Director, producer, writer and interviewer Annett Wolf was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, daughter of the head of a family wine dynasty.
When her country was under German occupation, then seven-year-old Annett feared for her father, who had joined the Danish Resistance Movement to help smuggle Danish Jews to safety in neutral Sweden. Single children create their own universe; Annett’s imagination took her to the place where dreams begin. Dreams that comfort and provide an escape from a cruel world. It is here, she envisioned an imperial white Arctic Wolf. The animal would remain an indelible part of her life.
Growing up, Annett’s strong willed temperament and curiosity frequently clash with the plans her father has for her. She dreams of studying Shakespeare, he insists his daughter learns about wine making to take over the family business. In 1955 Annett is shipped off to Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, to learn all there is about Sherry production. But days of tasting and evaluating sherry wine fail to satisfy young Annett’s zest for life. It is in the ancient city of Seville at the famous La Maenstranza bullring that her longing for adventure is rewarded. She is about to witness a ritual representing the soul of a nation. A man and an animal in a dance to the death. She had danced with the man the night before.
Returning to Denmark as she reluctantly continues her education under her father’s watchful eyes, she becomes more and more convinced that she is in the wrong business.
In 1956 she discovers the thrilling, dangerous and glamorous world of Formula One Grand Prix racing. As luck will have it, Annett is offered to write a behind the scene magazine piece about this exhilarating but often fatal sport. In the pit lane at the Silverstone racetrack a friend introduces her to the extraordinary and charismatic German driver Count Wolfgang von Trips. The encounter changes the arc of Annett’s life; interviewing the young driver will play a pivotal role in her future career and what ultimately becomes her “brand”.
Wolfgang von Trips’ devastating death in 1961 during the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, will mark a significant crossroad in her life.
By pure coincidence Annett lands a job as a production assistant with DR/TV, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. She is electrified by this new medium with its seemingly limitless possibilities.
In 1962, she is given the opportunity to produce and direct jazz concerts with legends like Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Dave Brubeck, Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. The same year the American saxophone player and composer Sahib Shihab writes the score to Annett’s first short film Theme in D Minor, a poetic exploration of Copenhagen by night mixed with concert footage. This very personal film is a preview of Annett’s filmic universe.
Wanting to learn and understand her craft, she experiments with many different forms, from Candid Camera, to satires, musical specials, variety shows and even sports programs. In 1965, she co-writes and directs a three-part series based on Charlie Chaplin’s My Autobiography, a compilation of interviews, documentary footage and re-enactments of Chaplin’s childhood. The same year she writes and directs the feature documentary La Grande Famille (The Big Family), the story of the Spanish clown Charlie Rivel, the Rivel family and the Shumann’s, the Danish circus dynasty. La Grand Famille convinced the French Master of mime Marcel Marceau to want to collaborate with Annett to create an innovative, visual autobiography, The Visual World of Marcel Marceau. (1967). The film would be Danish TV’s first film in colour.
Refining her skills, Annett experiments with ways to break down the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction and discovers a passion for the profundity of silence, which she illustrates in The Girl with the Ballet Slippers (1965), The Man who lost his Shoe (1969) and A Sailor in search of his Soul (1971), the latter starring Preben Lerdorff Rye, the renowned Danish director Carl Th. Dreyer’s favorite actor. Still searching for new avenues of storytelling, Annett creates stirring essays about poets Boris Vian, Ivan Malinowski and Jens August Schade. All the while, she never forgets her love of theatre and directs The importance of being Oscar (1971) and Jacques Brel is alive and well and living in Paris at the Royal Danish Theatre.
However, the driving force of her life’s work will always be her curiosity, her desire to ask questions, and get answers from extraordinary people. She will perfect her approach and turn it into her signature high level art form in a series: The World of: Jacques Brel, Jerry Lewis, Peter Sellers, Peter Ustinov, and Irish satirist Dave Allen. During the 70’s, her work frequently takes her to Paris where she creates Time to Live/Le Temps de Vivre (1974), an epic three-part documentary about fifty years of the French Ballad. She creates captivating tableaus by mixing archive footage of Edith Piaf, Mistinguett, Maurice Chevalier and others with original interviews with some of France’s most celebrated singers and performers such as Yves Montand, Georges Brassens, Serge Gainsbourg, Serge Reggiani, Michel Piccoli, Pierre Seghers and Michel Simon.
When disco music and game shows start to dominate television, Annett becomes restless. The death of her beloved father further motivates her to ask for a one year leave of absence from Danish TV. And so, in 1975, she takes a giant leap and will try her luck in Hollywood with a letter of introduction from Peter Sellers and her profiles of Peter Sellers and Peter Ustinov in hand. She is in the right place at the right time when America’s favorite actor Jack Lemmon agrees to sit down for an interview, but with one caveat: he gets to talk about his father and their close relationship. Something Annett can totally relate too and they get along splendidly. Annett hires a crew, who would become her partners and friends on all her US productions, and wins a Golden Rose for the film. After seeing A Twist of Lemmon Danish TV immediately signs on as co-producers of The world of Alfred Hitchcock, Walter Matthau and Telly Savalas alias Theo Kojak and Hurray for Hollywood, a three-part documentary series on the American film industry featuring producer and then head of Paramount Studios Robert Evans, directors Norman Jewison, Steven Spielberg, John Frankenheimer and John Cassavetes. The documentary will bring another Golden Rose.
