I chat with Daniel Espinosa about Easy Money, Child 44 and working with Ridley Scott & he gets a fan for life - Easy Money Review


Posted by Craig Grobler on Google+ On Friday, July 19, 2013

Daniel Espinosa interviewI saw Easy Money at the recent Nordicana Festival held in London and I was completely blown away by it and I couldn't' believe it had taken me so long to get around to seeing it.  I loved everything about Easy Money or Snabba cash as it is known in Sweden.


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I have consistently been impressed by Nordic Noir but Easy Money is something else - it maintains its dark Nordic roots whilst having an international verve to it as Daniel Espinosa brings his own fresh brand of visual styling to the fore whilst telling a compelling gritty crime story with engaging characters at its heart. Also Martin Scorsese has thrown his weight as an Executive Producer behind Easy Money, so that right there should be a stamp of approval that is a seal of quality. If you enjoy crime thrillers (or decent films) I cannot recommend Easy Money highly enough and it is in my Top 10 list of films for 2013.

Easy Money Poster
Easy Money Poster (Click to enlarge)
If I was forced to frame Easy Money using comparisons I would say that is is a little bit Quentin Tarantino, a little bit Nicolas Winding Refn a little bit Alejandro González Iñárritu and a lot great crime thriller that doesn't rely on gimmicks to tell its tale. I should stress that at no point does Easy Money feel like a copy of anything else I am merely making comparison in terms of entertainment value and stylistic genre.

Based on a very successful novel by Jens Lapidus Easy Money is visually striking and has a genuine emotional weight as we follow JW in his slide deeper and deeper into the Stockholm underworld. Well initially it feels that Easy Money is the story of Johan 'JW' Westlund played by Joel Kinnaman is a picture perfect, smart, ambitious - but very poor student who sets out on a quest to make a fortune.




easy money Joel Kinnaman as JW
Easy Money Joel Kinnaman as Johan 'JW' Westlund (Click to enlarge)
But it soon becomes apparent that it is actually the story of 3 characters; JW, Jorge (Matias Varela) and Mrado played by former real life gangster Dragomir Mrsic, their worlds and how they collide or entwine.

There's much to like about Easy Money such as; the verve, the gritty and exciting visuals bring, the story which constantly surprises as it unfolds, uncanny performances but one of the most impressive facets of Easy Money is that each of the three lead characters (as well as the others) are complex and gain real depth as we understand their worlds a bit better. Even though they make bad decisions and live in morally grey worlds you can't help but be compelled to hope that they make it out of their situations alive if nothing else. That is real movie magic.

JW (Joel Kinnaman) is a poor student who lives a double life within the wealthy Stockholm elite. He falls in love with an upper class girl and is soon lured into a world of crime. Jorge is a fugitive on the run from the police and the Yugoslavian mafia. His plan; import a massive cargo of coke and then disappear for good. Yugoslavian hitman Mrado is trying hard to find Jorge but his criminal life takes a turn when he is forced to take care of his young daughter. While JW starts a journey into the dark world of organized crime, he brings together the fate of all to a struggle of life and death.

Video: EASY MONEY UK TRAILER


Yesterday I got to chat with Director Daniel Espinosa about Easy Money and rather than ask him interesting questions like; how did Martin Scorsese come to be an Executive Producer on Easy Money or how he went about casting such a varied set of characters and end up with a cast that so credibly breathes life into his characters or how did Joel Kinnaman, future Robocop who has worked with Espinosa a number of times including on his upcoming Child 44 make such a good collaborative team or how former bank robber Dragomir Mrsic got involved in the project or what it was like working with Dragomir - if you you aren't excited or at least intrigued and compelled by Mrsic's performance as veteran enforcer Mrado you need to watch Easy money twice. Yea rather than gain insight into Daniel Espinosa working style and how he develops his stories we shot the breeze and this is how the conversation went instead. I have reworded certain bits to avoid spoilers.

DANIEL CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND AND HOW YOU CAME INTO FILMMAKING?

Daniel Espinosa: When I was 18 years old I had some problems with the law in Sweden and I was placed in a boarding School. My ambitions back them were quite small, because I came from a neighbourhood where nothing seemed possible. So my ambition back then was to open a cafeteria and even that seemed impossible.

