One of Sweden's most renowned directors, Lasse Hallström is best known to international audiences as the maker of such poignant but resolutely unsentimental coming-of-age films as My Life as a Dog and What's Eating Gilbert Grape.
The son of an amateur filmmaker, Hallström was born in Stockholm on June 2, 1946. He began his professional career in high school when, with the assistance of a group of friends, he made a short film about some school mates who had formed a band. The film was shown on Swedish television, and after graduating high school, Hallström went on to do more work for television. His Shall We Dance? was aired in 1969, while The Love Seeker (1972) was Sweden's entry at the Montreux Television Festival. The following year, Hallström's Shall We Go to My or to Your Place or Each Go Home Alone?, a televised film about Swedish youth, was so well received that he was able to make his feature film directorial debut.
Hallström made his debut with the romantic drama En Kille och en tjej (A Guy and a Gal) in 1975. Two years later, he focused his lens on one of Sweden's most famous exports in ABBA - The Movie. He subsequently made a number of romantic comedies, but it was not until 1985, with Mitt Liv Sond Hund (My Life as a Dog), that Hallström had his international breakthrough. A bona fide art-house hit, My Life was the touching and wholly un-patronizing coming-of-age story of a young boy sent to live with relatives when his terminally ill mother can no longer care for him. The film earned a score of international honors, including the Best Foreign Film Golden Globe and New York Film Critics Circle award, and Hallström received Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Following the success of My Life as a Dog, Hallström remained in Sweden, making children's films. In 1991, he came to the U.S. and made his stateside debut with Once Around. A romantic comedy starring Holly Hunter and Richard Dreyfuss, it enjoyed a favorable reception. Two years later, the director's international reputation was further solidified with the film that many regard as one of his best, What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Another unsentimental coming-of-age story, it was centered around the travails of the title character (played by Johnny Depp), a young man longing for change from his mundane everyday existence. It featured strong performances all around, particularly from Depp and a then-unknown Leonardo DiCaprio, who earned Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for his portrayal of Gilbert's retarded younger brother.
Hallström's follow-up to Gilbert, Something to Talk About (1995), returned him to the realm of romantic comedy. Starring Julia Roberts as a woman bent on getting revenge on her philandering husband (Dennis Quaid), it earned a less enthusiastic reception than Hallström's previous film, but still managed to be fairly successful. The director did not make another film for four years; when he re-emerged, it was with an adaptation of John Irving's The Cider House Rules. Featuring a script by the author, it starred Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, and Michael Caine, the latter playing his first ever American-accented role as a kindly doctor and occasional abortionist. The following year Hallstrom scored yet another art-house hit with the romantic comedy drama Chocolat, the tale of a small-town candy maker who shakes up her community by staying open on Sundays earned numerous award nominations including four Golden Globe Nominations and five Oscar nominations. Hallstrom's pace showed no signs of lagging with the release of The Shipping News in 2001, and though the film may have not been as universally adored as his previous few films it nevertheless earned positive critical notice and earned a healthy keep at art-house box-offices.
His next film, 2005's An Unfinished Life caused little stir among moviegoers, and two years later his film The Hoax earned Richard Gere some of the strongest reviews of his career. He tackled a Nicholas Sparks adaptation in 2010's Dear John, and returned to whimsical light comedy with 2011's Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.
Since 1994, Hallström has been married to actress Lena Olin, with whom he has a daughter.