Why They’re On Our Radar: Hands down one of the raciest titles to play in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at Sundance this year is Ira Sach’s semi-autobiographical gay relationship drama “Keep the Lights On.” In it, Danish actor Thure Lindhardt plays Erik, a hard-partying documentary filmmaker who has a highly charged hookup with the handsome Paul (Zachary Booth), a lawyer in the publishing field. As a relationship quickly develops, the two are forced to deal with each other’s compulsions and addictions.
More About Them: Despite being a fresh face for the majority of North American audiences, Lindhardt is far from an unknown in Denmark. He first broke out as a child actor in the Palme d’Or winning “Pelle the Conqueror.” He’s since gone on to star in “A Place Nearby,” which won him the Shooting Star Award at the 2000 Berlin International Film Festival, as well as the World War II drama “Flame and Citron,” for which he received a European Film Award nomination. Other credits include small parts in “Angels & Demons” and “Into the Wild.”
Booth, a New York-based actor best known for playing the son of Glenn Close’s character in “Damages,” has also starred in “The Beaver,” “White Irish Drinkers” and “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.”
What’s Next: Lindhardt is currently in the process of shooting “Byzantium,” Neil Jordan’s first vampire movie since “Interview with a Vampire,” opposite Gemma Arterton, Sam Riley and Saoirse Ronan.
Booth is in the midst of wrapping the fifth and final season of “Damages.”
How did you two get involved with this project?
Zachary Booth: I got the script from my agent. He set up a meeting with Ira and I read it. I thought it was incredibly moving and I responded to it. I then watched some of his movies and thought he was so good.
Thure Lindhardt: I got the script from my manager as well. My character was from New York originally. He was a Jewish New Yorker with a Jewish grandmother. I was set to play a New York Jew, which is typecasting really (laughs). But no, I put myself on tape then Ira decided that he wanted me.
What was his reasoning behind completely changing the background of your character Thure, given how it’s an autobiographical tale and you’re essentially playing him?
Lindhardt: I think it was several things. First of all, I think it was liberating for him. To work with someone that was not so close to him… when he changed the role, it was pretty obvious that my casting helped him a lot. I was relieved of that pressure of having to “be” the director. I could create my own character. I was not him.
When he initially met with the two of you, did he pitch it as this story that was very close to his heart?
Booth: Before we got on set, I was aware of his relationship to the story. It’s easy Google-able. We both kind of sat there and had a Western standoff – like who’s going to say first that… you know. He wanted to see if I was someone to be taken seriously. But he opened up to me about it and told me it was his story.
He told me pretty early on that he didn’t want it to be a biopic. He didn’t want us to be them. He wanted that to change. He wanted us to bring our experiences to the roles. I don’t think it really resembles their story nearly as much as it did on paper.
Lindhardt: I agree with that.
Did his personal connection to the material make you tighter as a unit?
Lindhardt: It was very intense and everyone was very respectful. Ira is very respectful of actors and that makes everyone do better work.
Booth: I mean, he’s the warmest, most humble person I’ve ever been around.
Lindhardt: He chooses to work with people that he thinks are talented. But he also chooses to work with people that he thinks are nice people. I care more about that (laughs).
Especially with a film like this, given the tough nature of the material.
Lindhardt: Yeah, we did a lot of tough scenes. You need that feeling of balance, that sense of honesty.
Booth: And the respect to have that shift and not be judged for it.
When you both were discussing your first reactions to the script, neither of you touched upon the sexually explicit nature of the material. Were either of you scared initially when you read it?
Lindhardt: Yeah, of course.
So what made you take that leap of faith with Ira?
Lindhardt: I was really scared. I was open to him about it. He asked me what I thought after I read it. I asked him honestly, “So the sex, why is there so much of it? Why do you have to see so much?” And he explained it to me. He was pretty clear about it. He didn’t want to show sex. He wanted to show what do you with the sex.
Booth: The role it plays in the relationship, because it’s a character in the relationship. In the first draft of the script that I saw, it says like, “He puts his cock in his mouth.” I was on the phone outside of Yankee Stadium. He called me and he said, “You’re it.” I was so honored. But immediately I told him what I was afraid of. I was like, “What is that? ‘He puts his cock in his mouth?’ I’m not doing that, right?” And he of course said, “No.” But there was a certain kind of overdisclosure, overexposure that he had to do so that when people read the script, they understood he wanted to show the sex. He had to say too much so that he could pull it back, as opposed to just saying, “They were making love.” Because then there’d be sheets. He wanted us to know that we’d be asked to take risks in that department, so he went a little far.
Lindhardt: It was so clear the film wasn’t just about sex and in a way it became easier once you realized that.
How did you two take that leap of faith with each other?
Booth: It sort of speaks to your earlier question about being comfortable on set. I think it’s sort of our favorite thing to talk about. The second day was the first scene of us meeting. Literally we start filming, he walks in through the door and we start kissing.
Lindhardt: And we didn’t rehearse before. Ira didn’t want that.
Had you guys screen tested together?
Lindhardt: We had a read-through after we were cast.
Booth: Well, Thure had already been there for a day, so he knew some of the people. In that scene, we don’t even say hello, we just start having sex. We thought it was going to happen over and over, but it actually worked out because we went for it and Ira just let it roll. So at the end of it, Ira goes, “Great, now we only have to do it again three times!” And then it was lunch.
We sat at this table in Brooklyn in our bathrobes, surrounded by like 30 hipsters having their chicken and salad. It dawned on us, “Wow, we’re really uncomfortable.” I mean, we had just been moaning and screaming for like four hours in front of all these strangers.