Making his English-language debut, Oslo-born writer-director Kristoffer Borgli follows the rise and fall of one man’s fifteen minutes of fame with Dream Scenario, a mordantly funny and playfully twisted take on the collective consciousness of modern life, where just about anyone can suddenly become a strange kind of celebrity, and fall back into obscurity or infamy just as quickly.
“I’m drawn to stubborn characters, who live and die by their own unattainable principles.” says award-winning Norwegian writer-director Kristoffer Borgli , whose previous feature was 2022’s Sick of Myself, the story of a beautiful young Oslo woman who obtains social media clout after disfiguring herself.
“I see fiction as a place to investigate the dark or dysfunctional aspects of the modern life. There’s a very human tendency to focus on the negative space, whatever we feel is missing, even when we seemingly have everything. We make ourselves miserable in the absence of some made-up potential.”
Starring an almost-unrecognizable Nicolas Cage, Dream Scenario makes dark comedy out of Paul Matthews’ attempts to manage his sudden and improbable fame—an exceptionally clever bit of casting for one of the most prolific and recognizable actors working today. Transforming himself into a gregarious nobody in L.L. Bean dad rags, Cage seizes the character and role with breathtaking zeal, riding a crest of recent work that has elicited delight at every turn.
“It was one of the best scripts I’ve read, quite frankly, and I think it’s my best performance and probably the best movie I’ve ever made,” says Cage, who has appeared in more than 100 films in a singular and unrivaled career. “Dream Scenario gave me good reason to keep looking for young talent in filmmakers,
and not just wait for the big established names we all know to come along. I’m glad I’m taking these opportunities with young filmmakers. I think Kristoffer Borgli has made a masterpiece.”
After reading Dream Scenario, Cage reached out to Ari Aster and told him he felt like he understood Paul Matthews completely. “I felt that I had the life experience to play this character in terms of being someone who’s in the public eye, and who’s gone up and down in how I’m perceived,” says Cage. “People
know a lot of things about me, and the role was a great vessel to channel those memories, experiences and feelings.”
In a widely varied and eclectic career, Dream Scenario is both a welcome reminder of Cage’s acclaimed and award-winning work in films like Adaptation and Leaving Las Vegas, and further evidence of his fearlessness to take part in projects that are daringly fresh and original.
The script arrived at a time when Cage’s career was in overdrive. He had drawn high acclaim for his role in Pig, playing a solitary truffle hunter living in the Portland woods, before playing himself in the maximalist meta-comedy The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Then came the horror comedy Renfield, and the
psychological thriller Sympathy for the Devil—garish freakouts that have become Cage’s stock in trade one hundred films into a stellar career.
Says Borgli, “We sent him the script, he read it immediately and said he had felt all the things Paul Matthews goes through, like having other people’s perceptions dictate who you are in the
culture. With the insane amount of fame that he’s achieved in his life, the memeification of Nic Cage was entirely convincing.”
Cage was also familiar with the world of academia, having grown up with a professor father. “Although my dad was more of an Alpha academic to Paul’s Beta, I understood all the competition, jealousy and viciousness that can occur around who’s publishing or writing the better papers,” says Cage. “The academic community comes with a certain kill-or-be-killed or eat-or-be-eaten mentality and I could relate to Paul’s concerns about how he was being treated in his work life because I saw my father contend with those very things.”
Most of all, Dream Scenario was a chance for Cage to participate in something truly original and one-of-a-kind. “This felt brand new, not only in terms of my character but in the piece itself, because I’m walking around inside Kristoffer Borgli’s mind and I’m doing something that has no category in film. That’s what was so important to me about making this movie.”
“I tell all my actors they are hopelessly stuck inside a drama—you don’t know this is a comedy, and in that way the movie becomes a comedy from the audience’s perspective. The situations become so life-and-death for the main character that it becomes serious. But that’s also when things become funny for me. The most satisfying laughs come from a place where you’re trying not to laugh.”
Hapless family man Paul Matthews (Nicolas Cage) finds his life turned upside down when millions of strangers suddenly start seeing him in their dreams. But when his nighttime appearances take a nightmarish turn, Paul is forced to navigate his newfound stardom, in this wickedly entertaining
From Inspiration to Screenplay
n 2018, Borgli read about a professor who lost his teaching job, receiving a large settlement in court and becoming a spokesperson for so-called cancel culture. “There wasn’t a word for what was happening to him at the time, but I remember being interested in how students would follow him across campus
when he was still teaching and vandalize his car,” says Borgli.
“It sounded like an old Western about a person being banished from a town or forced out by villagers with pitchforks like Frankenstein. The scenario felt very cinematic to me.”
