Renny Harlin

Renny Harlin (born 15 March 1959 as Renny Lauri Mauritz Harjola; known since 1987 as Harlin by his father's original surname[1]) is a Finnish film director, producer and screenwriter. His 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.

Renny Harlin
Renny Harlin (cropped).jpg
Harlin on 28 June 2017
Renny Lauri Mauritz Harjola[1]

(1959-03-15) 15 March 1959 (age 61)
OccupationFilm director, film producer, screenwriter
Years active1980–present
(m. 1993; div. 1998)

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.[2] His film Cutthroat Island held the Guinness world record for "Biggest Box-Office Flop of All Time".[3]

Early lifeEdit

Harlin was born in Riihimäki, Finland, to Oiva Harjola (formerly Harlin), a chief physician at Riihimäki Hospital, and Liisa Koskiluoma, a nurse.[1][4]


Early careerEdit

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.[5]

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.[5]

Breakthrough and the 1990sEdit

After the success of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Harlin was set to direct Alien 3. He was attached to the project for a little over a year, but in the end, he was forced to leave due to creative differences with the producers.[6]

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.

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.[7]

1993's action thriller Cliffhanger had Harlin work for the first time 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. 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.[8] Mindhunters was released in the U.S. in 2005.

Harlin directed the WWE Studios action movie 12 Rounds, starring John Cena. It was released in March 2009.[9] 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 President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, played by Andy García.[10]

2010s and move to ChinaEdit

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. At the film's climax, the main character, played by Matt Stokoe, gets attacked by a mutant version of himself from the future.[11] Harlin then directed The Legend of Hercules, which opened in theatres on January 10, 2014.[12] 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 Seann William Scott and Fan Bingbing.[13] He then directed the 2018 film Legend of the Ancient Sword for Alibaba Pictures, based on a Chinese role-playing video game.[14] The film was a box-office bomb, grossing only $1.25 million against a budget of $11 million.[15]

Unproduced filmsEdit

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.[16] 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.[17]

In 2007, it was announced that Harlin would direct an adaptation of the comic-book series Brodie's Law.[18]

In 2011 it was reported that he was planning a sequel to The Long Kiss Goodnight.[19]

On June 16, 2017, it was announced Harlin will direct Hanging Coffins for Shanghai Film Group and Shanghai New Wave Films.[20] 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.[21] On May 8, 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.[22] On June 18, 2018, it was announced Harlin will direct Operation Wild.[23]

Personal lifeEdit

Harlin was married to actress Geena Davis from 1993 to 1998. He has one child, born in August 1997, from a relationship with Tiffany Bowne.

Harlin lived in the United States from the mid-1980s until 2014, when he moved to China.[24][25]



Year Film Director Producer Notes
1986 Born American Yes No
1987 Prison Yes No
1988 A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master Yes No Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Director
1990 The Adventures of Ford Fairlane Yes No Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
Die Hard 2 Yes No
1991 Rambling Rose No Yes Winner—Independent Spirit Award
1993 Cliffhanger Yes No
1994 Speechless No Yes
1995 Cutthroat Island Yes Yes Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
1996 Mistrial No Executive
The Long Kiss Goodnight Yes Yes
1999 Blast from the Past No Yes
Deep Blue Sea Yes No
2001 Driven Yes No Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
2004 Mindhunters Yes Executive
Exorcist: The Beginning Yes No Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
2006 The Covenant Yes No
2007 Cleaner Yes No
2009 12 Rounds Yes No
2011 The Resident No Executive
5 Days of War Yes Yes
2013 Devil's Pass Yes Yes
2014 The Legend of Hercules Yes Yes Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
2016 Skiptrace Yes No
2018 Legend of the Ancient Sword Yes No
2019 Bodies at Rest Yes No
2020 The Misfits Yes No
2021 Reunion 3 (Luokkakokous 3) Yes No
TBA Operation Somalia Yes No
TBA Operation Wild Yes No
TBA Solara Yes No

