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March 07,2015
Melanie Jo   /   0 Comments   •   Headlines & Rumors

FILLERMAGAZINE.COM – When Joel Kinnaman begins a conversation with you, it’s breezy—effortlessly so—while simultaneously intense. He engages in dialog sounding like a man outstretched in a recliner, speaking through a playful smirk with the ease of “the Dude.” He’s introspective and pauses before sharing, at times getting lost in thoughts that trigger old memories and a spill of anecdotes, that come coupled with impersonations and a boyish tittering laugh.

Charming people, it would seem, is something of a natural talent for the 35-year-old Swedish actor, as is his aptitude for brawling onscreen—in theatres on both sides of the Atlantic.

Perhaps best known for his title role in last year’s blockbuster remake of RoboCop, Kinnaman is fast becoming a staple in the action thriller genre. In America, it began with The Killing on AMC in the spring of 2011. In Sweden, it started back in 2007 with a critically-acclaimed stage adaptation of Crime & Punishment for the Backa Theatre and Kinnaman cast in the role of protagonist, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov. “After that, there were a lot of directors and producers that thought I could carry a production…because I was on stage for three hours and 45 minutes…I never left the stage,” recalls Kinnaman of his early beginnings. Not bad for a kid fresh out of acting school…though that school was the prestigious Swedish Academic School of Drama.

From the existential angst and moral torment of Dostoevsky’s characters, Kinnaman delved into the dualistic criminal underworld by way of director Daniel Espinosa’s thriller, Snabba Cash (Easy Money). The first in a trilogy seeped in drugs, violence and the pursuit of love (and consequently, money), the box office hit put Kinnaman on Sweden’s A-list and earned him Best Actor at the 2011 Guldbagge Awards, the Swedish equivalent of an Oscar.

With fame and critical acclaim directing the trajectory of his star in Sweden, Kinnaman decided to take a chance on the unknown: Hollywood. Crediting his transatlantic move to “an amount of progress” he “hadn’t expected,” the actor jokes about banking on his American accent (he grew up speaking English with his father, a U.S. ex-pat) to help ease the career transition. “I knew I could probably go to the U.S. and play American roles…I wouldn’t have to be like a German prison guard, and be like ‘you there, go to the left.’ I could actually play a real person,” he laughs, after finishing a squeaky German impersonation.

One cellphone video audition later, and Kinnaman found himself in the running for Thor (2011), though oddly enough, it wasn’t until his sister called him about an article in The Guardian that he learned he was up for the part. “Why am I in an English paper” he remembers asking his sister with a laugh. “I had no idea.”

Feeling encouraged by his first Hollywood audition, Kinnaman wagered his bets on Los Angeles. He recalls, “at the time, there were like no Swedes working out there, except Stellan Skarsgård and Alex Skarsgård a little bit, but he hadn’t really started yet either…so it felt like a big step.”

Judging from the list of movie credits he’s accumulated since waving goodbye to his hometown of Stockholm, it would seem Kinnamn’s gamble has paid off—which, as he shares, was something of a non-option for him. “I told everyone in Sweden, I’m going to Hollywood, I’m too big for this country,” chuckles the actor, before getting serious. “No, but I did say that in all the interviews because I wanted to give myself…no easy way out. I didn’t want to go home empty handed.”

While Kinnaman admittedly weathered rejection for a stretch, when first settling in the U.S., the actor has managed to endear Hollywood critics and audiences alike, in just under 5 years since the release of his first American film. His calling card? Dark cerebral thrillers.

In the role of the rebellious, yet reliable, detective Stephen Holder (a street smart officer and one-time meth head, owing to an undercover job gone awry), Kinnaman made The Killing a fan favourite, alongside actress Mireille Enos (Gangster Squad); enough so that Netflick picked up the haunting crime drama for one final season—aired last August—when AMC dropped it after Season 3.

From the scrappy iconoclastic Detective Holder, Kinnaman went full action hero for his first starring feature role in an American film, RoboCop. Since then, he has been throwing punches and kicking up trouble on the big screen full throttle, while artlessly leveling out his characters with broody intellect.

