Aksel Hennie,

The Establishing Shot: Jameson Cult Film Club presents Headhunters at The Saatchi Gallery and we chat with lead actor Aksel Hennie

Saturday, April 14, 2012 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

Jameson Cult Film Club HeadhuntersA couple of weeks ago, along with 600 other Londoners in the know, we were fortunate enough to participate in the Jameson Cult Club screening of Headhunters and conversation with its stars at the Saatchi Gallery.

The Jameson Cult Film Club screening of Headhunters marked a shift in the JCFC’s format as the focus was on Future Cult and they could not have marked the occasion with a more appropriate film than the darkly sublime Headhunters.

If you read The Establishing Shot you’ll know we loved Headhunters and it is currently my top 3 film of 2012 so far. Our thoughts of the engaging and darkly brilliant Headhunters can be found over here! My arc with Headhunters went from my interest being piqued by the cryptic and engaging trailer. To being utterly astonished by my first viewing of Headhunters. I knew that festival audiences had received it well but nothing quite prepared me for the fun ride that Headhunters delivers. I liked it so much that I went to see it again, so my wife a fan of crime fiction could enjoy it. She loved it!

Video: The Establishing Shot: Headhunters Official UK trailer in English

The Headhunters trailers also heralded my introduction to Norwegian author Jo Nesbø who seems to be at the leading the charge of the Scandinavian thriller invasion, capturing the imagination of readers around the world (a Jo Nesbø novel is bought every 23 seconds).

I knew nothing of Nesbø prior to seeing the Headhunters trailer and it seemed as if I stumbled onto a well kept secret - as over the coming months I couldn’t escape hearing about Jo Nesbø or his books, culminating in overhearing a discussion in Waterstones last week between a lady “who had heard so much about his books” and the shop assistant’s recommendations on which of his books to start with - apparently they are stand alone stories but you’ll have better insight into the characters if you read them in sequence. Headhunters is Nesbø’s first big screen adaptation and the most successful Norwegian film of all time.

Working Title has already started on the next adaptation of a Jo Nesbø book to be made into a big screen feature this time it will be a Harry Hole (pronounced Hury Hool-e) detective thriller The Snowman - a serial killer tale with Martin Scorsese directing.

To try pigeon hole Headhunters would really do it a disservice as it doesn’t quite fit into one genre neatly, possibly a contributing factors - leading to it earning a Cult status early on. It is wildly entertaining and will shock and humour in equal measure. An intricate crime thriller that has human relationships at its core. For me it did feel like some of the relationship aspects were lost in translation in favour of speeding up the action of the story - in which corporate recruiter (or Headhunter) Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) finds himself deeper and deeper, in over his head, in an increasingly fraught situation. In which he realises his grasp may have exceeded his reach this one final time. This surely must be Aksel Hennie's breakout role with comparisons already being drawn between his performance as Roger Brown and that of cinema's most misunderstood and unlikeliest heroes like; The Driver, Professor Snape and Edward Scissorhands.

But when one of the film’s stars Synnøve Macody Lund drew parallels in similarities between Pulp Fiction and Headhunters - the comparison stuck with me. Like Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, Headhunters bends and blends genres and from one scene to the next you could on the edge of your seat, to laughing out loud, to cringing in disgust. Very much like Pulp Fiction or a Guy Ritchie film Headhunters creates an original darkly satiric universe filled with entertaining characters, twists and turns, and flits between edgy, dangerous and hilarious carried by some great performances from across the cast. Which includes; award winning actor Aksel Hennie, (Max Manus: Man of War, Age of Heroes), Nikolasj Coster-WaldauIt (Jaime Lannister in HBO hit series Game Of Thrones, Blackthorn), Julie Olgaard (The Killing), the hilarious Eivind Sander and drop dead gorgeous newcomer Synnøve Macody Lund.

So on a chilly Spring evening we made our way to the heart of Chelsea to the Saatchi Gallery to be greeted by the queue of film fans eager to experience this JCFC screening of Headhunters. We made our way past a Hote receptionist (Hote is one of the companies featured in Headhunters) into the packed gallery where we surprisingly got to enjoy a customary Jameson cocktails amongst real artworks. As well as interactive installations from the film and discuss films and art (of course).

Pretty soon we headed into the screening room where Jameson Cult Film Club Ambassador Ciaran Down accompanied by 2 Norwegian Politi security twins welcomed us and the stars of Headhunters; Aksel Hennie & Synnøve Macody Lund and Producer Marianne Gray to introduce Headhunters.

Aksel Hennie was brimming with energy; Synnøve Macody Lund is incomparably more stunning in real life and embodying every bit a Nordic goddess, whilst Producer Marianne Gray cheerfully kept it all together. Aksel Hennie took centre stage to entertain us with his infectious enthusiasm before Headhunters flickered into life.

