Music & Arts
Johan Renck: The Swedish Director Behind Some Of TV’s Most Watched Shows And CommercialsSeptember 3, 2019
A singer-songwriter turned director, Johan Renck has directed some of our favorite commercials, music videos and TV shows, including HBO’s limited series “Chernobyl” and the SNL-parodied Calvin Klein commercial starring Justin Bieber (see below).
Born in Uppsala, Sweden, Renck has created a name for himself in the film business throughout the United States and Sweden. According to his IMDB page, Renck began his directing career in 1992 at Mekano Film and Television, which was followed by a partnership with his childhood friend and film and music video director Jonas Åkerlund to establish Renck Åkerlund Films.
Although Renck was interested in directing, creating music was his first love. He performed under the stage name Stakka Bo from 1991-2001. His most famous song, “Here We Go,” peaked at No. 13 on the U.K. Singles chart and appeared in an episode of “Beavis and Butt-head” and the Drew Barrymore film “Never Been Kissed.”
Renck’s first feature film, “Downloading Nancy,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Despite receiving mixed reviews, the film garnered attention from “Breaking Bad” creator, Vince Gilligan. Renck went on to direct three episodes of the show and episodes for “The Walking Dead,” “Bates Motel” and “Bloodline.”
Swedish magazine Café interviewed Renck, who told the magazine that Gilligan was so impressed with talents, he offered him a fulltime gig – but that’s not Renck’s style.
“They asked if I wanted to direct [the Vince Gilligan-rated spinoff] “Better Call Saul” and I declined it, too. I also declined “Game of Thrones” and “Homeland,” Renck said in a translated version of his interview. “I have made a decision not to make TV series episodes anymore. Before, I could at least imagine doing pilots, like ‘Bloodline’ and ‘Vikings,’ but I don’t do that anymore.”
But you know what he does do? Mini-series. And in comes his latest masterpiece, “Chernobyl.”
The filming took place in 2018 over 16 weeks in Lithuania and Ukraine and featured some powerful performances, including from Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård. Renck was nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards in 2019 for his work on “Chernobyl” – “Outstanding Limited Series” and “Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special.”
While Renck has made quite a name for himself directing shows, he also has directed music videos for stars like Beyoncé, David Bowie and Madonna along with commercials for H&M and Armani.
Check out a few of our favorites below:
Beyonce – Me, Myself and I (2003)
Madonna – Hung Up (2005)
According to MTV, Renck was directing Kate Moss in an H&M commercial when he received the call from Madonna asking him to direct her now iconic music video. He hopped on a plane the very next day, flew to L.A. and hit the ground running. The music video was nominated for five MTV Music Video Awards in 2006.
David Bowie – Blackstar (2015)
The “Blackstar” music video won an MTV Video Music Award in 2016 for Best Art Direction.
Calvin Klein Jeans Spring 2015
And if you’re interested, here is the SNL spoof.
H&M featuring Lana Del Rey (2012)