Kerava (previously known as Fanfaari). Both the restaurant and amusement park were short-lived ventures, lasting only a few years before they were closed.


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Renny Harlin's Timeline

March 15, 1959
Riihimäki, Finland