The Establishing Shot: Jameson Cult Film Club presents Jo Nesbo's Headhunters at The Saatchi

QA with Headhunters stars; Aksel Hennie, Synnøve Macody Lund and Producer Marianne Gray. 
After the screening the people’s champion Chris Hewitt took to the stage to host a QA session with starts; Aksel Hennie, Synnøve Macody Lund and Marianne Gray. Below are some of the highlights from the QA session, unfortunately the humour and inflection isn't conveyed below but there are loads of interesting bits.

Marianne Gray: We had worked with Jo Nesbo for the Harry Hole series, that is currently being made in Britain by Working Title, but he was very reluctant while he was continuing to write the books because he didn’t want to ruin the character in his head. Specifically doing it in Norwegian.

So when Headhunters came out as a stand alone, he pretty much owed it to me and he said yes very quickly. So it was an easy process.

Aksel Hennie: Yea, when I asked Jo about what he wanted me to do; he said to do as I please. He was very supportive and generous. He even wrote the last line of the movie that is not in his book.

Synnøve Macody Lund: It’s fantastic, it says something about how the movie has created a unique universe. In a similar way to say Pulp Fiction, or whatever but it has a similar mix - that is just fascinating and stands out. Creating its own mystery that’s cool and that is amazing.

Chris Hewitt: I don’t know if you guys knew this, but I only just found out that Synnøve was actually a film presenter and not an actor when she got the role of Diana Brown. How did this come about? And is it surreal for you being on the other side of the camera?

Synnøve Macody Lund: I had reviewed some of Aksel’s films for TV and that’s how we knew of each other. We weren’t friends but he knew of me.

Aksel Hennie: Yea, I was afraid of you. Morten and I met lots of actresses in Norway, and Diana wasn't there. Eventually Morten said ' Aksel, I don't think she exists, this girl we're looking for; we need a 2m tall girl with authority, who is really blond.

But when I read the script I pictured Synnøve immediately because I knew her. And I said, 'let's try her', and Morten said, but, she's a film critic Aksel.

Yea but let’s try her. Has she ever reviewed one of my movies? Was the review any good. 'Yeah, I think so, it was pretty good.' 'Let's try her.'

She came in more prepared than any of the actresses. She was so on it from the start. Morten's has this really sweet way about him. When he’s really concentrating and when he  loves something or thinks it works he starts jogging. Within two seconds he was jogging on spot for the entire scene.  Synnøve was there from the second she came in.

My compliment to Synnøve is that even though she was an amateur who has never done anything before but she was so professional.

Spoilers below:
Chris Hewitt: Headhunters has this unique tone which I think is predominant in cult film and has this incredible sequences culminating in a head shaving. Before that there is a bizarre incident with a dog and then of course the scene that everyone is going to talk about - crawling into a river of s**t. Is that the scene that stood out to you when you read the script? 

Aksel Hennie: No, not at all I’m used to things like that. I’m not sure how many Norwegian films you have seen but we usually bathe in shit, that’s something we have do and there is a lot of WHERE SHALL WE PUT THAT SCENE? WHERE DO WE PUT THE SCENE? WHERE DO WE PUT THE S*** SCENE? IT’S NOT TIN THE SCRIPT! WHERE DO WE PUT IT? But in the end we always cut it. No, off course it stood out.

When the book came out everyone was talking about it and when it was announced that a film was coming out and I would be in it everyone talked about it and used to joke that I’ll be in the s***. I was looking forward to it I didn’t know what is going to be made of, turned out it was a mixture of granola, chocolate, olive oil, bread crumbs, mousse, brownies, and a lot of coffee. Which is why my girlfriend was not able to drink coffee for an entire year as I came home as the mocha man.

Chris Hewitt: How did you feel about shaving your head?

Aksel Hennie: I look terrible when I grow my hair - a lot on the sides and little on top, so I was looking forward to shaving it off. What I didn’t know was that I would have to do it with a blunt razor. Actually on screen you can see me shaving off a mole - it didn't grow back, cheapest surgery I’ve ever had but it worked! I love being able to do my own stunts and scenes like that create energy.

Craig Grobler: Roger Brown the character you play in Headhunters is a fairly despicable guy how did you research the part? 

Aksel Hennie: When I first got the script and read it, I thought What! this guy is everything I resent a guy to be, he steals, he cheats he lies, he wears tailor made suits and I want to punch his face in. I hated everything about him.

Then around page 6 he starts getting into trouble and I was like oh yea I like it when he gets into trouble. But as it progresses I was like oh no, no not that much trouble and eventually started rooting for him. He eventually ends the man I would like to be. And that’s why I thought this film was worth making, that scene.