At this boarding school I was in everyone wanted to be a millionaire, there were a lot of kids from wealthy backgrounds and I felt like a complete outsider. My roommate happened to be Lasse Hallström's son and when I met Lasse he seemed like such a normal guy and a good person. I was completely amazed by his normality. I thought people who made films were somehow different or alien.

After meeting and talking with Lasse my courage started building and I started formulating the idea  that I wanted to be a Film Director.

So when I finished high school I threw myself out there and worked for free on anything I could find, I did that for a couple of years, made some short films, got into film school when I was 20 and graduated when I was 25 and made my first feature film that Summer.

Video: Easy Money - Clip 4 - Shooting In Shop - In Cinemas July 19


THAT IS AN INCREDIBLE STORY AND LEADS INTO MY NEXT QUESTION ABOUT WHAT DRAWS YOU TO THE KIND OF MATERIAL AND STORIES YOU WANT TO TELL? AFTER THAT I GET SENSE OF SOME SYNCHRONICITY BETWEEN YOURSELF AND JW FROM EASY MONEY

Daniel Espinosa: Yes, I could feel a very deep connection to the kind of solitude  you can feel when you come from a different social structure, even though you are in the same room as other people you feel that they know you are not part of them or the same and they will never  accept you. At some point you will do almost anything  for them to accept you.

For me the story of Easy Money is about the loss of illusion, all the main characters have it. With Jorge (Matias Varela)  he has this idea of himself being a vulnerable man that can somehow gain back his family's respect with a big job  but he slowly realises that it is not possible and that he still would have betrayed the trust and caused more harm.

With JW (Joel Kinnaman) he holds onto the idea that if he has enough money people will accept him, to the point that the girl he falls in love with Sophie (Lisa Henni) will accept him for the person he is, but he can't be honest with her because he has gone too far and sacrifices his soul and becomes a different person.

Then you have Mrado who lives life as an enforcer then he has to take care of his daughter which makes him look at his life in a different perspective.

I think it is interesting to watch people undergoing transformations.

With Safe House the attraction for me was the cast and the opportunity to work with Denzel Washington. I'm interested in characters no matter where they are from or how they are. And even though Safe House may be a more straightforward action film there is depth to the characters and moments of dialogue that allow for contemplation or a respite.

easy money Matias Varela as Jorge
Easy Money Matias Varela as Jorge (Click to enlarge)
YOU JUST MENTIONED SAFE HOUSE AND I'M FROM CAPE TOWN AND I WAS WONDERING HOW DID YOU FIND FILMING IN CAPE TOWN?

Daniel Espinosa: That was a blast, it was  incredible I really enjoyed it, when I was young my Mother worked for an NGO in Africa and I grew up in Mozambique and Angola and spent a lot of time in South Africa so for me it felt a bit like coming back home and one of the reasons I wanted to make Safe House. It was an opportunity to go back to an area of the planet I had childhood memories from and shoot in the shanty towns and in a way be amongst the Southern African people.

Video: Easy Money - Clip 3 - Jorge - In Cinemas July 19


EASY MONEY IS THE FIRST IN A TRILOGY, WITH THE SECOND FILM EASY MONEY 2  I WAS WONDERING WHAT WAS YOUR THINKING BEHIND DECIDING TO BE A PRODUCER AND NOT DIRECT THE SECOND FILM.?

Daniel Espinosa: Well the movie I made is different from the book so I was very entwined with the material so when Fredrik Wikström the Producer and I spoke we discussed a trilogy and I set up an idea that might work that included a time theme. The first film takes place over 6-8 weeks, which is an average timescale for a film, the second film was going to take place over two days, so the material was more compressed. The third one which stretches out over a year or two to allow it to be different from the others.

But as we got closer I had other interests and I wanted to go to the States and make a movie there. I thought it would be interesting to see the people I look up to the most within the Swedish film industry, the people I share wine with to make the film their own way, with complete artistic freedom and see what happens. How this material works with their talent. So we gave the second film to Babak Najafi, whose first film Sebbe won Best Debut at the Berlinale. It was super interesting to see what Babak did with his characters and the material. Babak reveals more layers of his characters which is very interesting.


