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Former Hollywood filmmaker Renny Harlin is returning to his roots for a comedy feature that will begin shooting in Finland later this month under strict COVID-19 safety protocols.
The director, best known in the U.S. for his 1990s action hits Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger, has spent the past half-decade developing and shooting films in China, having relocated from Southern California to take part in Beijing’s booming movie industry. But as the coronavirus pandemic made work in China untenable in the first half of 2020, Harlin returned to his native Finland and signed on to direct Class Reunion 3, the next installment in a hit Scandinavian comedy franchise.
Says Harlin: “I’ve been living in Hollywood and Beijing for the last 35 years, making 22 movies. I felt that this summer was the perfect time to return to my roots and make a beautiful, no-holds-barred, madcap comedy with a bunch of old friends.”
The Finnish version of the Class Reunion franchise is based on the hit Danish movie series Klassefesten from Nordisk Film. The first two Finnish remakes were big domestic hits, selling over 800,000 tickets (Finland’s population is just 5.5 million). The films, both Danish and Finnish, follow a trio of down-on-their-luck middle-aged friends who are brought back together by class reunions and other late-life occasions.
A big part of the franchise’s success in Finland has stemmed from the trio of household names who play the three friends: popular radio host Jaajo Linnonmaa, drama and comedy star Aku Hirviniemi, and stand-up comedian Sami Hedberg.
Class Reunion 3 is expected to be the first feature-length project to go into production in Finland as COVID-19 infection rates taper off in the country. The production is instituting a raft of new safety measures to keep cast and crew safe, including a full-time on-set health professional to monitor guidelines around safe social distancing and various hygiene procedures. Harlin says he also plans to utilize VFX to create more physical distance between cast and extras in various group scenes.
Harlin has co-written the screenplay for the third installment with Finish comedy actress-turned-TV writer Mari Perankoski. Class Reunion 3 is produced by Markus Selin and Jukka Helle. The movie will be Harlin’s first feature in the Finnish language. It is financed and produced by Solar Films, owned by Scandinavian media company Egmont, and Markus Selin.
“Just very recently we switched to in-person production meetings and scouting and casting,” Harlin explained. “We use masks and keep safe distances. It’s all a matter of adjusting to the situation and making the best out of a challenging environment. I look forward to an exciting summer shoot in the beautiful, clean and safe environment of my homeland.”
Harlin’s most recent films include the Jackie Chan comedy film Skiptrace (2016) and the Hong Kong-China action thriller Bodies at Rest (2019). The director says he plans to return to Beijing later this year to continue his career in China.
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