"You guys are behind!" Joel Kinnaman teases.
From his vantage point, we are. While the first of the "Snabba Cash" films (called "Easy Money" in English-speaking markets) comes out this week in the U.S., Sweden has already celebrated the first installment, giving the film three Guldbagges (the country's equivalent of an Oscar), including a win for Kinnaman for Best Actor, and moved on to the second, "Snabba Cash II," which comes out August 17th abroad.
But from a business standpoint, the U.S. is already caught up, considering that a little feat that the crime drama pulled at the Swedish box office which caught the eye of more than a few Hollywood producers: it took away the number one slot from "Avatar" for two weeks in January, 2010. Market screenings the next month at the Berlin Film Festival increased the heat, and by the Toronto International Film Festival, the U.S. distribution rights were sold to the Weinsteins, a remake was in the works with Warner Bros. and "The Dark Knight" producer Charles Roven (with Zac Efron as the lead), and director Daniel Espinosa was well on his way to making deals for English-language films, eventually scoring "Safe House." Kinnaman, however, had already moved back to the U.S. in anticipation of the attention (he's Swedish-American and grew up bilingual) and landed the male lead in the AMC series "The Killing." "Snabba Cash" becoming a sensation made him an even hotter property. (To learn why, read our review here.)
"The film is so important to me," Kinnaman told the Playlist. "When we did the first one, we were a group of friends who hung out a lot and we came together to do a film. And now we're best friends with some of the new people who came aboard. We're very much our own community, and it was a big help for my career over here and for Daniel. It's a movie we love very much."
Espinosa elected not to direct "Snabba Cash II'; Babak Najafi (who won Best Debut film at Berlin for "Sebbe" in 2010 as well) takes the helm for the second installment, and Jens Assur for the third. (Espinosa stayed on as an executive producer.) Where "Snabba Cash" was adapted directly from Jen Lapidus' novel, the second movie is not from the second book of the Stockholm Noir trilogy, but an original story, taking place three years after the events of the first film. Kinnaman's character JW is serving a four-year prison sentence, but when Mrado Slovovic (played by Dragomir Mrsic) comes back into his life and is none too pleased that JW put him in a wheelchair, he needs to find a way out. Luckily for JW, the Swedish penal system has an unsupervised leave program.
"We have this thing where if you're in jail and you're well-behaved, you get to come out for the weekend and start to get acclimated back into society," Kinnaman said. "But the problem is, things do not go smoothly for JW, who still has all these business plans. And the fact that he's been in prison is a huge embarrassment to the people he wants to impress."
Kinnaman, who previously prepped by studying the dialects and body language of different communities and social classes so that JW could change depending on with whom he's dealing, went deeper this time around by visiting a medium-security prison north of Stockholm. His co-star Mrsic, however, didn't need to. Twenty years ago, Mrsic served three-and-a-half years for conspiring to commit aggravated robbery in an infamous Swedish bank heist when he was 21.
Meanwhile, Jorge Salinas (played by Matias Padin Varela) returns to from exile in South America to Stockholm to make another coke deal, but his plans go wrong and he's on the run once again. Mahmoud (played by Fares Fares) — who also featured in "Safe House") has a new job with the Yugoslavian mafia, but gets in trouble when two prostitutes escape and he has to repay what they were worth to mafia boss Radovan. His price? Find and kill Jorge. This all happens that very same weekend JW is out on leave.
Though the second film departs from the books, the third returns to the plot of the Lapidus novel "Livet Deluxe," although it's not determined yet when production will take place, Kinnaman said. "It all feels like a family reunion to me," he said. "So I hope to know soon."
Kinnaman also hopes to resume his role as Christer Malm in the Millennium trilogy, after his oh-so-brief appearance in David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," in which he just established his character's presence at the magazine. But the actor has yet to hear if and when they will start production on the sequels "The Girl Who Played With Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest." "I've got all these trilogies," Kinnaman laughed, "but 'Easy Money' is the only one that's really mine. I'm just a guest in 'Tattoo,' so I'm not really a part of that in the same way."
In the meantime, even though Espinosa will not be at the helm for any more of the "Easy Money" films, Kinnaman, who reteamed with the director for "Safe House," has plans to work with Espinosa again, calling him "one of my best friends" and "my Marty [Scorsese]" — and the famed director has attached his name to the project and is presenting the film to U.S. audiences. "There actually aren't many directors, if any, who I would rather work with than Daniel," the actor said. "He's a great leader, a great friend, an inspiring person, and he has a couple of masterpieces in him." Kinnaman said the two have "some other ideas" in development, but nothing that he can talk about yet. "Hopefully soon," he promised. "It's a bit in the future, but I wouldn't be surprised if our next movie is an American movie."