Short filmsEdit

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


Year Title Director Producer Notes
1993-1994 Gladiaattorit Yes Yes Produced 53 episodes, directed 21 episodes
2011-2012 Burn Notice Yes No Season 5, Episodes 514 & 518 [Season Finale], and Season 6, Episodes 606 & 610
2012 White Collar Yes No Season 4, Episode 409
2012 Covert Affairs Yes No Season 3, Episode 316 [Season Finale]
2013 Graceland Yes 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. ^ "US and worldwide domestic box office data". October 30, 2016.
  3. ^ Rabin, Nathan (July 23, 2008). "My Year Of Flops, Extra-Piratey Case File #114: Cutthroat Island". The A.V. Club.
  4. ^ "Renny Harlin Biography (1959-)". Film Reference.
  5. ^ a b "Renny Harlin Biography". IMDb.
  6. ^ "Renny Harlin interview: 12 Rounds, Die Hard, and the Alien 3 that never was". Den of Geek.
  7. ^ Renny Harlinin Planet FunFunin piti tarjota kaikille jotain (in Finnish)
  8. ^ Variety. "Nothing left of Paul Schrader's EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING". Archived from the original on 23 September 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2007.
  9. ^ Lee, Nathan (March 27, 2009). "Movie Review - 12 Rounds (2009)". The New York Times.
  10. ^ "Movie star plays Georgian leader". BBC News. October 2009. Retrieved 21 October 2009.
  11. ^ Williams, Owen (24 April 2012). "Renny Harlin Heads For Dyatlov Pass". Empire.
  12. ^ Kit, Borys (4 February 2013). "Renny Harlin Set to Direct 'Hercules 3D' for Millennium (Exclusive)". Hollywood report.
  13. ^ "Renny Harlin Takes Helm Of Jackie Chan Action Comedy 'Skiptrace'". 19 May 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  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. ^
  16. ^ Kurtz, Frank. "Harlin Fired From THUNDER?".
  17. ^ "Dome Karukoski will produce Mannerheim film with a smaller budget than Renny Harlin".
  18. ^ Jensen, Jorn Rossing (February 21, 2007). "Renny Harlin to make his first film in Finland in 20 years". Screen Daily.
  19. ^ Abaius, Cole (August 19, 2011). "Renny Harlin Taps 'Burn Notice' Writer for 'Long Kiss Goodnight' Sequel". Film School Rejects.
  20. ^ Brzeski, Patrick (June 16, 2017). "Shanghai: Renny Harlin to Direct Chinese Thriller 'The Hanging Coffin'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 16, 2017.
  21. ^ Brzeski, Patrick (June 18, 2017). "Shanghai: Renny Harlin to Direct Chinese Actioner 'Operation Somalia'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  22. ^ Brzeski, Patrick (May 8, 2018). "Cannes: Renny Harlin Launches Chinese Production Company". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  23. ^ Frater, Patrick (June 18, 2018). "Renny Harlin's Extraordinary Entertainment Sets Deal With India's B4U". Variety. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  24. ^ Toivonen, Hannu (December 12, 2012). "Renny Harlin: "Moni nainen ei ole pärjännyt rinnallani"". Seura (in Finnish). Retrieved July 17, 2019. ... vuoden 1984, jolloin ... Renny Harlin poistui Suomesta Yhdysvaltoihin ...
  25. ^ Mattila, Sanni (July 17, 2019). "Renny Harlin, 60, kiinalaisen rakkaansa Kayn, 25, kanssa lomailemassa Suomessa - Pariskunta kertoo avoimesti rakkaustarinan alusta". Iltalehti (in Finnish). Retrieved July 17, 2019. Viisi vuotta Kiinassa asunut Ohjaaja ... En kaipaa Amerikassa asumista yhtään, vaikka asuin siellä 30 vuotta.

External linksEdit