Renny Harlin

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Renny Harlin
Renny Harlin 2 (cropped).jpg
Harlin in 2017
Lauri Harjola[1]

(1959-03-15) 15 March 1959 (age 63)
Riihimäki, Finland
United States
Years active1980–present
(m. 1993; div. 1998)
Johanna Kokkila
(m. 2021)

Renny Harlin (born 15 March 1959) is a Finnish film director, producer, and screenwriter who has made his career in Hollywood and China. His best-known films include A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Deep Blue Sea.

Harlin's films have grossed over $520 million in the United States and over $1.2 billion in the worldwide aggregate box office, making him the 151st highest-grossing director in the global film market as of October 2022,[2] and the most internationally successful Finnish filmmaker in terms of revenue. His 1993 film Cliffhanger is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the costliest aerial stunt ever performed. His 1995 film Cutthroat Island held the Guinness World Record for the former category "Largest box office loss".[3]

Early life, family and education[edit]

Harlin was born Renny Lauri Mauritz Harjola in Riihimäki, Finland. His father was Oiva Harjola (formerly Harlin), a chief physician at Riihimäki Hospital, and his mother was Liisa Koskiluoma, a nurse.[1][4] Since 1987, Renny's surname has been Harlin, his father's original surname.[1] Renny has a half-brother, Veli-Pekka Harjola, who competed at the 1984 Summer Olympics in sprint canoeing.


Early years[edit]

After studying at the University of Art and Design Helsinki,[5] Harlin started his career in the film business in the beginning of the 1980s, directing commercials and company films for companies like Shell. Later, he worked as a buyer for a Finnish film distributor and met fellow Finn Markus Selin in Los Angeles in 1982. They became friends and started writing a screenplay called "Arctic Heat", which later evolved into Born American, with Mike Norris in the leading role. They secured financing from the U.S., and in 1986, Born American became the most expensive Finnish film ever. It opened in the U.S. in over 1,000 theaters.[6] By July 9, 1986, he set up his own production company with partner Markus Selin, Larmark Productions, with the first two projects went low-budget, and it was a Los Angeles-based production company.[7]

Harlin moved to Los Angeles and got a job from Irwin Yablans, who offered him a script of Prison to film. The film was made with a low budget and distributed with only 42 copies. In the same year, 1988, he got a job from New Line Cinema to direct A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) after meeting producer Robert Shaye, who at first did not want Harlin to direct the film. It became the highest-grossing film in the series until the 2003 release of Freddy vs. Jason, and its budget was seven times greater than the original A Nightmare on Elm Street.[6]

Breakthrough and the 1990s[edit]

After the success of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Harlin was set to direct the science-fiction thriller Alien 3. He was attached to the project for a little over a year, but he left due to creative differences with the producers.[8]

The comedy The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and the action thriller Die Hard 2 were edited simultaneously and released a week apart in 1990. The former flopped, but the latter was a commercial success. Harlin achieved critical acclaim the following year when he produced Rambling Rose through his own Midnight Sun Pictures for director Martha Coolidge. The film won Best Feature at the 1992 Independent Spirit Awards and earned its star and Harlin's then-partner Laura Dern a Best Actress Oscar nomination at the 1992 Academy Awards.

Harlin, Markus Selin and a number of other businessmen founded the indoor amusement park Planet FunFun in Kerava, Finland, in 1992, which included everything from a tropical park to a cinema park, the latter of which Harlin also gave his own special stamp to by loaning his film sets and props to special theme rooms. The park also hosted sports competitions and filmed television series. However Planet FunFun was short-lived, closing in 1995.[9]

1993's action thriller Cliffhanger was Harlin's first film with Sylvester Stallone. Harlin's career suffered a blow with the pirate adventure film Cutthroat Island in 1995, which starred Harlin's then-wife, Geena Davis. Cutthroat Island was one of the biggest box-office bombs of all time, losing $147 million and leading to the bankruptcy of Carolco Pictures.[10] Harlin did go on to have moderate success with Long Kiss Goodnight, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Davis in 1996, and the science fiction horror film Deep Blue Sea in 1999.


