Espen Skjønberg

Espen Skjønberg (born April 7 1924, dead August 26 2022) was a Norwegian actor.

His parents were the actors Conrad Eugen Skjønberg (1889–1971) and Henny Bucher Eide, later Henny Skjønberg (1886–1973), and from 1959 he was married to actress Mona Hofland (24.06.1929-11.02.2010).

Espen Skjønberg grew up within theatre with well-known actors as parents, and he had his first parts when he was still a child. He and his peer Toralv Maurstad were travelling boys fighting in the movie Fant 1937, and he was among the teenagers in De vergeløse* (The Guardless) in 1939. After a time studying at The Norwegian Theatre, with visiting performances at Chat Noir 1945 he got a student contract at The National Theatre in 1946, staying for three years, mostly in smaller parts. After a short term in Stavanger he initiated a ten-year working period at Det Nye Teater - which was later to become Oslo Nye Teater (Oslo New Theatre) - in 1949, staying on with Oslo Nye Teater (Oslo New Theatre) until 1966 or 1967. After a year or two at The Norwegian Theatre he was an employee of The National Theatre from 1968 to 1995.

*Not yet translated into English. The title within parentheses is the Norwegian title's literal meaning.


(Objekt ID 11380)
Object type Person
Born April 7, 1924 (dead August 26, 2022)
Functions Actor
Nationality Norwegian
Gender Male

Espen Skjønberg won The Norwegian Critics' Award in 1952 for his poetically clear Hamlet.

In 1957 he interpreted the role of Peer Gynt with Lalla Carlsen as Mother Aase in a popular production in The Vigeland Park, one of his many Ibsen roles: Osvald in Ghosts, Gregers Werle and Hjalmar Ekdal in The Wild Duck, Peer Gynt, Helmer in A Doll's House, Brack in Hedda Gabler, Brendel in Rosmersholm.

He has interpreted Josef in Kafka's The Trial, Phil in Moon for the Misbegotten by O'Neill, and Camus' Caligula, Mephisto in Goethe's Faust at The Norwegian Theatre, he has acted in Strindberg's The Father (also in TV) and in Gogol's The Government Inspector. He has had the roles of the fool in Stein Mehren's Narren og hans hertug* (The Fool and His Duke), Nero in Racine's Britannicus, and the title roles of Shakespeare's Richard III and Kong Lear. He has played Tyrone in Long Day's Journey into Night and the leading role of Pushkin's Boris Gudonov. In 1993 he and Toralv Maurstad alternated as the actor and the dresser in Ronald Harwood's The Dresser.

Often he co-starred with his wife, Mona Hofland. In 1960 they visited Rogaland Theatre in the roles of Higgins and Eliza in My Fair Lady. In 1974 artistic director at The National Theatre invited them to work together, and at The National Theatre they collaborated in central and demanding plays such as Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Strindberg's The Dance of Death, Kent Andersson's Agnes and several plays by Tom Stoppard. Together they visited Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation's TV drama division in 1970 in The Wild Duck and in 1972–73 they visited The National Stage in Macbeth, Trøndelag Theatre in Peer Gynt and Rogaland Theatre in Uncle Vanya. They belonged to the pioneers starting the borough scene in Torshov in 1977 and they acted together in the popular opening performance Lever du’a, Karlsen?* (Are you alive, then, Karlsen?) by Tor Edvin Dahl. In more recent years they have worked for the TV series Western Wind (1994–95) and De Syv Søstre* (The Seven Sisters) (1996–2000).

During the 1980es and 1990es Espen Skjønberg performed several Ibsen and Shakespeare roles at British and American theatres. In 1985 he won British Theatre Association Award, and in 1988 he had a major part in the British TV series Codename: Kyril.

Officially, Skjønberg retired from the theatre in 1995 as Lessing's Nathan the Wise, but he has later done visiting performances, including as Andreas Sund in Hobæk Haff's Shame and the manservant in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. From 2000 he has performed Lars Saabye Christensen's especially written monologue Grand Old Man on a regular basis.

Besides Skjønberg has acted in more than 40 movies, including Vi vil skilles* (We Want a Divorce) (1952), Vårnatt* (Spring Night) (1976), Heritage (1979), On the Threshold (1984), A Handful of Time (1989), The Last Lieutenant (1993, The Amanda Award), A Dream Play (1994) and O'Horten (2007).

Espen Skjønberg took part in a number of the drama productions made by Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation's TV drama division, and had central roles in the TV series Fellow Man (1980), Western Wind (1994–95), Syv Søstre* (Seven Sisters) (1996–2000) and Berlin Poplars (2007–08; won the TV award Gullruten).

In 1989 Skjønberg was named a Knight of The Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, the same year he got the honorary award of Arts Council Norway, and in 2004 he got Honorary Amanda. After interpreting the roles of Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot by The National Theatre Toralv Maurstad and Espen Skjønberg both won Honorary Hedda 2005.

The Hedda Jury gave the following reason:

"Honorary Hedda is not to be given out annually, but only when the jury is simply not unable not to give it out. This was said by the jury the first time the award was given out - to Wenche Foss in 2002. The next year the jury couldn't abstain, either, and the Honorary Award went toJon Fosse. Last year the jury stuck to its word: No Honorary Hedda was given out.

We make up for it this year. With not just one award, but two. To two unique personalities, who both have long experience from Norwegian theatre, and who have both become living legends. For more than 50 years they have delighted Norwegians - onstage, naturally, but also on cinema screens and through TV. This year they do it again, and the audience's warmth and love meet them: Ever since the opening there has hardly been an available ticket for their - for now - last achievement.

Honorary Hedda goes to Espen Skjønberg and Toralv Maurstad."

Espen Skjønberg won The Hedda Award 2015 in the best supporting actor category for the role of Ivan Chebutykin in Three Sisters, The National Theatre 2015.

The Hedda Jury gave the following reason:

"A successful performance is depending of actors who dare to provide each other with energy. Some have the ability to make that energy electrical. At the same time, the award winner succeeds in giving his character a secret life of his own. This year's winner has an intensity that adds new meaning to the role he is acting. This ability he has developed and refined through a long, very long, life as an actor.

The best supporting actor award goes to Espen Skjønberg."


Sceneweb on The Hedda Award 2005,, 17.10.2012,

Store Norske Leksikon, Espen Skjønberg,, 18.10.2012,

Norsk Biografisk Leksikon, Espen Skjønberg,, 18.10.2012,

The Hedda Award,, 20.05.2015,

The Hedda Award,, 21.06.2015,

*Not yet translated into English. The title within parentheses is the Norwegian title's literal meaning.