I love Roger’s arc, I wish more characters had his kind of arc, for an actor it is fantastic.

To research Roger I met with real Headhunters, I hung out in those kinds of environments. I talked to a guy who actually stole a screen painting. He is not a Roger Brown type but he loves art, but he’s nothing like Roger. My biggest inspiration was from Jo’s book, all of Roger’s inner voice is in there and for me it was a great help. Also it helps wearing tailor made suits, they do something to you.

Chris Hewitt: Is he a character you would like to play again? I know Headhunters is a stand alone novel but I would like to see Roger back again on the big screen again.

Aksel Hennie: I think Headhunters 2 is the lamest movie idea ever.

Chris Hewitt: so that’s not necessarily a - no then?

Chris Hewitt: How do you feel about the possible remake? And any truth to the rumour of Mark Wahlberg being attached?

Aksel Hennie: It is being remade! We made this film for the audience - so having as many people see it as possible is a good thing. For us showing it in England is fantastic but believe it or not there are people that don’t understand Norwegian and some people that don’t like subtitles.

Marianne Gray: Mark Wahlberg actually did a great job promoting this film because he loved, but didn’t know it was already sold early on. When we were shooting the Norwegian film, Summit Entertainment had an executive in Germany who read the book. So that deal was made while we were filming this one. They're not using our script - they're going back to the book. And we're producing. producers.

Aksel Hennie: I have the best story of Mark Wahlberg (pauses, thinks about) OK I'll tell you. When Morten Tyldum was in LA.meeting  Mark Wahlberg. I like Mark Wahlberg and think he's fantastic. If he did the movie and played Roger Brown I would learn from him. Morten is the sweetest guy and not street smart or very hip hop. After they met, Mark said I love your movie and he went like this ( holding his fist up to pound) -

- Morten says yeah and walks off with Mark still standing like this. In the car the 3 laughing agents explained to Morten that he had just left Mark Wahlberg hanging!

Chatting with the Headhunters team after the screening
After the screening we headed back into the gallery area for another cocktail while we listened to the DJ amongst the art work - which in itself was fairly surreal. Whilst we were there I managed to catch up with the Headhunters team for a chat and more interesting behind the scenes discussion.

In conversation I discovered that all-though Synnøve was well prepared for her audition she was actually working from an earlier draft of the Headhunters script and believed her character took a completely different turn than in the in the final version of the film. Possible Spoiler: Synnøve thought Diana Brown was going to die. 

I had a lengthy chat with Aksel Hennie in which I discovered that he loves Spicy Asian Fusion food, he is currently listening to amongst others; Sigur Rós, Kings of Leon and I twisted his arm slightly to find out that he is also listening to a lot of Pop music - because of his pop star girlfriend Tone Damli.

He is loving London and honoured that Headhunters has been shown at the Jameson Cult Film Club. And he can't wait to re-watch Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive which he loves.

The following is a transcript of bits of our chat:

Craig Grobler: You just mentioned Nicolas Winding Refn, aside from him, and of course Morten Tyldum, who are your favourite directors?
Aksel Hennie: David Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson and mmh Sean Penn.

CG: Sean Penn? Interesting choice.

Aksel Hennie: Because of his first feature The Indian Runner. I love it. And because of Mickey Rourke’s small monologue in The Pledge.

 CG: Those films  cover some fairly heavy subject material. Do you lean towards that type of dark material?
Aksel Hennie:I love all kinds of movies you know. I loved mmh! The Hangover. All movies deserve an audience as long as they are good. When a movie is good, it usually has its individual merits. On a Sunday a could be hung over watching whatever; Ben Stiller or Adam Sandler movies laughing my ass off. And the next day I could be in it for the broader themes or darkness of it. I watch all kinds of films as long as they have something to them.

CG: So how did you get involved in Headhunters?
Aksel Hennie: The director Morten Tyldum has been a tremendously important person to me throughout my career. He was involved in my first short film (Fast Forward/ Fort Forover - 2000) my first feature film (Buddy - 2003) and now Headhunters. After Buddy, my we had been looking for a project to work together on. And one day he called me - at this point it felt a bit like the scene in Reservoir Dogs where Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) is telling the story of his close shave with law to his associates and breaks through the fourth wall. Aksel's natural story telling abilities very evident as I'm immersed in his story like I'm there eavesdropping on his conversation with Morten Tyldum.
Morten Tyldum: Aksel - here it is I have it.
Aksel Hennie: Cool, I’m in. What is it?
Morten Tyldum: A Jo Nesbo book.
Aksel Hennie: No, he doesn’t adapt his books.
Morten Tyldum: He does now. He’s doing Headhunters.
I thought Morten Tyldum and Jo Nesbo!
Aksel Hennie: Who’s Producing?
Morten Tyldum: Marian Grey from Yellow Bird and Asle Vatn of Friland.
I was like what the f***! I'm definitely in! Send me the script. 
CG: You and Morten seem to have a really good working relationship. Can we expect to see you working together again? Are you actively looking for another project together?
Aksel Hennie: Most definitely, both Morten and I want to work together, we love working together and if we find a new project we’ll go for it. Right now Morten is attached to Hollywood projects and he’s pursuing that. So let’s see.

