Petter Næss was born in Oslo, Norway, in 1960. Originally he worked as a writer, director and actor for the theatre, staging close to 30 productions. In 1997 he was appointed director of Oslo Nye Teater (Oslo New Theatre) and he quickly made a mark for himself promoting contemporary Norwegian plays and focusing on works for young audiences. At the theatre he realized the first staging of “Elling”, based upon Ingvar Ambjørnsen’s popular book “Brødre i blodet” (Brothers in Blood). The show was a huge success and gained rave reviews from critics and audiences alike.
In 1999 Næss made his debut as a film director, with his dark comedy “Absolutt Blåmandag” (Absolute Hangover). Both leads of the movie ended up winning the Amanda Award (at the International Norwegian Film Festival) for best actor and actress in 1999. After the huge success of “Elling” it was just a question of time before it was turned into a feature film, and when “Elling” the movie saw the light of day in 2001 the result was the one of the biggest blockbusters in Norwegian cinema history (roughly 800,000 Norwegians saw the movie – for comparison: there are only 4,2 million people in Norway). “Elling” became an instant favorite and somewhat a modern classic with Norwegian movie-goers and it became the fourth Norwegian film in history to be nominated for the best foreign film Oscar (Academy Award).
Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey soon after bought the rights to re-make “Elling” for American theatres, and the Norwegian original became somewhat a cult hit with audiences around the globe. With “Elling” the “feel-good film” had finally come to Norway, and it struck a nerve with international audiences as well.
In 2003 the success of “Elling” led to Næss signing a deal with 20th Century Fox to direct 3 movies for the traditional production company. Before he began production on the first of these (“Mozart & the Whale” with Josh Hartnett) he proved he also had a rare talent for youth-films, with his Norwegian youth-drama “Bare Bea” (opening in January of 2004). Again the critics were impressed, and with three critical and commercial successes in a row, Petter Næss proved without a shadow of a doubt he was one of the greatest Norwegian filmmakers of his generation.