Not only has Elling been a huge hit at home in Norway, it has also received critical and audience acclaim around the world. Have you been surprised by the international success of Elling?
When we saw the fantastic response Elling got in Norway, we did understand that we had made a film that touched some of the basic aspects in the human being. But still, I must admit that I am surprised that it communicated so well outside Norway, and that Elling become one of these very few local films that reach an audience all over the world.
How do you feel British audiences and critics will respond to the film?
I think they will enjoy it. Scandinavians and the British share a similar sense of dry, black humour.
Norwegian films have recently received more international exposure, with films such as Elling, Cool and Crazy and Insomnia. What do you think is behind this recent renaissance?
Fortune - and a strong belief in Norway to make quality films that reach an audience.
How does the Norwegian film industry compare with the film industries in Denmark and in Sweden?
The Norwgian film industry is some years behind Denmark and Sweden. But what happened there is an inspiration for us, and shows us that small countries can make great films.
Insomnia was remade by Christopher Nolan, and Kevin Spacey (Trigger Street Productions) has picked up American remake rights for Elling. What do you feel about Elling being remade by an American production company?
It's exciting and flattering. Kevin Spacey saw the film in a private screening, and his company was one of the first companies that got in contact with me in order to buy the remake rights. I do not know how they will do it, but it will probably be a very different film.
Norway is also a fertile ground for music, with bands such as Royksopp and Kings of Convenience enjoying recognition and success in the UK at the moment. Do you feel that the UK is particularly receptive to Norwegian and Scandinavian cultural exports?
Norwegians have always been very oriented towards the UK, and are strongly influenced by British culture, football and politics. It is not surprising that this results in some cultural export the other way.
Elling is based on a successful book which has also been made into a stage play. Did you read the book or watch the play first? Why did you think it would make a good film?
I read the book. Actually, the play was a step on the way to make the film. I loved the book. It was humorous, unpretentious and easy to relate to.
Had you worked with the director and actors before making Elling? What influenced your casting of the film?
The main cast played the same roles on the stage. We tried hard to find somebody else just because we didn't want to rely on the success of the stageplay. We had three months of auditions. But it turned out that the cast we had from the very start was the best.
Is it easy to fund films in Norway? Did you have to look abroad for finance?
In a small country like Norway all film production relies on government funding. If the commissioning editors at the fund think your project is great and believe in you as a producer, it is possible to get most of the money for your film. The hard thing is to find a great project. For Elling, we got a major investment from the Norwegian filmfond and support from the Nordic film & tv fund. The rest of the money was a bank loan with my private house as security.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
Our new film "Jonny Vang" is opening in Norway in February. And then we start shooting a new film about Elling based on another book. It takes place some years before the first film, and focuses on Elling and his mother.