Danish television has created a series called Det Sidste Ord (“Famous Last Words”) consisting of an interview with a public figure, which will be aired only after the person has died. Read more about the television series Famous Last Words from Danish Public Figures.
The show gives audiences the chance to hear directly from the recently deceased rather than through archive footage or news commentary, while the stars receive a platform from which to shape how they are remembered after they are gone.
The subject is filmed in total secrecy, with the footage then being held in the Royal Danish Library, for editing and broadcast only after he or she has died. The interview is recorded in a studio without an audience, with only the host and the interviewee present, with remotely operated cameras ensuring that it is kept confidential until after their death.
“It’s a kind of silent uproar against the speed at which things are broadcast today,” Mikael Bertelsen, the show’s 56-year-old host and creator, told the British magazine Monocle.
Cameras are operated remotely by a crew who cannot hear what is being discussed. The unique format allows celebrities to be unusually candid.
“The strength of this format is in its core: it is intimate, emotional and honest. Because of this, its international potential is huge,” said Carlotta Rossi Spencer, head of format acquisitions at Banijay, a company that has acquired the distribution rights to Danish posthumous interview format Famous Last Words.
Mikael Bertelsen had taped interviews with Danish-American pianist and comedian Victor Borge before he passed away in 2000. The recordings were ultimately not used but the experience of speaking to a notable figure in “the autumn of his eventful and exciting life” stayed with him.
It is clear that this is a public farewell, in which a famous musician, sports star, comedian, actor, business leader or politician is talking to their audience for the last time.
“A unique and original offering, it certainly stands out in the market and is incredibly universal and adaptable; we are looking forward to travelling this unique title across our footprint and beyond,” says Rossi Spencer.
Danish television has become synonymous internationally with serious dramas such as Borgen and The Bridge, which has become successful because of, rather than in spite of, their Nordicness.
Last Words from Danish Public Figures, written by Tor Kjolberg.
Feature image (on top): On June 19, 2023, Denmark lost one of its greatest political figures, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen. Before his death, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen spoke to Mikael Bertelsen about his life, and the recordings, which have been stored in the Royal Library’s archive, are now being shown for the first time.