Harlin wanted to direct a movie based on Formula One, but unable to secure the rights, he instead produced the film Driven in 2001, based on the American Champ Car series.

Harlin took over directing the action mystery film Mindhunters when the original director Peter Howitt dropped out, but the release was delayed by studio conflicts. Harlin went on to re-shoot a more traditional horror version of Exorcist: The Beginning (2004), after the studio was unhappy with the version cut by director Paul Schrader, which was more of a psychological drama.[11] Mindhunters was released in the US in 2005.

Harlin directed the WWE Studios action movie 12 Rounds, starring John Cena. It was released in March 2009.[12] In 2009, Harlin directed an independent war film in Georgia. The film, 5 Days of War, was a story about the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia in the region of South Ossetia. The film included real-life figures, including Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, played by Andy García.[13]

2010s and move to China[edit]

Harlin next directed the 2013 film Devil's Pass, set in Russia's Ural Mountains and loosely based on the Dyatlov Pass incident in 1959, when nine experienced hikers were found dead. Harlin then directed The Legend of Hercules, which opened in theatres on 10 January 2014.[14] One of two Hercules movies released in 2014 – the other being Hercules, starring Dwayne Johnson – it was critically panned and was a box-office bomb.

Harlin directed the 2016 action comedy film Skiptrace, which starred Jackie Chan alongside Johnny Knoxville and Fan Bingbing.[15] He then directed the 2018 film Legend of the Ancient Sword for Alibaba Pictures, based on a Chinese role-playing video game.[16] The film was a box-office bomb, grossing only $1.25 million against a budget of $11 million.[17] More recently, his film The Misfits received U.S. and international deals.[18]

In 2021, he was selected as jury member at 11th Beijing International Film Festival for Tiantan Awards.[19]

Unproduced and upcoming films[edit]

In 1999, Harlin began developing the action-comedy Nosebleed at New Line Cinema, starring Jackie Chan as a window washer who foils a terrorist attack to destroy the World Trade Center.[20] The film was delayed after changing studios to MGM in May 2001.[21] After the September 11 attacks the plot was drastically rewritten ultimately before being completely shelved.[22] Chan later told Oriental Daily News that the film was scheduled to begin filming at the North Tower less than two hours before it was hit by American Airlines Flight 11, and that he only escaped the attack because he made a last-minute decision to travel to Toronto to begin filming The Tuxedo instead.[20] However, Chan's claim has been criticized as improbable since the production was delayed after the change in studios and since he was contracted for the production of The Tuxedo in Toronto months before the attacks.[21]

Harlin's next project after Driven was to be a movie adaptation of the Ray Bradbury short story A Sound of Thunder, but Harlin left the project after a disagreement with Bradbury.[23] Although the director was changed, Harlin was credited as a producer when the finished film was released in 2005.

In 2006, Harlin collaborated with Markus Selin to direct a biopic of the Finnish President and Marshal of Finland Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, but budget constraints put the project on hold. Instead, Harlin made another foray into low-budget horror with The Covenant, which was another moderate commercial success. In 2007 the Mannerheim film project resumed temporarily and Harlin returned to Finland. The screenplay was written by Heikki Vihinen and Marko Leino, and was scheduled to be the largest film production in Finnish history.[24] Production began in 2008 with Mikko Nousiainen starring as Mannerheim, and the film was to premiere in Helsinki on January 15, 2010.[24] However, 30% of the funding was cut by one of the financiers due to the Great Recession, and the delay meant that the time window for shooting the winter scenes during the spring of 2009 passed. Pre-production finally commenced in 2010, and the project was assigned to Dome Karukoski in August 2011.[25]

