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Biopic About Comedian-Pianist Victor Borge in Development (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 2/7/2017 Dave McNary
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Danish producer Kim Magnusson is developing a feature film and TV series about iconic comedian-pianist Victor Borge with the writer/producer duo of Mette Lisby and Jesper Baehrenz.

Borge, known as the “Clown Prince of Denmark” and “the unmelancholy Dane,” was renowned for his ability deliver jokes and sight gags while performing on the piano. Borge’s family has granted the producers rights to Borge’s life story.

“The vision for the movie and TV-series presented to us by these three filmmakers is compelling,” said Frederikke, youngest daughter of Borge. “It aligns perfectly with our father’s spirit, amazing life and remarkable career. We are thrilled to give our full support to this project.”

Borge’s five children have all agreed to opening their private archives and sharing personal stories and memories of their father with the filmmakers. Magnusson, who won two Academy Awards for short films “Election Night” and “Helium,” told Variety that he’s aiming to be in production by the end of 2018.

“Now that we’ve got his whole family on board to support the project and give us access to never-before-seen material about Victor Borge, I think we have the fundamentals to create an amazing project,” Magnusson said.

Magnusson received his sixth Oscar nomination in the short film (live action) category on Jan. 24 for “Silent Nights.” along with Aske Bang. “Nights” centers around a young woman who works as a volunteer in a soup kitchen for illegal immigrants.

Borge, the most famous Danish celebrity within memory, was born Borge Rosenbaum and was a musical prodigy as a child. He achieved local fame as he mixed in humor in Denmark during the 1930s during the rise of Nazism in neighboring Germany. He began having run-ins with a group of pro-Nazi Danes over his comedy routines and managed to escape in 1940 to Finland when Denmark was invaded.

He arrived in New York in the fall of that same year, not knowing a word of English with $20 in his pocket and took the name Victor Borge. He learned English by watching movies, became a cast member on Bing Crosby’s “Kraft Music Hall” and had his own NBC radio show in 1945, when he made his American concert debut at Carnegie Hall, mixing his comedy routines with piano playing and conducting a 45-piece orchestra.

Borge still holds the record for longest running one man show in Broadway history for his “Comedy in Music,” which premiered in 1953 and ran for nearly three years. Lisby, a comedian in her native Denmark, interviewed Borge shortly before his passing in 2000.

“Victor Borge was a truly unique performer, mixing his comic talents and timing with his enormous musicality,” she said.  “Creating comedy that has universal appeal is quite extraordinary. Comedy usually is limited by language barriers, but Borge transcended that and succeeded in creating a universal language of laughter that appealed to people from all over the world, from every background.”

Borge became an American citizen but  never gave up his love for Denmark. He was knighted in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, has received the highest orders in Finland and Iceland as well.

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