Joel Kinnaman, the Swedish actor best known for his breakout role in AMC’s hit series The Killing, plays a pivotal role in Lola Versus as Lola’s (Greta Gerwig) erstwhile fiancé, Luke, a handsome and sensitive visual artist who is preparing for a prestigious solo show of his paintings based on images from celebrity sex tapes. When he breaks off their engagement just weeks before the wedding, Lola spirals out of control as she struggles to adjust to her new life as a suddenly single woman in the city. Kinnaman plays Luke as a thoughtful guy who realizes he can’t marry Lola right now and he manages to keep the character sympathetic even after he dumps her.
Recently we spoke by phone to Kinnaman in London about his contemporary romantic comedy, Lola Versus, which opens in theaters on June 8th. He told us what drew him to the project, what it was about the character that spoke to him when he read the script, how he views the differences in gender politics between the U.S. and Scandinavia, what the directing process was like with Daryl Wein, and why he enjoyed shooting on location in New York. He also discussed his upcoming role in the RoboCop reboot which starts filming in September. He talked to us about working with director José Padilha, being a fan of the original film directed by Paul Verhoeven, how Padilha plans to make the remake different from Verhoeven’s version while still throwing in nods to the original film, why he believes retelling a story can break new ground, and his excitement at having the opportunity to work opposite Gary Oldman whom he considers a master at his craft. Hit the jump for what he had to say.
Question: What made you want to do Lola Versus? What attracted you to the project?
JOEL KINNAMAN: It was the director/co-writers, both Daryl and Zoe. We had a bunch of friends in common, and a couple of my good friends from New York, so we had a shorthand right there. We had a Skype meeting. It was a lot of fun. It felt like we were all good friends. Also, I liked the script. I thought it was an interesting take on it. It started out where normal romantic comedies end. I liked that. It was interesting. I liked the whole thesis of getting freedom by solitude. I also thought it was funny. I didn’t know Greta Gerwig more than I’d seen her in Greenberg, and I thought she was wonderful in that. I had a good feeling about it, and I hadn’t done anything similar, any movie in that kind of genre more than in the gritty darker echelon of movies. It was both a nice break not to have to spend time with deeply wounded and tormented characters and a change of pace that I was looking forward to. And then, I have to say a big part of it was to get to spend five weeks in New York shooting in the summer. It’s always been the city of my dreams and somewhere where I envisioned ending up. It was a bunch of different stuff, but I was looking forward to it, and I had a good feeling about that role and the script. It was all fun.
What is it about Luke that spoke to you when you read the script?
KINNAMAN: I thought that there were some possibilities. I could make him into an interesting guy that sort of woke up. He was following the path of how things are supposed to be done. They were going through the motions, and then all of a sudden, he realizes that maybe he’s throwing away his life. And that’s something I think about a lot because I believe that this life is all we have. I don’t believe in anything after this, so I think the choices we make here are so important and the relationships we choose are crucial, especially in that time when we are developing ourselves and we’re becoming adults. Now we’re 30 [in this] so I guess it’s ridiculous to think we’re not adults yet. It’s that thing that maybe I’m not doing this for the right reason, maybe I’m just playing it safe. That’s something I’m constantly trying to convince myself of – not to play it safe in life and to be able to be emotionally brave. I saw this Danish documentary that did these deep interviews with old people from all over the world, from different classes of society, different religious backgrounds. They asked them questions about life, and of course, they all had completely different outlooks on life. They were talking to people that were 70 to 80 years old that were in the final stages of life. The majority of the answers were all over the place. People looked at life completely different. But there was one question where people were giving the same answers all over the world, and a much higher percentage than anywhere else, and that was ‘What is your biggest regret in life?’ The answer that was more common over all societies, classes, and cultural backgrounds was ‘That I didn’t take more emotional risks.’ I think that’s what Luke was realizing, so I connected with that idea and that was something I wanted to be a part of.
How do you think women differ from men in terms of their approach, attitudes and response to sexual relationships?
