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PRODUCTION Finland

Biopic about Juice Leskinen, the “Bob Dylan of Finland”, currently filming

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- Ragged Life of Juice Leskinen, directed by Teppo Airaksinen, will focus on one of the most prominent Finnish singer-songwriters in history, who passed away in 2006

Biopic about Juice Leskinen, the “Bob Dylan of Finland”, currently filming
Riku Nieminen in Ragged Life of Juice Leskinen

Ever since the release of his first album in 1973, Juice Leskinen steadily became one of the most highly acclaimed Finnish musicians of all time. A biopic about the artist was only a matter of time – but there was a problem. “He was… difficult,” laughs fresh Jussi winner Teppo Airaksinen, recently awarded for his short film The Ceiling, which also received a Special Jury Distinction at the Cannes Film Festival. “He was the Bob Dylan of Finland, but he liked to challenge people. When we first started working on the project, people were asking: 'Why the hell would you want to make a film about this asshole?'”

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Luckily, Leskinen’s peculiar behaviour discouraged neither the filmmaker nor Riku Nieminen – an actor best known for the popular children’s film Tatu and Patu [+see also:
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 as well as the Nieminen & Lahtinen Show, who has been cast in the lead role of Ragged Life of Juice Leskinen. “Many comedians are like this – that’s why we always talk about these ‘tears of a clown’. And that’s what he was – he was the first Finnish stand-up comedian,” continues Airaksinen. “Yes, he was mostly known as a singer, but he was also this clever, quick-witted guy. He was extremely shy, but he had to sing in front of hundreds of people, so he ended up developing this strange defence mechanism. I can’t think of anybody else who would have so little talent for normal social interaction.” 

Set to premiere in December and produced by Yellow Film & TV, the film is largely based on a biography written by Antti Heikkinen, which was published in 2014. “When it came out, our producer, Marko Talli, asked me to read it. He wanted to figure out if there was a story to tell. Then we got [director and screenwriter] Antti Heikki Pesonen to work on the script, and I was happy to come on board – we were actually roommates in film school.” Ultimately, it took three years and over ten drafts to come up with the final version. “We both knew Juice’s songs, but we didn’t know anything about his life. Instead of making yet another rags-to-riches story, we decided to concentrate on the 1970s and 1980s. We are trying to make a film about a man who wanted to sing but didn’t know how, and who then lost the one person he really cared for. So even though he was so famous in Finland, the scope of the film will be really small. More than anything else, it’s a love story.” 

It’s not the first time that Leskinen has attracted this kind of attention: in 2015, it was announced that another company would be developing a competing project. But to Airaksinen’s relief, it was abandoned quite early on. “Finland is too small to have two films about the same person,” he admits. “The other one didn’t have anything to do with the book – that was the biggest difference. Ours is based on something specific, but we still had to reinvent the whole story.” 

Although Leskinen passed away in 2006, the filmmakers still tried to reach out to the people who knew him. “We didn’t need their permission, but you could say we were asking for their blessing. They said: ‘Well, just make a good film about him.’ And that’s what we set out to do.”

The film is being produced by Marko Talli of Yellow Film & TV, with the support of the Finnish Film Foundation, and it will be distributed by SF Studios Oy.

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