Getting Beneath the Surface
Source: Filmwax Radio - May 21, 2011
After an amazing string of successes
playing Mikael Blomkvist in all three film adaptations
of Stieg Larssonís Millennium Trilogy, actor
Michael Nyqvist finally has an opportunity to show some
of his other work to a broader audience. One such film,
Suddenly, is playing in Eurocinemaís First Annual
Scandinavian On Demand Film Festival.
How are you?
Wonderful. Right now in Stockholm weíre in the peak of
beautiful weather. But between March and November, it
gets pretty tough.
You made "Suddenly" before "The Millennium Trilogy",
Four years ago or something. Itís a work Iím pretty
proud of. The producer, director and I worked very close
together. We did another film after that called Among
Us, and we plan to do another film soon. Suddenly
is about sorrow and itís a very Swedish film. You can
see the tracks from Bergman in it. Itís traditional in
that way. The environment of the story is like a Bergman
film. Itís a fantastic island. Itís middle class.
Everyone is supposed to be very happy and things are
supposed to be very good, but they aren't.
Did you know when you were making ďSuddenlyĒ that
your next production would be such a blockbuster,
I had no idea about that. I hadnít
read Stiegís books. Iím a bit of a snob in what I read.
Stuck with my James Joyce or something like that. No, I
had no idea about that. Suddenly is more
representative of the type of film I normally do.
When you read the script, did the similarities of
your life strike you? You have two children as well.
What did you make of Lasseís tragedy? What was the
process of figuring out that character?
Well, losing a kid is the worst nightmare. Itís the
worst thing you could think of, or losing your wife. The
film is about a father who couldnít explain or
communicate the subjects in life. Emotions, whatever. He
didnít have the language of doing that.
Whatís challenging for me as an actor
is to find things that I have a lack of understanding
about in my own life but I begin to make more sense of
it as I work through the character. Thatís what hooked
me with this story. I worked very closely with Johan
[director]. Itís about getting to the subtext beneath
the dialogue. The characters always act polite and never
say whatís really on their mind, never speaking what
they really think or feel. Thatís how we approached this
film. The scenes between my son and I represent that
best. And how we try to crack the ice. Itís not until
the end until they become close.
There was a lot of fear of what
might result if the ice is cracked; the emotion and the
pain can be terrifying.
Right, like the scene in the hut when Lasse is in the
hut and finds his sonís life vest.
Yes, I knew he was going to break down there. It was
a catharsis. I was ready for the tears.
And itís not even just tears. The character had to cry
out. He just screamed. Itís like chopping wood. Itís not
bending something, itís cracking it open.
Serious question: were you contractually obligated to
show your back side a certain number of times?
I get this question a lot. Yeah, well, the story is
about bearing yourself on some level. Normally when you
are going through sorrow, you want to hideÖ but thatís
the great thing about film. You can show graphically and
you donít have to speak the words. The audience feels
gratified by what they see and connect to the story this
way. Bergman might have someone vomit over the table and
then talk about God or something.
Yes, "Suddenly" seems very minimalist on the surface
but thereís a great deal going on underneath the
surface. You see that more than it exists in the
dialogue. The film resolves well but doesnít feel
wrapped up neatly either.
Like smashing the boat.
Yes, things canít be fixed sometimes.
Like married couples renovating their homes and they
divorce after itís done. They have problems but they
donít talk. Theyíd rather fix things on the surface.
Has ďSuddenlyĒ played throughout Sweden?
Oh, yes. Itís played throughout Europe and received some
Well, finally it will also play to American audiences
now on demand. Any thoughts about it playing through
this emerging distribution method?
The first reaction is that Iím so happy. Iím very proud
of this film. We have a tradition of making films like
this in Sweden and Denmark. The tradition of film there
is so old. Serious films. What makes me excited is the
opportunity for American audiences to see how
Scandinavians deal with life. Thereís currently a lack
of that in America. Itís not a commercial film, itís all
about the story. I would be very proud if the American
audience embraces it. American cinema has brought so
much to us.
Any thoughts that it will be playing right into their
living rooms and bedrooms? This is quickly becoming a
major way American audiences are watching such character
driven films as "Suddenly". As you may know, most art
houses are in the major cities, mostly, and that a film
like this may play one or two weeks, if itís lucky.
I love it. I lived for a year in Omaha when I was 17.
Iíve been to The States many times. But what I didnít
know is how different it is inland than from the coasts.
Not nearly as much culture. If this film could get to
those parts, then thatís fantastic.
Youíve known for a while that the Americans are
re-making "The Millennium Trilogy". No surprise there.
Have you been approached to play any role in that
No but my daughter is in one short scene. She plays a
waitress, just by coincidence. No, I havenít but I am
extremely curious to see it.
Are you able to walk around Stockholm discretely as a
result of those films?
Well, before then I had some films of international
success, so I was already used to being recognized. Like
being stared at or asking for autographs. Itís the
guided tours that follow the Stieg trilogy. Iíve told
the organization that they are not allowed to tell
tourists where I live. Anyway, I have a good life. Itís
like I was sitting in a wheel chair but you get used to
it. I have more benefits from it. I just wrapped two
American films, by the way. One is called Abduction
and the other is Mission Impossible 4."
I take it you were the villain?
The super villain.
Of course. I guess you had a few scenes with Mr.
Cruise. How was that?
Yes, most of my scenes were with him. He is a great
actor. We really enjoyed working together. He has the
same enthusiasm that I do. We surprised each other and
had a lot of fun. Like 1 to 100 in a nanosecond!