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 Millenium 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", correct?

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, relatively speaking?

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.

Yes.

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 nice awards.

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 project?

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!