In 1977 director Dwight Hemion and his producing partner Gary Smith are about to produce the CBS special Elvis in Concert. Annett is signed to direct the behind the scenes observations and interviews with the fans to be incorporated into the concert footage. One of the most haunting moments she captures is Elvis Presley, just before going on stage, bowing his head in prayer. During the tour it becomes clear that Presley’s physical condition is deteriorating. Out of respect Annett decides to cancel her scheduled interview with the King. Back in LA while editing the show Annett learns of the King’s passing from his manager Colonel Parker. Annett persuades Elvis’ father Vernon Presley to give his eulogy seated in his son’s study surrounded by tens of thousands of letters from fans around the world.
In 1978 Annett resigns her position at Danish TV and relocates full time to Los Angeles. Earlier that year producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown had hired her to write, produce and direct The making of Jaws II. The documentary would be used to promote the film overseas. At the Florida location director Jeannot Szwarc and his crew face overwhelming problems, with the dreaded mechanical sharks. Shooting would sometime come to a halt for hours while technicians struggled to get the sharks in working condition. When Richard Zanuck screens the making of Jaws II Annett receives a thank you note saying that her documentary is a strong competitor to the film.
Annett’s unusual style and inventive documentaries catch the attention of the PR and marketing departments of the major studios. Under the banner of her production company McCurry-Wolf Enterprises she is contracted by Universal, Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox to further develop the “The making of” genre to produce trailers and documentaries, especially aimed at promoting American films in the international marketplace. The new concept promotes films like Missing, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and 48hrs marking the debut of the brilliant twenty-one-year old standup comedian Eddie Murphy.
Next, Annett profiles renowned Russian ballet star Rudolf Nureyev, (Face to Face with Rudolf Nureyev) for ABC Cable TV and creates a series of live conversations with actor, comedian Dudley Moore, director Sydney Pollack, Sir David Puttnam, then head of Columbia Studios, composer Michel Legrand and Marcel Marceau.
Well-known for her commitment to help promote women, Annett co-founds Women in Film International (WIFI) in 1983 and becomes the organization’s first president.
In 1988 a vicious gang war rages in the ghettos of Los Angeles between the Crips and Bloods with more than ten thousand young lives lost in the course of five years. Deeply disturbed by the gang wars and the loss of young lives, Annett joins forces with advertising mastermind Harry Webber to direct the stage play Peace in the Crossfire. Twenty-three former Bounty Hunter Bloods gang members agree to tell their personal, poignant stories. The videotape of the play is distributed throughout the gang-impacted neighborhoods and results in the Watts Gang Truce, which lasts for twenty years. Peace in the Crossfire is credited by The Los Angeles Times as being the first serious effort by the L.A. gangs to stop the war and the story makes the front page of the Wall Street Journal and Esquire Magazine. Annett’s involvement with the gangs cost her greatly, though, both career and health wise.
In 1990 Annett returns to Denmark, after fifteen years of an exciting but stressful life on America’s west coast.
Facing another crossroad, she takes time for reflection and to explore her options. To her surprise, she discovers a new passion far removed from the world she has known and loved for almost forty years: a passion for the magnificent Arctic and its wildlife.
In 2000, Annett founds The Wolf Foundation, a non-profit organization established to protect and preserve the natural balance of the Arctic environment and its wildlife. In 2004 she travels to Yellowknife, in the Canadian Northwest Territories to research arctic wildlife, especially the arctic wolf. Since then she has returned a number of times to her favorite places to continue her advocacy and commitment to protect the Canadian Arctic.
Returning from her first trip, she settles down to write her autobiography The Wolf and the Glass Eye, which is published in 2005.
Annett is presently located in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Besides her environmental activism she is a lecturer at the University of Kings’ College, mentoring inquisitive, forward thinking students in producing the monthly podcast “We Are Talking”. She also teaches “The art of the in-depth Interview” at Dalhousie University and works with students of sustainability and environmental studies to research the impact of climate change on the Arctic environment.
Most recently, her continued passion for storytelling and film making has brought forth the unique screenplay A Band of Two. The script tells the story of a woman in her seventies who embarks on an epic adventure in the Arctic. Driven by a childhood vision of an imperial white wolf, she is challenged and haunted by her memories of her extraordinary life. The project is being set up as an international co-production to be shot in the Canadian Arctic, Spain, England, Wales and Denmark.
A retrospective, celebrating her body of work, will be held at the Cinémathèque Française in the early weeks of 2016.
Annett Wolf is the mother of Annett Wolf Jr. who is the founding partner of Wolf-Kasteler Public Relations, one of the film industry’s leading agencies with offices in New York and Los Angeles.