Former Norwegian football star John Carew has joined a new team: He’ll break into Oslo’s new Munch museum next year as a member of Olsenbanden, a gang of mostly harmless movie bandits.
Since retiring from football in 2013, Carew has launched an acting career. He’s been involved in a handful of movies, including a supporting role alongside Angelina Jolie in the Disney fantasty Maleficent: Mistress of evil and in Høvdinger (Chieftains), a violent thriller set in Oslo’s underworld. He recently won critical acclaim for a key role in the successful Norwegian TV series Heimebane (Home turf), playing an aging footballer for a local Norwegian club so credibly that he had to insist he was not portraying himself.
Now, at age 41, it’s comedy time for Carew, following confirmation of the lineup for a resurrection of Olsenbanden (The Olsen Gang), which has not been heard from since the turn of the century. The original movie series goes back more than 50 years, though, and its original stars passed away long ago.
Olsenbanden was originally a Danish series of comedy movies, starting in 1969. The late Norwegian director Knut Bohwim was shown the movie and asked whether he thought it would be of interest to a Norwegian audience. Bohwim reckoned the Danish humour would not have much appeal back home, and instead secured rights for a remake using Norwegian actors.
He had ideas, having already made a movie about small-time crooks in the East Oslo underworld. The first Olsenbanden movie premiered in August 1969 starring Arve Opsahl as the gang’s questionable mastermind Egon Olsen, Carsten Byhring as the constantly worried Kjell, and Sverre Holm as the absent-minded womanizer Benny – the part that John Carew will play in the new movie.
Right from the start the movies aimed at the family and youth audience, with lots of folksy humour and little or no violence. However, with its roots in Denmark, a hotspot of the 1960s’ sex revolution, it was probably irresistible for Bohwim to spice up the first movie with a scene shot at Six Bladsalg, a real backstreet porn shop in Oslo. And the Benny character tries to make it as a porn photographer, accidentally making his model-girlfriend Ulla pregnant during a “session.”
Perfect crimes that go wrong
A total of 14 Olsenbanden movies were made between 1969 and 1999. All of them involve some kind of ambitious plan for a perfect crime. They mostly end with gang leader Egon having to go back to jail, hatching new ideas while doing time in Oslo’s historic Botsen prison.
In the upcoming remake, the Olsen gang is plotting to break into Oslo’s new and still-to-open Munch museum (now called simply MUNCH), hoping to steal Edvard Munch’s masterpiece Scream and perhaps more priceless art. The plot is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Scream has actually been stolen twice in the real world, in 1994 and 2004.
Back then, Crew had other things on his mind. Born in 1979 to a Gambian father and a Norwegian mother, his football career had started in his early teens at Lørenskog, a local club in a suburb just beyond Oslo’s eastern city limit. He rapidly moved up in the football world, joining Oslo’s large Vålerenga club in 1997 and then Trondheim-based Rosenborg two years later. With Rosenborg playing in the Champions league, Carew got to show off his skills to an international audience, transferring later to Spanish club Valencia and later to clubs in Turkey, France and Britain. Carew also played 91 times for the Norwegian national men’s football team (Landslaget), starting in 1998 when he became the first black player to represent Norway.
When Carew first aimed for the silver screen, he said in interviews that he’d always been interested in acting and caught criticism as an active football player for not developing his talent sufficiently, or not concentrating on the game enough. “The truth is that I would never have been happy if I didn’t have other interests (than football) in life,” Carew told A-magasinet. “And if I hadn’t been happy, I would have been a worse football player.”