Claes Bang ‘Was Terrified’ of the Monkey in Ruben Östlund’s ‘The Square’: Awards Season Spotlight Profile

Given the many outrageous scenes in “The Square,” Ruben Östlund’s irreverent art world satire, Elizabeth Moss’ character owning a pet chimpanzee hardly even registered as out of the ordinary. For Claes Bang, however, it was a scene he won’t be forgetting anytime soon. “Shooting with that monkey was terrible. That’s a wild animal. In a flat. In Berlin. On a rainy day in October,” the actor told IndieWire during an interview for our Spotlight Awards series. Although there were handlers on set waiting in every corner of the room in case anything went wrong, that hardly served to reassure the actor. “I was terrified of that monkey. I hated that monkey.”

Bang plays a museum director named Christian, whose powerful position in the Stockholm art world has made him entitled and careless with women. “He’s challenged, which makes him do the odd thing here or there,” said Bang, adding with a smirk that Christian probably thinks of himself as a good guy.

One of the film’s greatest strengths, said the actor, is in making the story’s more absurd elements relatable. “If you look at these situations on after another, you can find yourself in each of them… Perhaps it’s unusual to have so many slightly weird situations on after another, but I can relate to everything here… I don’t think you could sit through a film that’s 2.5 hours long if you couldn’t relate to it, if you couldn’t see yourself in it.”

Bang credits Östlund, best known for directing the 2014 hit “Force Majeure,” with challenging him to make each moment as grounded in reality as possible. “He’s all about getting the actors into the situation and being as authentic and organic and truthful as you can be. You will know if you did something he didn’t like, cause he’s got a bullshit detector like none I’ve ever seen before.”

“The Square” premiered in the U.S. on October 27, and won the Palme d’Or at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, the festival’s highest honor.

This year’s Awards Spotlight series is produced with help from our partners at Xfinity, and filmed at the Variety Content Studio.