In 2007, it was announced that Harlin would direct an adaptation of the comic-book series Brodie's Law.[26]

In 2011 it was reported that he was planning a sequel to The Long Kiss Goodnight.[27]

On 16 June 2017 it was announced Harlin will direct Hanging Coffins for Shanghai Film Group and Shanghai New Wave Films.[28] On 18 June 2017, it was announced Harlin will direct Operation Somalia. The film's story, based on true events, revolves around a rescue operation against Somali pirates mounted by Chinese Special Operations Forces.[29] On 8 May 2018, it was announced Harlin will direct Solara, a Chinese sci-fi epic revolving around an international team that must work together to save Earth from a global catastrophe.[30] On 18 June 2018 it was announced Harlin will direct Operation Wild.[31]

On January 19, 2021, it was announced that Harlin will direct the new Inspector Palmu film, based on a character created by Finnish writer Mika Waltari.[32][33][34]

Personal life[edit]

Harlin was married to actress Geena Davis from 1993 to 1998.[35] Harlin was unfaithful to Davis and she filed for divorce shortly after her personal secretary, Tiffany Bowne, gave birth to Harlin's first child, Luukas "Luke" Harlin, in August 1997.[36] Since September 2021, Harlin has been married to fitness athlete and school teacher Johanna Harlin née Kokkila.[37][38] They have a baby girl who was born in Miami, Florida, in July 2022.[39]

Harlin lived in the United States from the mid-1980s until 2014, when he moved to China.[40][41] After Harlin finished the shooting of the Finnish film Reunion 3: Singles Cruise in 2020, he moved to Sofia, Bulgaria.[42]



Year Film Director Producer Writer Notes
1986 Born American Yes No Yes
1987 Prison Yes No No Uncredited writer
1988 A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master Yes No No Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Director
1990 The Adventures of Ford Fairlane Yes No No Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
Die Hard 2 Yes No No
1991 Rambling Rose No Yes No Winner—Independent Spirit Award
1993 Cliffhanger Yes No No
1994 Speechless No Yes No
1995 Cutthroat Island Yes Yes No Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
1996 Mistrial No Executive No
The Long Kiss Goodnight Yes Yes No
1999 Blast from the Past No Yes No
Deep Blue Sea Yes No No
2001 Driven Yes Yes No Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
2004 Mindhunters Yes Executive No
Exorcist: The Beginning Yes No No Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
2006 The Covenant Yes No No
2007 Cleaner Yes No No
2009 12 Rounds Yes No No
2011 The Resident No Executive No
5 Days of War Yes Yes No
2013 Devil's Pass Yes Yes No
2014 The Legend of Hercules Yes Yes Yes Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
2016 Skiptrace Yes No No
2018 Legend of the Ancient Sword Yes No No
2019 Bodies at Rest Yes No No
2021 The Misfits Yes No No Nominated —Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
2021 Reunion 3: Singles Cruise Yes No Yes
2022 The Refuge Yes Yes No
2023 The Bricklayer Yes No No Filming[43]
TBA Untitled third The Strangers film Yes No No Filming[44]

Short films[edit]

Year Title Director Producer Writer Notes
1980 Huostaanotto Yes No Yes as Lauri Harjola
1981 Kohtauspaikka 33 Yes Yes No as Lauri Harjola
1994 The Foot Shooting Party No Yes No


Year Title Director Producer Writer Notes
1993–1994 Gladiaattorit Yes Yes Yes Wrote and produced 54 episodes, directed 21 episodes
2011–2012 Burn Notice Yes No No Season 5, Episodes 514 & 518 [Season Finale], and Season 6, Episodes 606 & 610
2012 White Collar Yes No No Season 4, Episode 409
2012 Covert Affairs Yes No No Season 3, Episode 316 [Season Finale]
2013 Graceland Yes No No Season 1, Episodes 103, 105 & 108