High-octane action dominates the narrative in Kinnaman’s latest feature, Run All Night. Cast alongside Liam Neeson (A Walk Among the Tombstones), Ed Harris (Snowpiercer) and Common (Selma), the actor plays the disillusioned son of former mob hit man, Jimmy Conlon (Neeson). “Mike kind of grew up alone with his mom, really resenting his father and his father’s way of life,” says Kinnaman of his character. “So the way Mike lives his life is pretty much, to be everything his father isn’t.” Drama ensues when the sins of the father, bring danger to the son’s doorsteps.

Keeping in theme, hand-to-hand combat, manhunts and gun slinging rivalries are central to Kinnaman’s second spring feature, Child 44, based on the bestselling book by Tom Rob Smith. The film—which reunites the actor with director Daniel Espinosa for a third time, post Safe House—takes audiences inside Stalin’s Soviet Union, a bleak dystopia where villains, such as Kinnaman’s Vasilis (nemesis to the film’s hero, Leo, played by Tom Hardy), thrive. “He’s a little bit of a sociopath, definitely a broken soul,” explains Kinnaman. “It’s always interesting to see what kind of people will rise in an environment that Stalin created.”

Happy for the chance to work with Espinosa again, a close friend—“many times we don’t have to talk at all…you don’t have to communicate that much when you know each other like we do”—Kinnaman immersed himself into the role, pouring over USSR history and textbooks examining sociopaths of Vasilis’s breed, to understand “how they function and how they see the world.”

Not quite the sort of books one imagines a dancehall and reggae enthusiast to have his nose buried in. But, as it quickly becomes clear when talking shop with the actor, an interest in studying and portraying the manifold paradox of human nature is something that Kinnaman has carried over from his time playing out the complexities of Dostoevsky’s narratives, back at the beginning of his career on stage in Sweden. “I can’t remember the last time I read a book that was not connected to work,” he comments.

Badass action star though he may be, Kinnaman is packing heat up top too. And what’s more attractive than a man who can throw a punch and wax Russian literature? Well, maybe just one thing, and by the summer of 2016, Kinnaman will have that box checked off to. Look for it under the title: Comic Book Superhero, subcategory Rick Flag/Suicide Squad.

With back-to-back thrillers set for release this spring—Run All Night hits theatres March 13, while Child 44 comes out April 17—and a star-studded blockbuster certified by DC Comics around the corner, it would seem Hollywood has found a new action hero in Joel Kinnaman.

To start off, I’d love to know a little bit about how you first got into acting, you started at a very young age, no?
Well….I did have a childhood experience of acting when I was 10-years-old, but it was quite brief, and then I didn’t think about it anymore for about 11 years.

Oh, so there was a long break in there before you really started acting?
I was around 21…and I had finished high school…I actually didn’t graduate, I wasn’t in school enough to graduate but, I finished school anyway. And, then my idea was to make money to go travel. I think 7 years was my plan (laughing). I was going to travel the world.
That’s a long time to travel…and a lot of savings!

I got all these weird jobs; I worked construction, in factories and swept snow off roofs (laughing), and stuff like that. And then I went traveling, and did that for two and a half years.

Where did you go?
I went to South America, to South East Asia and traveled in Europe…and then I had a couple of friends, mainly one friend, he came from an acting family, he got accepted into the national theatre school, and he was telling me about it, and it sounded fascinating.

And I guess you already had a bit of experience too…
Because I had had a little experience when I was a kid, I thought, well, maybe it could be something I could do.
So then where did you go from there? How did you get into acting…or back into acting?

I got in touch with this older Swedish actor, and he agreed to read with me and help me out, he told me to gather a couple of these monologues you needed to apply for this school. And then while working with him, I had a couple of times, when I got a little lost in it. I started behaving in ways I hadn’t planned.

Like how?
One time, I was doing this scene [with him] from Long Day’s Journey Into Night [when] Edmund lays it all day for his father…he just kind of rips into his dad, and he was like, “say it like it was to your own dad, ” and I kind of just…

Got lost in it?
At the time…I was quite angry with my dad, so…I just went in for it. And then when I was done, the guy just sat down, and he was quiet, and I could feel that that must be a good thing, but I was just waiting for him to say something. And then, he looked at me and said, “you know, if you want to do this, you can really do this.” It was the first time I felt that…I might actually be good at something.