Borgli noticed more professors with similar stories, and they would all go on podcasts and explain themselves. “There was often a very narcissistic and almost delusional tone with some of these guys, claiming to be robbed of Nobel prices or academic worship” says Borgli. “I became obsessed with these figures. They were all taken by total surprise when they got fired, they felt they had done nothing wrong, the crimes they were accused of completely fabricated in the minds of their students. And so an idea started taking shape.”
Borgli’s features to date are satires, or what Borgli describes as “constructive bullyings of our collective behavior.” “As we watch them the hope is to try and put our behavior in a better place,” says Borgli.
“When I wrote Sick of Myself, I realized the best way to undress a phenomenon is through comedy, showing how naked and raw something can be when you call attention to it.”
As Sick of Myself made its way through the industry, Borgli was introduced to producer Lars Knudsen, who had found success producing the works of Ari Aster and Robert Eggers.
“I’m Norwegian, Lars is Danish—it’s kind of lazy but the people who referred me thought we’d bond since we’re both Scandinavian,” says Borgli. The Scandinavians met for dinner and got along well. “When the time was right, I sent him Dream Scenario,” says Borgli.
“Lars had just set up Square Peg, his company with writer-director-producer Ari Aster. He shared it with Ari, who loved the script, and suddenly I was on a call with both producers. They became very generous and supportive of my work.”
Julianne Nicholson, who plays Paul Matthews’ wife Janet in Dream Scenario, received Borgli’s shorts along with the script before she was cast in the movie; she became an immediate fan. “They were completely original—dark, hilarious, weird, raw, and naturalistic,” says Nicholson of Borgli’s shorts. “I burst
out laughing at each one of them. Kris is out of his mind in a good way. He has a wild, out-there and very specific take on the world we live in now. There’s no blueprint for what he’s trying to convey.”
Borgli’s Write Journey
Kristoffer Borgli grew up in an Oslo suburb and spent his teenage years working in a video store, becoming obsessive about filmmaking. He began downloading screenplays, starting with Fargo, curious what a script even looked like. What he saw shocked him.
“The dialogue was so intimidating, I couldn’t believe that all the nuance, every stutter and pause was actually written out. I tried writing my own crime movies in my late teens, while living in my parents’ basement, but of course they all sucked.”
He stepped away from writing and focused on the visual side of filmmaking, learning how to shoot and edit by directing skate-boarding videos. “At some point I decided filmmaking was more than just a hobby, and when I moved to Oslo as a young adult, I started calling myself a director,” says Borgli. “It was a long
period of seeing what could happen.”
Skateboard clips led to music videos, then commercials, and later, short films. Borgli tried writing features again in his 20s, inspired by the high-concept comedies of the 1960s and 70s.
“The movies made sense to me in terms of the way they made comedy out of these existential tragedies,” says Borgli. “How we make our lives more difficult for ourselves because we can’t choose — or we don’t know what we want. I could find comedy in my own missteps in the same way Larry David approaches it
in Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
David’s “champagne problems,” and the Curb writer-director’s penchant for finding comedy out of nothingness, fired up Borgli’s creative imagination. “I’m interested in psychology but not in a scholarly way —most of what we do in life is driven by forces that are beyond our control or vision. We can’t see the mechanism.”
By the end of his 20s Borgli had found success in the advertising world. “I remember being horrified by the culture around advertising—and the corruption—and I wanted to talk about that somehow. So I wrote this mockumentary that took on its own form,” says Borgli.
That idea became Drib, a marketing satire and reenactment of a purportedly true story about a company trying to make an edgy commercial for an energy drink. Borgli presented it as a re-enactment of a real story. Few people who saw it knew the entire story was made up, and its success at South by Southwest in 2017 led him to Los Angeles.
He took a grant from the Norwegian Film Institute in 2018 and started writing Sick of Myself. Over the next two years he made a series of five short films while awaiting funding on his debut feature. By 2020, his shorts were garnering attention in the industry, including “Former Cult Member Hears Music For the
First Time,” which went on to play in the Sundance Film Festival.
Julianne Nicholson, who plays Paul Matthews’ wife Janet in Dream Scenario, received Borgli’s shorts along with the script before she was cast in the movie; she became an immediate fan.
“They were completely original—dark, hilarious, weird, raw, and naturalistic,” says Nicholson of Borgli’s shorts. “I burst out laughing at each one of them. Kris is out of his mind in a good way. He has a wild, out-there and very specific take on the world we live in now. There’s no blueprint for what he’s trying to
Another fan of Borgli’s work was John Waters, who included Sick of Myself in his Top 10 of 2022 in Artforum Magazine. “A pair of narcissistic Norwegian lovers can’t stop competing for the public’s attention,” Waters wrote of the movie. “He’s a sculptor who uses furniture he steals as material, and she takes recalled poison medication on purpose to make her skin break out in rashes and boils so she can become a model with disabilities. It’s not Female Trouble, but it’s just as nuts!”