  1. ^ a b c Harjola, Tuula (2009). Lähikuvassa Renny Harlin (in Finnish). Helsinki, Finland: Otava. p. 246. ISBN 978-951-1-22974-2. OCLC 636254425.
  2. ^ "Renny Harlin - Box Office". The Numbers. Retrieved 2022-10-22.
  3. ^ "Largest box office loss". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 2021-10-16.
  4. ^ "Renny Harlin Biography (1959-)". Film Reference.
  5. ^ Kuka kukin on — Who’s Who in Finland 2007, p. 179. Helsinki 2006. ISBN 951-1-20606-0
  6. ^ a b "Renny Harlin Biography". IMDb.
  7. ^ "Finnish 'American' Duo Forms L.A.-Based Co". Variety. 1986-07-09. p. 6.
  8. ^ "Renny Harlin interview: 12 Rounds, Die Hard, and the Alien 3 that never was". Den of Geek. 27 May 2009.
  9. ^ Matilainen, Ville (2013-10-08). "Renny Harlinin Planet FunFunin piti tarjota kaikille jotain" [Renny Harlin’s Planet FunFun was supposed to offer something for everyone]. Yleisradio (in Finnish). Retrieved 2021-12-12.
  10. ^ Kantor, Jonathan H. (2019-07-01). "Inside 'Cutthroat Island,' The Cinematic Flop Accused Of Extinguishing The Pirate Genre". Retrieved 2021-10-16.
  11. ^ Variety. "Nothing left of Paul Schrader's Exorcist: The Beginning". Archived from the original on 23 September 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2007.
  12. ^ Lee, Nathan (March 27, 2009). "Movie Review - 12 Rounds (2009)". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Esslemont, Tom (20 October 2009). "Movie star plays Georgian leader". BBC News. Retrieved 21 October 2009.
  14. ^ Kit, Borys (4 February 2013). "Renny Harlin Set to Direct 'Hercules 3D' for Millennium (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter.
  15. ^ "Renny Harlin Takes Helm Of Jackie Chan Action Comedy 'Skiptrace'". 19 May 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  16. ^ Rahman, Abid (June 13, 2016). "China's Alibaba Pictures Sets Renny Harlin-Directed 'Legend of the Ancient Sword'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  17. ^ "Fantasy video game adaptation is box office flop in China's 'golden week'". 2 October 2018.
  18. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (2021-03-09). "Renny Harlin's Pierce Brosnan Starrer 'The Misfits' Gets U.S. & Int'l Deals, First Look Image". Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  19. ^ Shackleton, Liz (21 July 2021). "Beijing film festival unveils line-up for 2021 physical edition". Screen Daily. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  20. ^ a b "The cancelled Jackie Chan movie with uncanny parallels to 9/11". 2017-09-11. Retrieved 2021-06-05.
  21. ^ a b "Jackie Chan WTC Escape". 9 March 2008. Retrieved 2021-06-05.
  22. ^ Goldstein, Patrick (2001-09-25). "A Turn of Events, a Change in Plot". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2021-06-05.
  23. ^ Kurtz, Frank. "Harlin Fired From THUNDER?".
  24. ^ a b Jensen, Jorn Rossing. "Renny Harlin's Finnish biopic Mannerheim delayed due to financing". Retrieved 2021-09-14.
  25. ^ "Dome Karukoski will produce Mannerheim film with a smaller budget than Renny Harlin". Archived from the original on October 28, 2011. Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  26. ^ Jensen, Jorn Rossing (February 21, 2007). "Renny Harlin to make his first film in Finland in 20 years".
  27. ^ Abaius, Cole (August 19, 2011). "Renny Harlin Taps 'Burn Notice' Writer for 'Long Kiss Goodnight' Sequel". Film School Rejects.
  28. ^ Brzeski, Patrick (June 16, 2017). "Shanghai: Renny Harlin to Direct Chinese Thriller 'The Hanging Coffin'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 16, 2017.