Sounds like an amazing experience…a revelation, really.
Yeah…and then I kind of went with it. And it took a while to get into school and everything, but that was the starting point.

And then all the way from there, getting your start in Sweden as a twenty-something-year old, you ended up where you are now, in Los Angeles. What inspired your decision to make the move to the US?
Well, I think it was an amount of progress that I hadn’t expected.

You mean in Sweden?
Yeah. After I got into acting school…I didn’t get into the big acting school, I got into a smaller school…and then I got a role in a movie, and then the year after, I got into the big school, so I didn’t finish at the smaller school, I went to the big national school…very hard to get into…and then I got a couple more parts in movies while going there.

While still in school? You must have been pretty booked afterwards too then, no?
After I graduated, I had this crazy run. I got cast as Raskolnikov in the national theatre’s…it was actually the opening of a new national theatre…and I got cast as Raskolnikov in this massive production of Crime and Punishment. And it became hailed as the best production in 10 years…

That’s a big role to land right out of acting school.
Then, the next 16 months, I did 9 features…I played the lead in all of them.

Again, not bad for a new grad…very impressive.
And in Sweden, we only do like 30 movies a year, so it was a pretty crazy run in a way.

I see what you mean now when you say your move to the US was sparked by an “unexpected amount of progress.”
After that, when I had done all those films…I thought, maybe. And then they were casting Thor…

Oh, right…
And then you know, I didn’t get that, but I was kind of close, and it was the first Hollywood thing I ever auditioned for…so then I kinda thought, you know, maybe this ain’t so hard (laughing).

You were inching closer and closer to American soil.
Yeah and then there was this manager, Shelley Browning, she came to Sweden after she had seen the Thor audition, and said she thought I should give it a shot. And I thought, “okay, what the hell” (laughing).

And then you made the big move to the U.S. I imagine it probably felt a bit like you were starting from the bottom up again when you began your career oversees?
You know, I suffered four months of constant rejection (laughing). And then I got a job, and I sort of went on my way.

All the way to your current film, “Run All Night.” Let’s talk about that one; what’s the relationship between your character Michael and his father, played by Liam Neeson? How do they see one another?
Well, he was a very distant father…not good to Mike’s mother, and then the only time he was around was when he was hiding from something…and also drunk, and just not present at all. The last time he saw him was at his mother’s funeral, where he showed up drunk. So I think Mike sees his father as a toxic person, he just does not want him around him and his family. He’s working really hard to keep [them] fed and provide for them in an honest way.

Do you think to some degree, maybe not as dramatically as Mike and Jimmy, but to some degree, do all men sort of struggle with the question, “do I want to be a man like my father?”
Yeah…yeah. And it’s really difficult, I mean, I have several friends that grew up without fathers, either their fathers died when they were young or they just weren’t around, but it’s still…it’s a question that is always there. I think you got to take the best of your dad and try to build on that, and hopefully, if your dad has done his best, you will be able to be even more successful in life than he was. I think it’s also very difficult when you have a super successful father…

Yeah, that’s true.
When you sort of grow up in the shadow. I feel like my dad…he never really had those kinds of ambitions, you know, success in that way, but he put a lot of love and energy into the family and creating a good life for us…not so much financially, but with love and dedication. So yeah…try to bring the best of your dad, and not bring the worst side of them, and then create something good…hopefully for your kids.

Sound advice. Back to the film, what was it like working opposite Neeson? What was the dynamic between you two?
It was wonderful. He’s a really funny, warm, gentle man, who has honed his craft for many many years, and is just good at what he does. He makes it easy, he doesn’t complicate things unnecessarily, and so it becomes fun and unpretentious…a really nice working environment.

Yeah, he seems like he would be a good guy to work with.
He can really take a joke (laughing), so we mess with each other. I would be fucking with him all the time, and he’d get a laugh out of that, and then he’d try to fuck with me (laughing). When there’s no ego involved, it’s always fun, and Liam has no ego. He’s there to do a good job, and to have fun with the people he works with.

