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Interview with Nikolaj Lie Kaas

29 August 2014 | Jessica Johnston

"Mikkel had an ambition to create something different right from the get-go and I could relate to that."

We caught up with Danish acting sensation and star of The Killing, Nikolaj Lie Kaas ahead of the UK release of his Nordic Noir thriller The Keeper of Lost Causes directed by Mikkel Norgaard and based on the novel by Jussi Adler- Olsen.

London Calling: When did you first read the script for the film?

Nikolaj Lie Kaas: I read the script three months prior to shooting, but I had read the books before that. When I was asked to do the film I didn’t know much about Jussi Adler-Olsen, I knew his name and I knew his success but I hadn’t read his books and so I read them right away and found them very interesting.

LC: So when did you realise you wanted to be a part of the project?

NLK: It’s hard to do a movie like this without repeating history in someway, and maybe we did but the thing that really got me was the director’s vision to create something new. Mikkel had an ambition to create something different right from the get-go and I could relate to that. When we met we really clicked about that.

LC: Your character has a long list of issues! Was it hard to get the balance between showing his shortcomings and having the audience like him?

NLK: We did a workshop before shooting and at the beginning I was so grumpy and Mikkel said it was too much because it would be impossible for anyone to relate to him. The good thing is I could still go pretty far because Fares’ character, Assad, is really the reason why you think there must be more to this grumpy idiot Carl. What is it that Carl has for Assad to take care of this selfish, arrogant guy? It’s very important that these two characters are together, you cannot disconnect the two.

LC: You had a great rapport on screen with Fares Fares. Did that come naturally or something that came over time?

NLK: From the very beginning we worked together to build on our relationship on screen and find that connection. Also he came from Sweden and I’m Danish so that was something else we had to work on because we definitely had our differences as guys. But these differences also became an advantage in the relationship between our characters. We definitely have a close and great working relationship.

LC: How much of Sonja Richter’s remarkable performance did you actually get to see given the two separate narratives?

NLK: I didn’t see her at all actually until the last week of shooting when we were working together. She had a big job to do.

LC: Have you worked with Mikkel Norgaard (the director) before?

NLK: No never, I only knew his work from a very popular TV show called Klown here in Denmark that he later made into a feature film that was also hugely successful. I was told about the film and knew about Mikkel’s involvement a year and a half before shooting began but at that time I was doing The Killing and I had crime stories up to my ears. Then after a year my manager presented it to me again and so Mikkel and I sat down together and we just clicked right away. He was definitely the key to getting me involved in the project.

LC: Some of the locations where the film was shot are stunning. Were you aware when you were filming just how impressive it looked on camera?

NLK: Oh yes! That’s one of the great things about being an actor, I’m so fortunate to go to all these fantastic places. When I’m at these locations it's really inspiring to work.

LC: Would you be open to playing Carl Morck in a sequel or two given how well the books have done?

NLK: Well from early on I signed a contract to do all four movies and we have already filmed the second movie called The Absent One that comes out in Denmark in October.

LC: There’s been a marked increase in the popularity of Scandinavian film/TV in the UK over the past five years. To what do you attribute that?

NLK: I think there is definitely a window of opportunity in the UK to present a darker interpretation of theses kinds of films and shows and the Scandinavians do this so well.  This darker way of thinking is almost a state of mind for us, I remember one of the members of the pop group ABBA once said that the problem in Scandinavia is the melancholic atmosphere and depressive way of thinking. These qualities were not something we were proud of, but I think now, particularly through TV and film, we are embracing them and using them to our advantage.

LC: What are you working on next that we can look forward to?

NLK: At the moment I’m doing some TV work on a Danish show about financial crimes and then of course at some point I will be shooting the third movie.

The Keeper of Lost Causes is in cinemas across the UK from 29th August.

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