KINNAMAN: Apart from the female biological clock that is always ticking, I think there is a stronger need. I mean, even though I think that many men think about that too – like is this going to be the mother of my children? — that has a place that’s stronger with women. Otherwise, I think the way we look upon gender is that we’re realizing that we’re not that different, which is a good thing. The United States needs to come further with that. In the Scandinavian countries, we’ve come further when it comes to gender politics and how we look upon gender and how women are treated in general.
You’ve worked with a number of different types of directors from Daniel Espinosa to David Fincher and soon you’ll be doing RoboCop with José Padilha. How would you describe Daryl Wein’s method of directing?
KINNAMAN: Well he also co-wrote the script and that’s a big thing. I think that’s a big portion of his direction. Visually, he was very happy with what Jakob Ihre was doing. He’s a wonderful Swedish cinematographer. So it was fun. We had a shorthand there. We could speak in our secret language and make fun of the rest of the cast and the director and producers and go “Ha, ha, ha! They just don’t know what we’re doing right now.” (laughs) No. His strong point as a director was the musicality of how the lines were supposed to be read and how the scenes worked and were supposed to play out and how they were going to sound. He has a very good ear. He was very particular and very thorough when it came to the script. He was a very good director.
When do you start filming RoboCop?
KINNAMAN: In September. It’s very exciting.
Are you surprised by the level of interest?
KINNAMAN: A little bit, yeah. It’s like when you say one thing, it’s everywhere, and that’s pretty awesome and a little bit intimidating. It makes you realize you have to think before speaking. That’s a quality I’m continuously evolving. For some reason, it seems like I’m bumping my head into the wall a little bit too many times, but now I think I’m doing alright. It’s fantastic. I used to be like “Why are we doing a remake? What are remakes being done for?” But then, we do that all the time in the theater. If we weren’t doing remakes, nobody would know who Shakespeare was. I’m not saying that RoboCop is Shakespeare, but it’s a way to … we’re retelling. That’s what we do as human beings. We retell our favorite stories. That’s what we’ve done since we were sitting around campfires. It’s a part of the human spirit. It doesn’t have to be negative to creativity. It can be completely opposite. That’s how you can break new ground by rethinking something that’s already been done. José has a completely different take on this than Verhoeven had, and with all respect, everybody that’s involved in this movie loved the original and we have a lot of respect for it. We’re going to have a lot of throwbacks and there’s going to be a lot of fun stuff for the fans of the first movie. It’s a new story within the old one.
Were you a fan of the original?
KINNAMAN: I’ve seen it maybe 20 times before I got this part.
Have you been reading the online sites and forums about the RoboCop reboot?
KINNAMAN: No, not really.
Were you nervous when you signed on for a multi-picture deal?
KINNAMAN: No. I mean that sort of comes with the territory, and so far, everything that I’ve been promised and everything that I’ve heard about the project has really come to life. Everybody is trying to make something real, something with a core of substance, and of course, an exciting action movie with a lot of terrific stuff and fantastic visuals and everything, but at the core of it, it’s a movie with substance and something that is going to make people think.
How excited are you to work with Gary Oldman?
KINNAMAN: That feels about as surreal as me being RoboCop. I couldn’t be happier. He’s pretty much the grand master of the game. I still think it made everybody that voted for the Oscars look bad that they didn’t vote for Gary Oldman, because what he did is so difficult in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It’s a completely different kind of thing. I mean, I loved The Artist. I thought it was fantastic. I saw it early before the whole hype of it and I thought that French actor (Jean Dujardin) did a great job, but he’s more like that guy. I’ve seen him in interviews and he is a bit animated like that character. But, Gary Oldman disappears into his character. It’s so subtle. It’s so difficult what he does, and it’s something that I don’t think maybe two or three other actors could do on their best day in the world right now. It was a master’s performance and he’s on top of his game right now. He’s in his golden age. So, I’m very, very excited and we have great scenes that have a lot of the substance that I was talking about. It’s very much a relationship between Gary Oldman’s character and Alex Murphy.
It must be fun to work opposite an actor like that.
KINNAMAN: It’s like going to school…for Gary, of course. (laughs)
What are your favorite Gary Oldman movies?
KINNAMAN: I have to say there are so many. Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, and then most definitely Nil by Mouth, a movie that he directed, and then Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.