You have another spring release coming out in April, a film adaptation of “Child 44.” I understand you play quite the duplicitous villain in the film. I guess Stalin’s regime kind of bred those types.
I think Stalin’s Soviet Union must be one of the worst places you could have lived in the last 100 years. Where, as soon as there is any suspicion that you might be a traitor…if the suspicion arises, than you’re already guilty. And all it takes for suspicion to arise is if somebody gives up your name, and as soon as someone is suspected, the only way to get out of it is to name five people. It’s one of those impossible situations, where everyone is living in constant terror…with death looming around every corner.

It was not a pleasant time. You’ve worked with the film’s director, Daniel Espinosa, in the past on other projects. What was it like working with him again, did you fall into old rhythms?
Yeah, this was the third one we did together. I mean, he’s also one of my best friends, so it’s a very special relationship. We have a real shorthand. It’s really funny (laughing), me and Daniel working together, we’ll start off, talking English to everyone, sort of joking around. And then Daniel will start giving everybody direction, and we’ll follow up talking about the scene in Swedish, and then we get into an argument, and start fighting, and screaming at each other in Swedish, and the whole crew is standing around, looking like “what the fuck is going on.” And we do that for like five minutes, and then we shake hands and pat each other on the shoulders, and are like, “okay, let’s do this” (laughing). We don’t even realize we just got into a big argument, we’re just so use to each other and discussing stuff, so it’s very undramatic.

That would be funny to witness. In the film, you’re hunting after Tom Hardy’s character Leo. What was it like working with him, playing each others nemeses?
It’s cool. Tom is such a great actor, and really dedicated. So you know, he brings a real intensity to it that’s fun to play off of. We had a strong dynamic between our characters. For me, the more real it gets, the more fun it gets, and Tom is definitely good for that.

Aside from movies, do you have any interest in doing more television or Netflix productions, or are you concentrating on film right now?
Right now, I’m concentrating on films, but at the same time there’s so much good drama on TV…it’s always appealing. I think I would probably be more interested in a miniseries or a limited series run, if I was to do television again. It’s going to be a long time before I sign off on another long series.

On that note, not too long ago, talking about an actor moving back and forth between film and television was kind of unheard of, how do you feel about the way Hollywood has changed in that regard? Is it exciting as an actor?
Yeah, I mean, it’s great. It’s completely changed the landscape, and…much of the best writing is dramatic writing done for TV, and I think that most of the writers…the best writers…are drawn to TV. It’s also like, a season of a TV show is a novel and a movie is a short story, and there’s definitely an appeal to that.

I’ve never thought about it like that, it makes sense though.
And I like how a lot of these formats have been growing, like every season has a new cast. And that also, I think, attracts people who have a lot of options because if you have a lot of options, it’s difficult to give everything else up for four or five years and just do one thing.

Do you find the industry in the US similar or fairly different to that back in Sweden?
Ummm…I think there are a lot of similarities for sure. I think that the way people look at movie “successes” is very different. I think when a kind of shitty movie gets commercial success, it’s only the producers of that film that consider it a success if the general public and colleagues think it’s a bad movie. I think here, if a movie does a lot of business, it kind of becomes looked upon as a good movie.

Yeah, I can see that.
And so, I think that is a big difference…and the same way on the other way around, if it’s a great film, that doesn’t reach big financial success, that can still be looked upon as a really important movie and as a “success,” even though it didn’t have financial success, but a lot of those films become looked down upon here, even though they’re great films. So…that’s the big difference.

Just talking about the culture of Hollywood, I really respect that you’ve chosen to separate your personal life from your work life, and stay off of social media as an actor. I imagine you must feel some pressure though to give fans and audiences access to your life in that way. Is it tough not to get pulled into all that?
It’s…it’s not. I mean, sometimes, people are like becoming friends on Twitter and you’re like “oh, we could also become friends,” (laughing), but ummm, no, I think you kind of lose your argument of wanting privacy if you share that much of your personal life with the world, I think that’s something that is precious.

That’s definitely true…it’s so tough to protect privacy in your business though.
We all have to talk and make ourselves available when we’re promoting films, but then we have something to talk about, that not just us.

Yeah, then it’s you talking about your work, it’s about the acting.
I don’t have to talk about my personal life, and what’s going on, and have people see what I’m doing. I just think that we’re the one form of artists where the less people know about you as a person, the better because our form of art is to pretend to be other people. I think that the less people know about me as a person, the easier it is for them to suspend their disbelief.

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