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‘Kon-Tiki’ filming a family affair

Filming of the new movie about Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl and his Kon-Tiki expedition attracted Heyerdahl family members to the set in Lillehammer this week, while the producers finally revealed who will play the important part of Heyerdahl’s wife at the time.

Actors Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen and Agnes Kittelsen have the roles of Thor and Liv Heyerdahl in the new film "Kon-Tiki," now in full production. PHOTO: Carl Christian Raabe

Norwegian actress Agnes Kittelsen was tapped for the role of Liv Coucheron Torp, who married Heyerdahl on Christmas Eve 1936 in Larvik and took off for the South Pacific with him the next day. Liv Coucheron Torp Heyerdahl was considered a major source of support for Thor Heyerdahl and traveled and worked with him until World War II interfered and the need to raise their two sons Thor Jr and Bjørn took priority. She stayed in Lillehammer with their sons when Thor Heyerdahl made his famous Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947. Liv and Thor Heyerdahl later divorced, but Thor Heyerdahl Jr still lives in the inland city that hosted the Winter Olympics in 1994.

That made it convenient for Thor Jr, now age 72, to play in a crowd shot as a walk-on in the movie, along with his half-sister Marian, age 54 and Thor Heyerdahl’s daughter from his second marriage. Thor Jr’s niece, 12-year-old Martine Heyerdahl Mellbye, also has a bit part.

‘Too old’
“I’m too old to play my father or myself from that time, so it was fun to take part in this,” Heyerdahl Jr told newspaper Aftenposten. This week’s filming involved a street scene in Lillehammer when Liv is there alone with the two boys, and Heyerdahl is in New York arranging the Kon-Tiki expedition.

Kittelsen has become one of Norway’s most popular actresses, after playing the sweetheart and then wife of resistance hero Max Manus in the recent smash film by the same name. She most recently starred in the Norwegian film Sykt lykkelig (Happy, happy), which won the jury’s prize at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and has also been on stage in Oslo.

She called the role of Liv Heyerdahl “special, because you must have respect for someone else’s life and history.” Kittelsen said it was “easy” to do research, though, because there are so many Heyerdahl family members and acquaintance to call upon. After her divorce from Thor Heyerdahl, Liv went on to marry into the Rockefeller family in the US.

Other ‘Max Manus’ alumni
The cast and crew of the film “Kon-Tiki” includes several others from the Max Manus film, not least directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg. Kittelsen will be starring against Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen, who will play Thor Heyerdahl and who also had a role in the Max Manus film.

Filming of “Kon-Tiki” was delayed by financing challenges, reported newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) last month, but producer Aage Aaberge traveled around Europe finding investors. The budget is now set at NOK 88 million (USD 16 million) and the film’s length was reduced from two hours to around an hour and 45 minutes. The film has won grants from the Norwegian film institute and support from Nordisk Film, with famed producer Jeremy Thomas, known for epic films like “The Last Emperor,” also involved.

The cast and crew now face many hectic months of filming in Sweden, Malta, Bulgaria and Thailand. A premiere was delayed from this fall to the fall of 2012.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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