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February 07,2014
Melanie Jo   /   0 Comments   •   Headlines & Rumors Robocop

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Veena Sud, the creator of the dark television procedural “The Killing,” remembers first hearing about Joel Kinnaman when her casting team told her that a “phenomenal” actor from Sweden had put himself on tape. “The minute I clicked on the link, I knew we found Holder,” Ms. Sud said of the rumpled, soulful homicide detective Mr. Kinnaman plays on “The Killing.” “He felt like a real guy, edgy. And he had amazing tats.”

Part of what Ms. Sud heard about Mr. Kinnaman is true: He was born and raised in Stockholm, and was already a veteran of nine hit Swedish movies. But at the time he made his audition tape, he was in Sweden only long enough to attend the premiere of one of his films. After that, he’d be returning to his new home in Los Angeles, a place where he was not regarded as one of Sweden’s most sought-after stars but as a tall, gangly nobody.

“It was all bad,” Mr. Kinnaman said of the four months he spent in Hollywood trying out — and being passed over — for parts that he felt ill suited for. “I understood the computer nerd who is also charming,” said Mr. Kinnaman, now 34. But then he would think, ”I know a lot of guys who’d be a lot better at doing that than me.”

Though “The Killing” proved to be a bumpy ride for Mr. Kinnaman — the show was first adored, then attacked, twice canceled and twice resurrected, most recently by Netflix for viewing in July — his Holder has remained steadfastly beloved, and it appears to have been the perfect calling card. Two years ago, Mr. Kinnaman started expanding the Hollywood side of his résumé with a small but showy part as a C.I.A. operative who tussles with Ryan Reynolds in “Safe House,” and with coming appearances in the Liam Neeson thriller “Run All Night,” Terrence Malick’s new drama “Knight of Cups” and a period mystery based on Tom Rob Smith’s best-selling novel “Child 44.” But first he makes his leading-man debut: On Wednesday, he hits big screens around the country as Alex Murphy, a human lawman transformed into a forbidding, part-machine police officer in the Brazilian director José Padilha’s remake of the 1987 sci-fi thriller “RoboCop.”

Set in the year 2028, Mr. Padilha’s version beefs up the tragic emotional aspects of the story line: the Detroit crime fighter with a loving wife and son who wakes up from a near-fatal assassination attempt and discovers to his horror that only a few parts of him aren’t factory made. “It’s a role that’s more about acting than it is about being a movie star,” said Mr. Padilha (“Elite Squad”), who also wasn’t interested in having marquee recognition overshadow the concept. “If I cast Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt, it would be Tom Cruise’s ‘RoboCop’ or Brad Pitt’s ‘RoboCop.’ So we were looking for someone who wasn’t known.”

On a recent overcast afternoon, not a single head turned when Mr. Kinnaman, dressed in jeans and a gray cashmere sweater, made his loping entrance into a shiny cafe at the London West Hollywood hotel, ordered an expensive single-malt Scotch on ice and began furtively puffing on an electronic cigarette. According to an old friend, the Swedish director Daniel Espinosa (“Safe House”), on the streets of Stockholm the sight of 6-foot-2, cheekbone-rich Mr. Kinnaman might spark a different reaction. Twice, Mr. Espinosa said, he has been walking with Mr. Kinnaman when clusters of sobbing fans approached. “That’s how famous he is,” Mr. Espinosa said. “He’s like a Beatle.”

It was, in part, Mr. Espinosa’s “Easy Money,” a 2010 thriller in which Mr. Kinnaman played an insecure working-class student who bluffs his way into Swedish high society, that transformed him from a well-regarded young theater actor to the sort of fellow who brings female pedestrians to tears. Based on Jens Lapidus’s best-selling novel of the same name, “Easy Money” became the highest-grossing Swedish film ever, spawned two sequels (including “Easy Money: Hard to Kill,” opening Friday in the United States) and won him a Guldbagge Award, Sweden’s equivalent of the Oscar. It also showcased Mr. Kinnaman’s knack for breathing life into troubled outlier roles. “Joel, as beautiful as he is, always has that vibe of not being part of the club,” Mr. Espinosa said. “If he had that classical American quarterback confidence about him, he wouldn’t be nearly as interesting as an actor.”

Mr. Kinnaman and Mireille Enos in “The Killing,” an adaptation of a popular Danish television series. Chris Large/AMC
It doesn’t take a therapist (although his mother, Bitte, is one) to figure out what sets Mr. Kinnaman apart. Half-American, half-Swedish, he grew up in a big, noisy bilingual household. “I speak English with my dad and Swedish with my mom; it’s quite schizophrenic,” said Mr. Kinnaman, whose father was a Vietnam War-era draftee who walked away from his post in Thailand and ended up in Sweden after discovering that it took in military deserters. “I always identified myself as non-Swedish. I was never discriminated against, because I looked Swedish and speak without an accent. But I had an outsider’s perspective.”

In high school, he spent a couple of semesters as a foreign exchange student at an ethnically diverse high school in Del Valle, Tex., and it wasn’t as easy to blend in. “I was a Swedish guy who listened to Too Short,” said Mr. Kinnaman, who drew from this period when building the character of the hoodie-wearing, urban-identified Holder. “I’m really grateful for that year.”

He was in his early 20s when he was accepted into a four-year program at home in the prestigious Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts. Just before he started, he was cast in his first professional role as a thug in a supernatural thriller called “The Invisible.” “I had eight lines in the whole movie, and six of them were, ‘What are we going to do now?’ ” Mr. Kinnaman recalled with a laugh, adding that he spent hours and hours trying to find fresh ways to ask the same question.

Postgraduation offered more challenging roles. The first gig he landed was Raskolnikov in a sprawling stage adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.” “There were 26 actors. It lasted 3 hours and 45 minutes, and I never left the stage,” Mr. Kinnaman said. “It was as high profile as a play can get in Sweden.” Soon, film directors came calling.

“What are we going to do now?” is a far cry from the myriad feelings — dread, humiliation, suicidal thoughts — that Mr. Kinnaman affectingly communicates in “RoboCop,” as often as not with just his brown eyes and expressive mouth because of his being encased in a 45-pound, head-to-toe futuristic black costume.

“At first it was uncomfortable,” he said. “But it became a gateway into understanding the vulnerability that the character felt. That was unexpected: That I’d find that out by wearing this big chunk of suit.”

– source: nytimes.com

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