Renny Harlin

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Renny Harlin
Born Lauri Mauritz Harjola
(1959-03-15) 15 March 1959 (age 58)
Riihimäki, Finland
Occupation Director
Years active 1980–present
Spouse(s) Geena Davis (1993–1998)
Children with Tiffany Browne:
Luukas Mattison Mauritz (b. 1997)

Renny Harlin (born Lauri Mauritz Harjola; 15 March 1959) is a Finnish film director, producer and screenwriter. His films include A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Deep Blue Sea and Driven.

Harlin's movies have earned $525,410,873 in the United States and $1,160,546,146 in the worldwide aggregate box office as of October 2016, making him the 115th highest-grossing director in the global film market.[1] His film Cutthroat Island held the Guinness world record for "Biggest Box-Office Flop of All Time".[2]

Life and career[edit]

Early life and work[edit]

Harlin was born in Riihimäki, Finland, to a nurse and a physician.[3]

Harlin started his career in the film business in the beginning of 1980s, directing commercials and company films for companies like Shell. Later, he worked as a buyer for a Finnish film distributor and met Finnish 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 USA, and in 1986 Born American became the most expensive Finnish film ever opened in the USA in over 1,000 theaters and reached number 9.[4]

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 the first didn't 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.[4]

Breakthrough and the 1990s[edit]

After the success of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master Harlin was set to direct Alien 3. He was attached in the project for a little over a year, but in the end he was forced to leave the project due to creative differences with the producers.[5]

The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and 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.

1993's Cliffhanger had him work for the first time with Sylvester Stallone.

Harlin's career suffered a blow with the pirate adventure film Cutthroat Island in 1995.

Cutthroat Island was followed by Long Kiss Goodnight in 1996 and Deep Blue Sea in 1998.


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 when the studio was unhappy with the psychological drama cut by director Paul Schrader.[6] Due to the delays with Mindhunters, both films ended up being released in 2004 and both were moderate successes.[citation needed]

Harlin directed the WWE Studios action movie 12 Rounds, starring John Cena. It was released in March 2009.[7]

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. In the film, President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili was played by Cuban-American actor Andy García.[8]

2010s and move to China[edit]

In April 2012, it was announced that Harlin would direct Devil's Pass set in Russia’s Ural Mountains. The fact-based film dealt with the Dyatlov Pass incident in 1959, when nine experienced hikers were found dead. The film was released in 2013.[9]

On February 4, 2013, it was announced that Harlin would direct The Legend of Hercules, which opened in theatres on January 10, 2014.[10]

On May 19, 2014, Harlin was set to direct the action comedy film Skiptrace, with Jackie Chan set to star along with Seann William Scott and Fan Bingbing.[11] However, on September 3, 2014, it was reported that Johnny Knoxville would fill the role previously thought to be played by Scott.[12] The film and his work in China promise new success for Harlin.[13]

On June 2016, it was announced Harlin will directed Legend of the Ancient Sword at Alibaba Pictures, based on a Chinese role-playing video game.[14]

On June 16, 2017, it was announced Harlin will direct Hanging Coffins for Shanghai Film Group and Shanghai New Wave Films.[15]

On June 18, 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 forces.[16]

Unproduced films[edit]

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.[17] 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 Marshall 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. Production began in 2008 with Mikko Nousiainen starring as Mannerheim. However, 30% of the funding was cut by one of the financiers due to the global economic 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.[18]

In 2007, it was announced that Harlin would direct an adaptation of the comic-book series Brodie's Law.[19]

In 2011 it was reported that he was planning a sequel to The Long Kiss Goodnight.[20]



Year Film Notes
1986 Born American
1987 Prison
1988 A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Director
1990 The Adventures of Ford Fairlane Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
Die Hard 2
1993 Cliffhanger
1995 Cutthroat Island Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
1996 The Long Kiss Goodnight
1999 Deep Blue Sea
2001 Driven Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
2004 Mindhunters
Exorcist: The Beginning Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
2006 The Covenant
2007 Cleaner
2009 12 Rounds
2011 5 Days of War
2013 Devil's Pass
2014 The Legend of Hercules Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
2016 Skiptrace
TBA Legend of the Ancient Sword
TBA Hanging Coffins
TBA Operation Somalia

Short films[edit]

  • Custody (1980) under his birth name Lauri Harjola


  • Kohtauspaikka 33 (1981) under the name Lauri Harjola
  • T.R.A.X. (2000)
  • Burn Notice (Season 5, Episodes 514 & 518 [Season Finale], 2011, and Season 6, Episodes 606 & 610, 2012)
  • White Collar (Season 4, Episode 409, 2012)
  • Covert Affairs (Season 3, Episode 316 [Season Finale], 2012)
  • Graceland (Season 1, Episodes 103, 105 & 108, 2013)


  1. ^ "US and worldwide domestic box office data". October 30, 2016. 
  2. ^ Rabin, Nathan (July 23, 2008). "My Year Of Flops, Extra-Piratey Case File #114: Cutthroat Island". The A.V. Club. 
  3. ^ "Renny Harlin Biography (1959-)". Film Reference. 
  4. ^ a b "Renny Harlin Biography". IMDb. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Variety. "Nothing left of Paul Schrader's EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING". Retrieved 22 July 2007. 
  7. ^ Lee, Nathan (March 27, 2009). "Movie Review - 12 Rounds (2009)". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ "Movie star plays Georgian leader". BBC News. October 2009. Retrieved 21 October 2009. 
  9. ^ Williams, Owen (24 April 2012). "Renny Harlin Heads For Dyatlov Pass". Empire. 
  10. ^ Kit, Borys (4 February 2013). "Renny Harlin Set to Direct 'Hercules 3D' for Millennium (Exclusive)". Hollywood report. 
  11. ^ "Renny Harlin Takes Helm Of Jackie Chan Action Comedy ‘Skiptrace’". 19 May 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  12. ^ "Johnny Knoxville, Not Seann Wiliam Scott, in Jackie Chan's 'Skiptrace'". 3 September 2014. Retrieved 4 September 2014. 
  13. ^ "Renny Harlin Pulls Off Blockbuster Comeback in China with Jackie Chan action comedy Skiptrace". 1 September 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2017. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ Brzeski, Patrick (June 16, 2017). "Shanghai: Renny Harlin to Direct Chinese Thriller 'The Hanging Coffin'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 16, 2017. 
  16. ^ Brzeski, Patrick (June 18, 2017). "Shanghai: Renny Harlin to Direct Chinese Actioner 'Operation Somalia'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 18, 2017. 
  17. ^ Kurtz, Frank. "Harlin Fired From THUNDER?". 
  18. ^ "Dome Karukoski will produce Mannerheim film with a smaller budget than Renny Harlin". 
  19. ^ Jensen, Jorn Rossing (February 21, 2007). "Renny Harlin to make his first film in Finland in 20 years". Screen Daily. 
  20. ^ Abaius, Cole (August 19, 2011). "Renny Harlin Taps ‘Burn Notice’ Writer for ‘Long Kiss Goodnight’ Sequel". Film School Rejects. 

External links[edit]