I see what you mean now when you say your move to the US was sparked by an “unexpected amount of progress.”
After that, when I had done all those films…I thought, maybe. And then they were casting Thor…
And then you know, I didn’t get that, but I was kind of close, and it was the first Hollywood thing I ever auditioned for…so then I kinda thought, you know, maybe this ain’t so hard (laughing).
You were inching closer and closer to American soil.
Yeah and then there was this manager, Shelley Browning, she came to Sweden after she had seen the Thor audition, and said she thought I should give it a shot. And I thought, “okay, what the hell” (laughing).
And then you made the big move to the U.S. I imagine it probably felt a bit like you were starting from the bottom up again when you began your career oversees?
You know, I suffered four months of constant rejection (laughing). And then I got a job, and I sort of went on my way.
All the way to your current film, “Run All Night.” Let’s talk about that one; what’s the relationship between your character Michael and his father, played by Liam Neeson? How do they see one another?
Well, he was a very distant father…not good to Mike’s mother, and then the only time he was around was when he was hiding from something…and also drunk, and just not present at all. The last time he saw him was at his mother’s funeral, where he showed up drunk. So I think Mike sees his father as a toxic person, he just does not want him around him and his family. He’s working really hard to keep [them] fed and provide for them in an honest way.
Do you think to some degree, maybe not as dramatically as Mike and Jimmy, but to some degree, do all men sort of struggle with the question, “do I want to be a man like my father?”
Yeah…yeah. And it’s really difficult, I mean, I have several friends that grew up without fathers, either their fathers died when they were young or they just weren’t around, but it’s still…it’s a question that is always there. I think you got to take the best of your dad and try to build on that, and hopefully, if your dad has done his best, you will be able to be even more successful in life than he was. I think it’s also very difficult when you have a super successful father…
Yeah, that’s true.
When you sort of grow up in the shadow. I feel like my dad…he never really had those kinds of ambitions, you know, success in that way, but he put a lot of love and energy into the family and creating a good life for us…not so much financially, but with love and dedication. So yeah…try to bring the best of your dad, and not bring the worst side of them, and then create something good…hopefully for your kids.
Sound advice. Back to the film, what was it like working opposite Neeson? What was the dynamic between you two?
It was wonderful. He’s a really funny, warm, gentle man, who has honed his craft for many many years, and is just good at what he does. He makes it easy, he doesn’t complicate things unnecessarily, and so it becomes fun and unpretentious…a really nice working environment.
Yeah, he seems like he would be a good guy to work with.
He can really take a joke (laughing), so we mess with each other. I would be fucking with him all the time, and he’d get a laugh out of that, and then he’d try to fuck with me (laughing). When there’s no ego involved, it’s always fun, and Liam has no ego. He’s there to do a good job, and to have fun with the people he works with.
You have another spring release coming out in April, a film adaptation of “Child 44.” I understand you play quite the duplicitous villain in the film. I guess Stalin’s regime kind of bred those types.
I think Stalin’s Soviet Union must be one of the worst places you could have lived in the last 100 years. Where, as soon as there is any suspicion that you might be a traitor…if the suspicion arises, than you’re already guilty. And all it takes for suspicion to arise is if somebody gives up your name, and as soon as someone is suspected, the only way to get out of it is to name five people. It’s one of those impossible situations, where everyone is living in constant terror…with death looming around every corner.
It was not a pleasant time. You’ve worked with the film’s director, Daniel Espinosa, in the past on other projects. What was it like working with him again, did you fall into old rhythms?
Yeah, this was the third one we did together. I mean, he’s also one of my best friends, so it’s a very special relationship. We have a real shorthand. It’s really funny (laughing), me and Daniel working together, we’ll start off, talking English to everyone, sort of joking around. And then Daniel will start giving everybody direction, and we’ll follow up talking about the scene in Swedish, and then we get into an argument, and start fighting, and screaming at each other in Swedish, and the whole crew is standing around, looking like “what the fuck is going on.” And we do that for like five minutes, and then we shake hands and pat each other on the shoulders, and are like, “okay, let’s do this” (laughing). We don’t even realize we just got into a big argument, we’re just so use to each other and discussing stuff, so it’s very undramatic.
That would be funny to witness. In the film, you’re hunting after Tom Hardy’s character Leo. What was it like working with him, playing each others nemeses?
It’s cool. Tom is such a great actor, and really dedicated. So you know, he brings a real intensity to it that’s fun to play off of. We had a strong dynamic between our characters. For me, the more real it gets, the more fun it gets, and Tom is definitely good for that.
Aside from movies, do you have any interest in doing more television or Netflix productions, or are you concentrating on film right now?
Right now, I’m concentrating on films, but at the same time there’s so much good drama on TV…it’s always appealing. I think I would probably be more interested in a miniseries or a limited series run, if I was to do television again. It’s going to be a long time before I sign off on another long series.
On that note, not too long ago, talking about an actor moving back and forth between film and television was kind of unheard of, how do you feel about the way Hollywood has changed in that regard? Is it exciting as an actor?
Yeah, I mean, it’s great. It’s completely changed the landscape, and…much of the best writing is dramatic writing done for TV, and I think that most of the writers…the best writers…are drawn to TV. It’s also like, a season of a TV show is a novel and a movie is a short story, and there’s definitely an appeal to that.
I’ve never thought about it like that, it makes sense though.
And I like how a lot of these formats have been growing, like every season has a new cast. And that also, I think, attracts people who have a lot of options because if you have a lot of options, it’s difficult to give everything else up for four or five years and just do one thing.
Do you find the industry in the US similar or fairly different to that back in Sweden?
Ummm…I think there are a lot of similarities for sure. I think that the way people look at movie “successes” is very different. I think when a kind of shitty movie gets commercial success, it’s only the producers of that film that consider it a success if the general public and colleagues think it’s a bad movie. I think here, if a movie does a lot of business, it kind of becomes looked upon as a good movie.
Yeah, I can see that.
And so, I think that is a big difference…and the same way on the other way around, if it’s a great film, that doesn’t reach big financial success, that can still be looked upon as a really important movie and as a “success,” even though it didn’t have financial success, but a lot of those films become looked down upon here, even though they’re great films. So…that’s the big difference.
Just talking about the culture of Hollywood, I really respect that you’ve chosen to separate your personal life from your work life, and stay off of social media as an actor. I imagine you must feel some pressure though to give fans and audiences access to your life in that way. Is it tough not to get pulled into all that?
It’s…it’s not. I mean, sometimes, people are like becoming friends on Twitter and you’re like “oh, we could also become friends,” (laughing), but ummm, no, I think you kind of lose your argument of wanting privacy if you share that much of your personal life with the world, I think that’s something that is precious.
That’s definitely true…it’s so tough to protect privacy in your business though.
We all have to talk and make ourselves available when we’re promoting films, but then we have something to talk about, that not just us.
Yeah, then it’s you talking about your work, it’s about the acting.
I don’t have to talk about my personal life, and what’s going on, and have people see what I’m doing. I just think that we’re the one form of artists where the less people know about you as a person, the better because our form of art is to pretend to be other people. I think that the less people know about me as a person, the easier it is for them to suspend their disbelief.
Styling by Skye Stewart-Short
Grooming by Anna Bernabe for Exclusive Artists Management using Fellow Barber
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