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Mehdi Avaz: “I wanted to make the Danish version of ‘A Star is Born'”

The Netflix film A Beautiful Life has a simple premise: Elliott is a fisherman who lives a quiet life in a small town in Denmark. His friend Oliver dreams of becoming a rock star, but when the widow of a legendary star named Suzanne hears Elliott and Oliver perform, it is Elliott that she wants to lead on a journey to pop stardom.

The director of A Beautiful Life, Mehdi Avaz (While We Live, Toscana) worked closely with scriptwriter Stefan Jaworski on the script. It was inspired by the American film A Star is Born, which featured Lady Gaga in the leading role as an unknown singer who rises to fame.

“I tried to find the Danish version of Lady Gaga and the closest I could get to that was Christopher,” explains Avaz via a Zoom call from Århus, about the 31-year-old Danish singer Christopher, who plays the leading role of Elliott.

“Christopher is just this perfect guy. He looks good and he sings like an angel, and I really wanted to turn him into an actor,” says Avaz. “That was the inspiration to write the film. His career in the music business has been solid the past ten years, and I wanted to take him from his world and put him in mine. I wanted to see if I could make him into a movie star too.”

The singularly monikered Christopher had his breakthrough in Denmark in 2012 when he won the Danish Music Award, and he has made a big name for himself as a singer in his home country. But whether he could act or not was Avaz’s big question going into the project. That he could write the music for the film was a given.


“I had a feeling he could do it. He is someone who gives everything of himself. He never says no to working,” says Avaz. “He was available twenty-four-seven for one-and-a-half years and worked really hard on being able to step into the shoes of Elliott. He was 100 percent dedicated to it. I told him from the beginning that I could not teach him to be an actor, but I could teach him to be Elliott. I don’t know what would happen if you gave him a different kind of role in a different kind of movie, where he would not play a singer, but he is so dedicated with an athlete’s mentality that I think he is able to what he sets his mind to doing.”

In A Beautiful Life, it is Suzanne’s daughter, record executive Lilly (Inga Ibsdotter Lilleaas), who gets to shape Elliott into a star. They start working together on the music (which Christopher wrote for the movie) and she becomes a major support system for a young man who lost both his parents at a very young age and grew up in foster care. She also asks him the central question in the film: “Who are you singing for?”

“The film is about grief and love and also about taking chances in life, when they are presented to you,” Avaz says. “My big question when I started writing the movie was: Is there anything in the universe that is bigger than love? Then I tried to answer that question with this movie. The answer is no. Because no matter what you do, if you don’t love someone, then you are lost.”

Because Elliott lost his parents as a child and grew up in various foster homes, he had no role models in his life, and thus he has a hard time when he gets closer to Lilly. He does not know how to handle his love for her.

“He has trust issues,” explains Avaz. “The question for him is: Can he let go of his past, move on and try to be who he wants to be?”

A Beautiful Life is shot mainly in Århus and Frederikshavn on the peninsula of Jutland in the western part of Denmark, showing a different side of the country than filmgoers usually see.

“It has a Manchester by the Sea look to it,” says Avaz, who moved from Copenhagen to Århus two years ago. “There is a harbor, an old town and this rough industrial area. There is lots of forest, so I have everything within reach. My goal is that when the international viewers think of Denmark, they think of Århus and not Copenhagen. I really want to achieve that. To me, this is the place in Denmark where you are allowed to dream big.”

Avaz’s next project is based on a children’s book by the former Danish model Renée Toft Simonsen called The Children From Silver Street. The author also wrote the script, and it will start shooting in September.

“I think the DNA in my movies is family relationships and I am mainly interested in character development, and I want to explore relationships between people,” says Avaz. “This is also a family movie, kind of like Captain Fantastic. It is about four kids who don’t have parents. They are hiding from society and try to survive on their own.”