Billie August
Birth Date:
November 9, 1948
Birth Place:
Brede, Denmark
Famous for:
'Les Miserables' (1998)
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Pelle the Conqueror


Danish film and television director and screenwriter Bille August came to international prominence with the 1987 drama “Pelle the Conqueror,” which won the Palme D'or, Academy Award and Golden Globe. His subsequent film, “The Best Intentions” (1992), which based on the autobiographical script by Ingmar Bergman, brought August his next the Palme D'or, making the alum of Danish Film Institute one of the very few directors to win the prestigious award more than once. Other films he has directed and/or written include “Zappa” (1983), “Twist and Shout” (1984), “The House of the Spirits” (1993), “Jerusalem” (1996), “Smilla's Sense of Snow” (1997), the experimental remake of “Les Misérables” (1998), “A Song for Martin” (2001), “Return to Sender” (2004) and “Goodbye Bafana” (2007). August was nominated for an Emmy Award for directing the episode “"Northern Italy, 1918” (1993) of ABC's “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.”

Pernilla's Ex

Childhood and Family:

Bille August was born on November 9, 1948, in Brede, Denmark. He graduated from Christer Stroholm's Photography School and then the Danish Film Institute.

Currently, Bille is married to Danish actress Sara-Marie Maltha (born November 30, 1971). He was previously married to actress Masja Dessau (born November 2, 1955), Annie Munksgaard, and Swedish actress and film director Pernilla August (born February 13, 1958) from 1991 to 1997. Bille and Pernilla have two children together, Asta and Alba.

The Best Intentions


Bille August kicked off his career on television and broke to film production as a cinematographer on “Homeward in the Night” (“Hemat i Natten”; 1977), which was written and directed by Jon Lindström. He did the same duty for the 1977 Danish documentary film “Christiania,” co-directed and co-written by Flemming Colstrup and Ove Nyholm. August made his directorial debut in 1978 when he made both a short film called “Kim G” and the feature film “Honeymoon” (“Honning Maane”), which he also wrote. Released in Denmark on August 21, 1978, “Honeymoon” starred Claus Strandberg, Kirsten Olesen and Jens Okking and received mostly good reviews. It won three Bodils for Best Film, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress and was nominated for the Golden Prize at the Moscow International Film Festival.

After “Honeymoon,” August, however, did not direct another feature for five years. During this period, he directed two TV films, “Verden er så stor, så stor” (1980), which he also wrote, and “Maj” (1982), and served as cinematographer on such film projects as “Manrape” (1978), “Tomas: A Child You Cannot Reach” (documentary), “Love” (1980), “Killing Heat” (1981) and “Sova räv” (1982, TV). He returned to feature film directing with the Danish drama “Zappa” (1983), where August's script was based on the book of the same name by Danish writer Bjarne Reuter. The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival. It brought August a Golden Prize nomination at the 1983 Moscow International Film Festival.

In 1984, August directed “Busters verden” (“Buster's world”), a children's television series and movie adapted from a play Reuter. The television series, which consisted of six episodes of 20 minutes each, that aired between January 7 and February 11, 1984, marked a breakthrough for August. The film, which was an edited version of the series, premiered on October 4, 1984. The film won both the C.I.F.E.J. Award and the UNICEF Award at the 1985 Berlin International Film Festival. Still in 1984, August directed and co-wrote (with Reuter) “Tro, håb og kærlighed” (“Twist and Shout”), the sequel to “Zappa.” The film brought him a Robert for Best Screenplay and a Golden Prize nomination from the Moscow International Film Festival. “Twist and Shout” was released in the United States on September 26, 1986 and enjoyed a minor success there.

August, however, did not experience international breakthrough until he helmed and scripted the drama film “Pelle the Conqueror” (1987), the story of two Swedish immigrants to Denmark, a father and son, who attempt to build a new life for themselves. Starring Pelle Hvenegaard as the young Pelle, with Max von Sydow as his father, the film won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (Denmark) in 1989, where Sydow also was nominated for a Best Actor in a Leading Role category though he did not win. The film also won Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, among other 18 wins and 4 nominations. In addition to Palme d'Or, the film also brought August a Bodil for Best Film (Bedste danske film), two Roberts for Best Film and Best Screenplay, and a BAFTA Film nomination for Best Film not in the English Language.

In 1992, August directed the Swedish drama “The Best Intentions” (“Den goda viljan”), written by Ingmar Bergman. The film brought August his second Palme d'Or during the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, in which his wife also won the Best Actress honor for her performance. The film also was nominated for Silver Condor in the category of Best Foreign Film at the 1993 Argentinean Film Critics Association Awards.

