THR's Berlin Actors Roundtable
The talent gathered for The Hollywood Reporter’s Berlin Actors Roundtable are certainly not reluctant to take a walk on the wild side at this year’s Berlinale.
Peter Sarsgaard, 41, is a brutal pimp porn husband in Lovelace; Fallon Goodson, 27, plays James Franco’s unstable sister in Maladies; Melanie Laurent, 29, and Jack Huston, 30, are doomed lovers in Bille August’s literary adaptation Night Train to Lisbon; and newcomer Mikkel Boe Folsgaard, 28, the Danish Shooting Star in Berlin this year, won the Berlinale’s best actor Silver Bear in 2012 for his first movie role as a mad king in the Oscar-nominated A Royal Affair.
They sat down together for a spirited discussion in the Club Room of Berlin’s VIP hangout the SoHo House, in which Sarsgaard gave up-and-coming actors this advice: “It’s awful. God. Do something else if you can!”
THR: When you get a script, are you ever scared that you won’t be able to deliver?
Fallon Goodson: That’s the fun part! At the beginning. The way I work is I do a ton of background. I write an autobiography of my character, and that’s the moment when I feel I can let everything go and just see what comes out.
Peter Sarsgaard: You don’t get nervous when you act?
Goodson: No, I think it’s — I don’t know, this is gonna sound real weird, but it’s a kind of walking around with like your clothes off all of a sudden. It’s like you just get to be someone else, and it’s fun.
Mikkel Boe Folsgaard: I am nervous before and after shooting, not during.
Jack Huston: I am nervous all the time. At all moments. I think I’ve always got a fear. I think it’s a fear about oneself, that you always think you could do better.
Sarsgaard: And if you’re not nervous, then you’re nervous that you’re not nervous.
Melanie Laurent: I know that feeling. I remember one day I was on a shoot and I turned on the radio and someone said, “Someone who is not nervous has no talent!” and I was like: “Oh, shit! I am never nervous, maybe I’m just a bullshit actor.” …When I was onstage for the first time in my life, I was petrified for three days, and then nothing! I arrived at the theatre five minutes before the show and everybody was already there, and I was like [whistles]. I remember thinking: “That’s not normal. I should be nervous.”
THR: What has been your worst experience with a director?
Sarsgaard: Oh, god! I have had so many. You know, honestly, at least half of the time I feel like it’s all crap. I thought that before, and then people have liked the movie. But it doesn’t make me like the movie any more. If the making of it was not a good experience, I don’t care how much people like the movie. It’s like a lover I can’t love. My favorite movie I ever did is a movie that nobody but me likes: The Dying Gaul. It’s a movie that I think like four people saw, and they didn’t like it. But I loved the movie; I loved every day doing it. I did it with Campbell Scott and Patricia Clarkson. It was really fun.
THR: Mikkel, you were cast in A Royal Affair while you were still in acting school in Denmark. What was your first day like?
Folsgaard: I was so nervous, because I thought: “They have made a mistake! The director has chosen me, and it was a mistake.” I almost went down and knocked on his door and said: “Choose someone else! I can’t do it.” But I started walking around with my headphones, listening to heavy metal: “You can do it! You can do it, Mikkel!” Then the first day on the set they said “Roll!” and my heart started pumping … and then I was OK. When I actually got started, it was not so difficult.
Laurent: I can’t believe that was your first movie!
THR: What about the others’ first times? Can you remember that moment?
Huston: On the set, yeah. Oh, man, I was the worst. I think I did my first movie with Alan Bates and some other incredible people, and I had so say something about goats or something. These guys are just going at it and being great, and I have come in with this goat line: “The goat’s on fire!” or something like that. I remember I just said it, and then it was “I am so sorry!” But later you realize that sometimes that’s the hardest thing — the smaller bits, the smaller scenes.
THR: How do you choose your roles?
Sarsgaard: The idea that actors choose their roles...I mean, a certain number of movies are made each year, and out of those movies you are right for a certain number of roles and then there is competition for those roles. So like, inevitably, if you want to be a working professional, you find different ways into projects. There just aren’t enough good scripts out there, in my mind. Ideally you would just pick great scripts and great directors, but …
Laurent: When I was starting this job, I was kind of obsessed more about the scripts, the character; I was really looking for something to act. And now I really don’t care. I care about working with people. I changed my entire way of working. I just don’t care about the part, I really care about the experience, like the human experience. Because if the director is not a great orchestra conductor, it’s going to be a mess, it’s going to be a bad concert. And you don’t want to be the lead violin in a bad concert. I prefer being a backing trombone and be part of a beautiful concert.
THR: Jack, you come from a sort of an acting dynasty. Hollywood royalty. Did you ever consider not joining the family business?