1883 Magazine
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Anders Danielsen Lie is the celebrated Norwegian actor who recently touched down in Utah for the annual Sundance Film Festival where he premiered his second feature with Joachim Trier, Oslo, August 31st. Already receiving rave reviews, the deeply affecting movie chronicles the experiences of a recovering drug addict – played by Danielsen Lie – as he takes a brief leave from rehab.  

An astonishing polymath, who juggles his varying jobs as a medical doctor (yes, really), being a musician and his film career with enviable aplomb; here he enlightens 1883 on his eclectic career to date.

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Would you say you have ever taken the method approach for any projects?

My approach is kind of homemade.  For me there is no such this thing as one method. I have lots of methods and they don’t always work, so the more the better! Shooting is hard, you constantly get distracted and time is short so pragmatism pays off. As for building a character: I think I learn a lot from my profession as a medical doctor actually. I meet many people in extreme real-life situations every day. That’s been a big source of inspiration for both Reprise (Danielsen Lie’s earlier project with Joachim Trier) and Oslo, August 31st. It’s also important to read a lot of fiction and non-fiction, and watch a lot of movies. I think every actor should study some basic screenwriting.

How difficult is it to break into the Scandinavian independent film industries?

We don’t really have a separate indie scene in Norway, the industry is so small. I believe there are many struggling actors in Norway, but the ones who break through are usually educated at National Academy of Theatre. Unfortunately there is no academy for film acting only. Most Norwegian actors are not very selective; I think they are just happy to be in a movie if they get the opportunity.

How interested have you been by movements such as Dogme 95?

I highly admire Lars Von Trier as a progressive filmmaker. Dogme 95 was an interesting creative experiment, but in my opinion it never really produced that many great movies. I got tired by poor quality hand-held video and bad lighting. I am very fascinated by LVTs discussion on creative limitations. The Five Obstructions is a good example of his creative curiosity. But my favourite is of course the satirical masterpiece The Kingdom. I can’t believe how he figured out all the hilarious idiosyncrasies of hospital medicine without being a doctor himself.

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The script is loosely adapted from Leu Feu Follet by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle. Have you read the novel?

I haven’t read the novel by PD La Rochelle. We made Oslo very fast, and I was somewhat reluctant to let myself be influenced by the previous versions of the story. Eventually I saw Louis Malle’s movie from 1963, and I realised that we were working on a totally different project. Our film would never be a remake. It’s an archetypal story that can be told in a different city in the future, and you’ll get a new film. I decided to concentrate on my specific character and his social universe. Both of Joachim Trier’s features are very culturally specific and have a documentary flavour to them. I wanted every little detail to seem as authentic as possible.

What’s the relevance of August 31st as a date, if any?

My interpretation is that the date symbolises transition. In Norway we have a long and cold winter and summer always feels too short, Norwegians are constantly longing for warmer temperatures! Summer can be very beautiful though, and the Oslo portrayed in our film is unusually green and lush because we had heavy rainfall in July 2010 (the movie was shot in September). August 31 is the last day of summer, by September it is definitely autumn.

How did you go upon your research for the role of a drug addict?

Joachim Trier and co-writer Eskil Vogt asked me to do this part before the script was written. So I had much more time creating this character than in Reprise. I did a lot of research on the psychology of addiction, interviewing many therapists. We spoke to many active and former drug addicts. One particularly good source was a friend of
Joachim Trier, a former heroin addict who went through the Phoenix House rehab program. I went to Narcotics Anonymous meetings and I also worked as a doctor at a clinic for drug addicts.

Which films / filmmakers have impressed or interested you over the last year? You’ve worked with Joachim Trier before; what do you find appealing about his technique?

Many filmmakers have interested me over the last year. Melancholia is perhaps not a perfect film, but it’s a grower. I was surprised by Midnight in Paris, a classic Allen comedy is the ultimate feel good film for me. But the greatest cinematic achievement was Tree of Life. It’s a complex, ambitious and controversial piece of art, hard to describe in words. I think Terrence Malick is one of the greatest living filmmakers, and on top of my list of directors I want to work with. I’ve been very fortunate to work with Joachim Trier twice. He is so talented and very comfortable and fun to work with. Joachim knows that there’s no ‘perfect version’ of a scene, you just have to be open-minded and accept that you don’t always know what you’re after until something happens while the camera runs. We always stay close to the script, but use improvisation on set to refresh the scene.

What comes next?

I’ve been a very lucky and privileged person I would love to do some more interesting films, maybe in the US. But acting is only one part of my life my great passion is music. My first album This Is Autism was released last year, and I’m currently working on another one.

Words By Alexandra Hayward

Photography By Oda Berby (black and white images) Nils Vik (colour images)


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