In the following year, August directed his first English language film, “The House of the Spirits,” based on the Isabel Allende novel “La Casa de los Espíritus,” about the life of a young lady named Clara during the military dictatorship in Chile. Starring Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Winona Ryder and Antonio Banderas, the film won 11 awards, including Guild Film Award - Gold from the 1994 Guild of German Art House Cinemas, the Coral for Best Work of a Non-Latin American Director on a Latin America Subject at the 1994 Havana Film Festival and two Roberts for Best Film and Best Screenplay for August.

At the urge of his good friend George Lucas, August directed two episodes of “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” in 1993 called “Vienna, November 1908” and “Northern Italy, June 1918.” He was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing in a Drama Series for his work in the latter episode.

August directed and wrote the Swedish film “Jerusalem” (1996), adapted from the novels “Jerusalem I + II” (1901) by Swedish autor and Nobel laureate Selma Lagerlöf. Starring Maria Bonnevie, Ulf Friberg and Pernilla August, the film earned him the NDR Promotion Prize from the 1997 Lübeck Nordic Film Days. He went on to helm Julia Ormond, Gabriel Byrne, Tom Wilkinson, Jim Broadbent, Robert Loggia and Richard Harris in the thriller movie “Smilla's Sense of Snow” (1997), based on the 1992 novel “Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow” by Danish author Peter Høeg. The film was nominated for a Golden Berlin Bear at the 1997 Berlin International Film Festival. In 1998, he directed Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman and Claire Danes in “Les Misérables,” which was based on the novel of the same name by French author Victor Hugo. It was nominated for the Golden Pyramid at the 1998 Cairo International Film Festival.

After a few years hiatus, August returned to the director's chair with “A Song for Martin” (“En sang for Martin”) a 2001 drama/music film detailing the effect of Alzheimer's disease on a married couple. Starring Sven Wollter, Viveka Seldahl and Reine Brynolfsson, the film brought him a Bodil nomination for Best Film, a Golden Dolphin nomination from the Festróia - Tróia International Film Festival, Guldbagge nominations for Best Direction and Best Screenplay, and a Crystal Globe from the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Two years later, he directed and wrote the TV film adaptation of “Detaljer.”

Next up for August, he directed Aidan Quinn, Connie Nielsen and Kelly Preston in the drama/thriller film “Return to Sender” (2004), written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade. In 2007, he helmed Dennis Haysbert, Joseph Fiennes and Diane Kruger in the drama film “Goodbye Bafana,” about the relationship between Nelson Mandela (played by Haysbert) and James Gregory (played by Fiennes), his censor officer and prison guard. Adapted from James Gregory's book “Goodbye Bafana: Nelson Mandela, My Prisoner, My Friend,” the film picked up the Peace Film Award and Golden Berlin Bear nomination at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival and Capri Arts Award at the 2007 Capri, Hollywood. 2007 also saw him direct the “To Each His Own Cinema” segment “The Last Dating Show” and “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: The Perils of Cupid” (video) segment “Vienna.”

August is set to direct the biographical film “The Passion of Marie,” centering on the marriage between the painters Marie and P.S. Krøyer. It will be released in Denmark on November 15, 2012 and will become his first Danish film production since “Pelle the Conqueror” from 1987. He is also scheduled to direct the film adaptation of “Night Train to Lisbon” (2013), starring Christopher Lee, Jeremy Irons and Mélanie Laurent.


  • Berlin International Film Festival: Peace Film Award , “Goodbye Bafana,” 2007

  • Capri, Hollywood: Capri Arts Award, “Goodbye Bafana,” 2007

  • Lübeck Nordic Film Days: NDR Promotion Prize, “Jerusalem,” 1997

  • Guild of German Art House Cinemas: Guild Film Award – Gold, German Film (Deutscher Film), “The House of the Spirits,” 1994

  • Havana Film Festival: Coral Best Work of a Non-Latin American Director on a Latin America Subject, “The House of the Spirits,” 1994

  • Robert Festival: Robert, Best Film (Årets danske spillefilm), “The House of the Spirits,” 1994

  • Robert Festival: Best Screenplay (Årets manuskript), “The House of the Spirits,” 1994

  • Amanda (Norway): Honorary Award, 1993

  • Cannes Film Festival: Palme d'Or, “The Best Intentions,” 1992

  • Bodil: Best Film (Bedste danske film), “Pelle the Conqueror,” 1988

  • Cannes Film Festival: Palme d'Or, “Pelle the Conqueror,” 1988

  • Robert Festival: Robert, Best Film (Årets danske spillefilm), “Pelle the Conqueror,” 1988

  • Robert Festival: Best Screenplay (Årets manuskript), “Pelle the Conqueror,” 1988

  • Berlin International Film Festival: C.I.F.E.J. Award, “Busters verden,” 1985

  • Berlin International Film Festival: UNICEF Award, “Busters verden,” 1985

  • Robert Festival: Robert, Best Screenplay (Årets manuskript), “Tro, håb og kærlighed,” 1985

  • Bodil: Best Film (Bedste danske film), “Honning måne,” 1979

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