  29. ^ Brzeski, Patrick (June 18, 2017). "Shanghai: Renny Harlin to Direct Chinese Actioner 'Operation Somalia'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  30. ^ Brzeski, Patrick (May 8, 2018). "Cannes: Renny Harlin Launches Chinese Production Company". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  31. ^ Frater, Patrick (June 18, 2018). "Renny Harlin's Extraordinary Entertainment Sets Deal With India's B4U". Variety. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  32. ^ "Renny Harlin ohjaa uuden Komisario Palmu -elokuvan, joka perustuu Waltarin ennen julkaisemattomaan käsikirjoitukseen" [Renny Harlin directs new Inspector Palmu, based on Waltar's previously unpublished screenplay]. (in Finnish). 19 January 2021.
  33. ^ "Komisario Palmu palaa valkokankaalle – Renny Harlin ohjaa ensimmäisen uuden Palmu-leffan" [Inspector Palmu returns to the big screen — Renny Harlin directs the first new Palmu film]. (in Finnish). 19 January 2021.
  34. ^ Mecca, Dan (11 June 2021). "The B-Side – In Conversation with Renny Harlin". The Film Stage. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  35. ^ "Reports: Geena Davis' 4th husband files for divorce". Newsday. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  36. ^ "Renny Harlin works for the first time with his son Luukas, 22 — the success director sensitized to tears: 'So proud'". Tellerreport. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  37. ^ Sirén, Bille (17 July 2022). "Ex-lucian Johanna Harlin vill ha fem barn med sin stjärnregissör". Hufvudstadsbladet (in Swedish). Helsingfors. pp. 30–31.
  38. ^ Simoinen, Karoliina (2021-09-20). "Renny ja Johanna Harlin vihittiin Ranskassa" (in Finnish). Iltalehti. Retrieved 2021-10-10.
  39. ^ Lahti, Jenna; Hakulinen, Juulia (2022-07-19). "Johanna ja Renny Harlinin vauva syntyi: herkkä päivitys pienokaisesta julki". Ilta-Sanomat (in Finnish). Retrieved 2022-10-19.
  40. ^ Toivonen, Hannu (December 12, 2012). "Renny Harlin: 'Moni nainen ei ole pärjännyt rinnallani'" [Renny Harlin: 'A lot of women haven’t caught up with me'] (in Finnish). Seura. Retrieved July 17, 2019. ... vuoden 1984, jolloin ... Renny Harlin poistui Suomesta Yhdysvaltoihin ...
  41. ^ Mattila, Sanni (July 17, 2019). "Renny Harlin, 60, kiinalaisen rakkaansa Kayn, 25, kanssa lomailemassa Suomessa - Pariskunta kertoo avoimesti rakkaustarinan alusta" [Renny Harlin, 60, on holiday with his Chinese lover Kayn, 25 — The couple openly tells the beginning of a love story]. (in Finnish). Retrieved July 17, 2019. Viisi vuotta Kiinassa asunut Ohjaaja ... En kaipaa Amerikassa asumista yhtään, vaikka asuin siellä 30 vuotta.
  42. ^ He now has daughter Coco Liisa Maria Harlin worh spouse Johanna Harlin.Vuorensola, Annika (December 6, 2020). "Renny Harlinilla on takanaan rakkauden kesä: 'En ollut ymmärtänyt, millaista energiaa Suomen luonto antaa'" [Renny Harlin has a summer of love behind him: 'I hadn't understood what kind of energy Finland's nature gives']. Apu (in Finnish). Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  43. ^ Wichmann, Anna (March 16, 2022). "Filming for Hollywood Film "The Bricklayer" Begins in Thessaloniki". Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  44. ^ ""The Strangers" Remake Trilogy in production! Madelaine Petsch set to lead". September 13, 2022. Retrieved September 13, 2022. {{cite web}}: |first= missing |last= (help)

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