If you watch AMC’s hit crime show “The Killing,” chances are you know who Joel Kinnaman is. And if you don’t, chances are you don’t. Starting next year however, that gap will be bridged when the anticipated “RoboCop” reboot (helmed by “Elite Squad” director Jose Padilha) goes wide in August, with Kinnaman in the titular role, opposite a starry cast that includes Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, Abbie Cornish and Hugh Laurie.
Up until now, Kinnaman is best known for his work on “The Killing,” but he also had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” remake as Daniel Craig’s colleague, and appeared this summer in the indie romantic comedy “Lola Versus” as Greta Gerwig’s fiance.
Back in his native Sweden, Kinnaman is a bonafide star thanks in large part his commanding turn in Daniel Espinosa’s brutal crime thriller, “Easy Money.” In it, he stars as JW, a taxi driver hell bent on becoming rich so he can hobnob with Sweden’s upper class. To do so he becomes a runner for a coke dealer. Guess how that turns out.
The film, a hit in Sweden where it opened over two years ago, finally makes is stateside tomorrow via The Weinstein Company and with the support of Martin Scorsese (a clear influence on Espinosa’s film).
Kinnaman took a break from training for “RoboCop” in Los Angeles to catch up with Indiewire. Among the subjects discussed: his move to the U.S., the experience of revisiting a film he wrapped three years ago, and what to expect from Padilha’s take on “RoboCop.”
What’s it like doing press for a film that you made three years ago, and that’s already done solid business in its country of origin?
It could have been a big drag, because often when you’re done with a movie, you’re done with it. But this is something I hold so dearly. It was really a work of love made with a big group of friends. I’m still very close friends with many who made it. A lot of the folks who worked on that movie have also come over here.
Daniel, the director, is one of my closest friends, and a person I continue to work and develop movies with. I’m happy that it’s going to be opening in theaters in the states.
“Easy Money” is a total rush to watch, but it’s also exhausting. The role no doubt must have taken a toll on you.
Yeah, it was a long journey. He really has a long development from the first scene where he’s hanging to his friends, to the end where he ends up in jail. Something that will be lost with the American audiences — but a big portion of the work for me was that I wanted him to be a chameleon. So he sort of changes his dialect with everyone he interacts with. That was a big part of the preparation work for me. I don’t’ have any ways into the upper class. I never looked for friends in that community growing up. So it was a journey for me to get into those little secret societies in Sweden. Even though he’s not from the society — he’s an impostor himself — he has to be so believable. At the same time, he has to change his ways when he’s hanging out with the criminals.
The film tracks your character’s journey of trying to fit in with these two very different groups. In a weird way it kind of mimics the journey you’ve gone on since making this film, in terms of entering the American market and flourishing in it. Obviously there are huge differences between your arc and JW’s (you act; he sells cocaine), but do you see any parallels?
[Laughs.] Not really, apart from getting thrown into situations where you’re expected to be very capable, despite it being all new. Of course you have to sort of have that confidence that JW has. That’s his weakness too — that he has that confidence. He remains a hollow soul, because he’s so good at changing himself. But he does have that social competence where he’s able to perform in social situations where he has no experience. And of course I’ve been in those situations after coming here. I think that’s as far as I can go with similarities of that type. Now you’re half American…
Yeah my father’s American. I grew up in Sweden. I actually came over to the states at the end of a very intense work period that I had. I’d shot nine features [in Sweden] in 15 months, and had also played 120 shows of “Crime and Punishment,” where I played Raskolnikov. None of my work had really come out at that point. In Sweden we only make 25-30 movies a year, so to come out with seven in a year; I knew that things were going to be different in Sweden. So it was a good time to come to the states. I wanted to give the Swedish market a relief from my face, because I knew that I was going to be overexposed. Also it was a good time to come over here, because I hadn’t had time to build up an ego. I could come with nobody knowing who I was.
Since arriving on our shores there’s been a remarkable amount of buzz circling you. You infamously got very close to being cast as the leads in both “Thor” and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and nabbed the lead in the “RoboCop” reboot. What do you account this sudden rise in popularity to?
I’m really happy with how things are going. I’ve also had a lot of things that have fallen apart. But for me I’ve always been looking for the good work, the real work. I’ve always been looking to working with a good director. Of course in the beginning with my first couple of projects in the states, I made a couple of choices that were strictly for career planning.
Funnily enough, like the original, this “RoboCop” reboot marks the English language debut of an established foreign director (in this case Jose Padilha, responsible for the “Elite Squad” films). Can we expect a cynical take on America’s corporate greed, akin to what Paul Verhoeven did so slyly did with the first installment?
I definitely think there’s a sense of that that Jose will bring to it too. There is definitely a political satire embedded in the action story, and that’s something I like very much about the original. But apart from that, I think Jose couldn’t be a better choice for this. He’s a very strong director, he’s very confident. He wrote, produced and directed the “Elite Squad” movies, two of the highest grossing movies in Brazil. He’s a force, which I think is important for first-time tentpole director. He knows how to pick the battles.
I think he’s the kind of guy who knows what to compromise, and what not to. He’s a very strong actor’s director. The action he’s known for is very realistic, and that’s something he’s bringing to this too. And then there’s the fact that he’s a physicist. So he knows exactly where the cutting edge is when it comes to neuroscience. He also has an understanding of the robotic aspect of where neuroscience is right now. Together with the writers, he’s creating a plausible future. I think it’s going to be very exciting.