ELLE.COM – The longer I wait for Joel Kinnaman to show up to The Spare Room, an old-timey speakeasy retrofitted with vintage bowling lanes and nestled in a hidden corner of Hollwood’s iconic Roosevelt Hotel, the more rattled I get. While interviewing hot babes is part of the gig (**blows on nails**), there’s something about the Stockholm-born actor that has always made me nervous.
For anyone who hasn’t been seduced by Detective Stephen Holder over four seasons of The Killing, Kinnaman plays a street tough, cocky sonofagun who tosses off lines like, “My body’s my temple, but this”—while gesturing toward his head with a deli sandwich—”is the control tower.” It’s the kind of Holderism fans of the AMC turned Netflix series love about the rough-around-the-edges antihero.
And then, without much fanfare at all, he arrives. Unlike many of his contemporaries he’s tall, a full-size 6’2, and, as expected, lacks that whole showbiz aim-to-please air. (Even his outfit: a charcoal pullover, navy pants, and low top Nike dunks goes stylishly under the radar.) But despite his low talking and aloof air, there’s something formidable about a 35-year-old who can hold his own in a shoot ’em up (Run All Night, out today) alongside Hollywood veterans Liam Neeson and Ed Harris. He’s calm, thoughtful, and confident in himself. And though he has a chip on his shoulder about marriage (read on…) he doesn’t ascribe himself to being any one kind of man: be it macho, metrosexual, or chess prodigy. He’s just Joel Kinnaman, and he’s slaying a Snoop Dogg concert-incited hangover with some mid-afternoon vodka. Can he live?
Because we’re a women’s magazine dedicated to flipping the script on men, I have a question: When you’re on the cover of a fitness mag, with a headline like, ‘How to get Joel Kinnaman’s Ripped Abs,’ are you actually passing along real workout tips?
I completely make it up.
No, no, but gaining weight is hard for me.
I feel bad for you. Truly.
I mean, now ’cause I’m in my thirties, I can get, like, skinny fat, which is super attractive…[Laughs]
After Googling you, I found out that your mom is a therapist. For the deeper, darker stuff in The Killing, do you ever pull from stuff you heard about her patients?
Actually I had quite the bit of life experience, and, you know, had my difficult years and difficult phases of life—that’s what you always draw from when you do roles like that. In terms of whether my mom was influential, I think she instilled a certain way of thinking in me quite early: having a reflective mindset regarding my actions and trying to find the underlying reasons to behavior. I think that’s quite helpful when you’re trying to understand a character.
From every interview I’ve read with you, you seem very thoughtful about the characters you play. Has a director ever told you, ‘You’re over thinking it. Do less, Joel’?
Yeah, for sure. But, at the same time, preparation is always meant to get tossed out the window when you get to set. The preparation is just to, like, fill you up, but as soon as you start working, you can’t think of the preparation. It’s like, whatever gets stuck, gets stuck.
But have you ever had to learn, like, Tai Chi for a role and then you get there and they’re like, ‘Never mind, we’re not going to do that anymore!’
I mean, that’s actually happened a couple of times. Recently, I was going to go to South Africa and do a movie in which I was going to be a sad little fat boy—
So you got nice and fat…
Yeah, so I just stopped training and just, like, ate a lot of ice cream. All my friends were thrilled. It was like, ‘Yeahhhh, fatty.” They were giving me Snickers bars. And then the movie fell apart two weeks before I was going to go. That’s happened a couple of times where I’ve prepared for a role or learned a whole new dialect and then it fell apart. It happens a lot with financing—especially when you’re doing independent movies.
Speaking of indie films, I really, really liked Lola Versus—I think it’s a great little movie—but I always thought that your character, who proposed and then bailed, was kind of a dick. Were you fond of him? Did you think he was fair?
Not my favorite movie, at all. [Laughs] I actually thought it was kind of eh. But in his behavior toward Lola [Greta Gerwig], I just think people make too big of a thing out of the idea of marriage. I don’t know, I just don’t really subscribe to that, I think it’s dangerous when you try to put too much weight on it; it becomes an institution. Like, the idea that the actual act of getting married is going to change your feelings in a significant way. All of a sudden people expect things to be different, or demand different things of each other because of that, and I feel like it’s very different how women think about marriage here versus where I come from.
What’s the difference?
It’s a much bigger thing here, and it’s like—I mean, it would be very disrespectful to say all, but it feels like, for a lot of girls, getting married is a big goal, in a way. But I think the goal should be to find love, you know, somebody who loves you back, to have children, and then get married, you know? My parents got married when I was 12.
And are they still together?
I think you should choose each other every day, you know?
So, in Run All Night, you costar with the dreamboat also known as Liam Neeson. He seems lovely.
He’s a wonderful, wonderful guy. Like, a really gentle, gentleman. He’s very respectful to everybody in the crew. Everybody, and I mean everybody, likes him. And he’s funny too. He jokes around. And, I mean, he’s Liam Neeson.
This is a very male-centric, guns out, bro film. Do you consider yourself an alpha male?
I mean, I don’t see myself like that, but I have found myself in a lot of those kind of situations growing up. The way I live my life or conduct myself when I have a problem is very different from many of the characters I play. But then, you know, I’ve had experiences and phases in my life when I’ve maybe behaved more like some of these characters.
Speaking of things men do, who is your favorite drinking buddy?
Right now I’d say it’s [Tove Lo and Shakira producer] Daniel Ledinsky
What’s your ideal night together?
Hanging out at his studio, and just drinking, smoking weed, and then trying to make a hit song with his equipment.
Can you sing?
What kind of music?
I mean, he’s a fucking hit maker. We just play around in his studio. It’s actually more of a disco soul sound we create.
Do you have any party tricks?
I do. I can pull my arms. [Tries to dislocate shoulders and rotate arms backwards]. Wait! No, I can’t do it anymore.
When was the last time you tried to do that?
Probably a year ago. I’ve just gotten too big. I’m just a big, muscular man.
How much can you bench?
It’s 105 Kilos. [Editor’s note: Over 230 pounds]
What’s something you’re really good at that no one would expect you to be good at?
I’m a pretty good chess player.
What’s your favorite piece?
Why not? I like the horse—I think it moves in the coolest way.
No, no the horse is dope. But it’s the queen. The queen, for sure. That’s my girl.
Isn’t that a little cliché?