CG: Has Hollywood been knocking on your door yet? How can they not be after that performance?
Aksel Hennie: Ha, ha, ha Yea, I have managers and agents looking into it and perhaps something will come up.

The Establishing Shot: Headhunters Actor Synnove Lund, Producer Marianne Gray & Actor Aksel Hennie - Jameson Cult Film Club at the Saatchi Gallery by Craig Grobler

CG: My understanding is that Headhunters it was sold into 50 countries before it was even out the gate? So has that meant you have been really busy showing the film all over the world?
Aksel Hennie: Yea, I have been doing some but most of the international stuff is starting now, England now and the States I think in late April.

 CG: The States, Oh! Did The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo take a similar path with ? I didn't realise the original got a release in the States.
Aksel Hennie: I’m not sure (leans over to Yellow Bird Producer, Marianne Gray) Yea, they did! Marianne Gray: Oh yes, the Swedish version of Girl with The Dragon Tattoo is the most seen, foreign film ever - within the United States.

CG: The reason I ask is, don’t you think with the proliferation of social media and WOM won’t the film be spoilt for a large part of the potential audience? As anyone who sees it will invariably talk about it.
Aksel Hennie: Possibly, but the audience that will see the original version won’t necessarily be the same as the audience that would watch a remake. I don’t know maybe foreign film has a different audience.

CG: A quick trivia question, someone who reads my blog asked about your character name- Roger Brown in Headhunters –  He was curious to know if that was something from the book? Or how it came about.   Aksel Hennie:Yea, that is from the book. In the book Jo Nesbo goes into Roger’s back story and you find out he has an English father who is a Diplomat.

But he drink drives and dies in accident. We were going to put some of Roger’s back story into the movie and we even shot some dialogue for it but it felt so heavy and out of place, so it didn't fit with the rest of the movie. It made it feel like another whole story

CG: Aksel, I know that you have a huge list of previous projects across TV and film but what can we expect to see you in next?
Aksel Hennie: At the moment I’m waiting for another Norwegian film to come out in October called 90 minutes (90 Minutter) and I’m starting to shoot another movie around August/September. But I’m up for other projects and let’s see what happens. - As well as starring in 90 Minutes Aksel is also producing it.

CG: Without giving too much away what can you tell us about 90 Minutes? Is it similar in vein to the dark satire of Headhunters?
Aksel Hennie: 90 Minutes is something completely different, it’s a small dark art film, shot in 25 days with a bunch very well know Norwegian actors. It is a very character driven drama with multiple storylines. My story is about domestic abuse and I play the worst asshole you can imagine. If you think Roger Brown in Headhunters is a badass to start with, Trond, the guy I play in 90 Minutes is a 100 times worse.

CG: I'll be looking out for it

You can follow Aksel Hennie on Twitter over here: https://twitter.com/#!/AkselHennie

Slideshow: Jameson Cult Film Club presents Headhunters at The Saatchi Gallery and we chat with lead actor Aksel Hennie

Thank you Jameson Cult Film Club for another great evening of immersive cinema in the heart of London and you may have set the bar a little too high too be matched at the next Jameson Cult Film Club Screening.

Visit the Jameson Cult Film Club Box Office for more info and tickets.

My write ups from previous Jameson Cult Film Club screenings can be found over here:

Since 1998 Jameson has had a strong connection with the world of film starting with the creation of the Jameson Short Film Award, presented at film festivals all over the world. Fourteen years later Jameson is still involved in some of the most exciting global film events from the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival to the Independent Spirit awards in LA.In the UK, Jameson and Empire, the world's biggest movie magazine, teamed up in 2009 when Jameson became the title sponsor of the Empire Awards. An awards ceremony that is voted by the readers is the perfect embodiment of Jameson's link with film – it's about a love of film. In addition to the Jameson Empire Awards 2012, the new fourth season of Jameson Cult Film Club screenings continues in March. Jameson Cult Film Club is a series of exciting film experiences showing the best in cult film in unusual locations staged to transport you into the film’s universe. For a full events schedule and your free tickets visit www.jamesoncultfilmclub.com or www.facebook.com/jamesoncultfilmclub.