I'M NOT FAMILIAR WITH JENS LAPIDUS'S BOOKS SO I WAS WONDERING HOW DIFFERENT YOUR FILM IS FROM JENS'S SOURCE MATERIAL?

Daniel Espinosa: The three lead characters are from the book but there are changes, like, with Mrado he has a daughter in the book but he never meets her so that was a big change for his character as his dilemma is completely different.

Jorge meets his sister for one page in the book. So I took  those pieces and augmented the core of the characters, which is different from Jens Lapidus's approach. Books and movies are different mediums and you may have to change them quite radically to keep them faithful to the spirit of the characters.

easy money Dragomir Mrsic as Mrado
Easy Money Dragomir Mrsic as Mrado

REGARDING THE FINAL FILM IN THE TRILOGY IF IT DOES GO AHEAD ARE YOU GOING TO BE INVOLVED?

Daniel Espinosa: The third film (Snabba cash - Livet deluxe or Easy Money Luxury Life) has already been made and will be released in September. I have been busy on Child 44 so have not been involved with it but it was made by our friend Jens Jonsson, but he is a lot more on his own.

Jens has done what he felt and making a more epic movie. We have each had our own approaches and our styles are different; Babak is has a similar style to the Dardenne Brothers, Jens is influenced by the cinema of directors like Aki Kaurismäki and I'm inspired by Mexican film. We have different rhythms.


YOU JUST MENTIONED CHILD 44 THERE, AS A PRODUCER RIDLEY SCOTT HAS BEEN WANTING TO GET THAT OFF THE GROUND FOR AGES HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED?

Daniel Espinosa: Ridley saw Easy Money, he liked the movie and called me up and wanted to sit down and have dinner. We talked about filmmaking, you know, he is a master and great Director so just to get to sit down with a man like like that and talk about movies is a great compliment.

We spoke about different stories and I had read Child 44 as the story had been around and I told him my thoughts about it and it turned out that he wanted to have a discussion about Child 44 and he asked if I wanted to make it with him Producing.

Craig Grobler: That is awesome!

Daniel Espinosa: Yes! Exactly as you say that is awesome! Very cool.

Video: Easy Money - Clip 2 - Dinner Party - In Cinemas July 19


COMING IN AS A RELATIVE NEWCOMER WITH EASY MONEY AND THEN WORKING ON A PROJECT WITH THE SCOPE OF CHILD 44 IS THERE A VAST DIFFERENCE IN THE WAY YOU WORK AND COLLABORATE? 

Daniel Espinosa: I think with Child 44 it's very similar and pretty much the same thing. They have a lot of faith in what I do and  let me make the movie I want. Also Ridley is a Director so he helps and protects me in the way a Director needs to be protected. Which is very cool of him.

I think with Safe House it was different I was a first time Director in the American system and they were very worried that I would make a film that wouldn't sell any tickets. But they are a lot more relaxed when it comes to that side of the business.


IT MUST HAVE BEEN DAUNTING TO TAKE ON SAFE HOUSE AS A NEWCOMER, WORKING WITH BIG NAMES IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY WITH A NEW PRODUCTION TEAM IT MUST HAVE BEEN CHALLENGING TO SAY THE LEAST 

Daniel Espinosa: Yes but to make any movie makes you very anxious no matter what the scale. When I made Easy Money it was the same things as always if I made a bad film in Sweden I wouldn't work in the industry again. That is the business. So making a movie on a bigger scale is not more daunting because if you fail you the same way, the fall will be steeper but you land in the same puddle.

Easy Money - Clip 1 - Camilla - In Cinemas July 19



ON CHILD 44 YOU ARE WORKING WITH A BIG NAME CAST LIKE GARY OLDMAN, TOM HARDY AND NOOMI RAPACE AS WELL AS JOEL KINNAMAN AGAIN. DID YOU BRING JOEL ON BOARD?

Daniel Espinosa: Yea. Joel and I also brought Fares Fares who played Mahmoud in Easy Money. In Child 44  and he has a much bigger role.


Sadly at this point Daniel had to rush off so I couldn't explore his working relationship with Joel Kinnaman, real life former bank robber Dragomir Mrsic or Fares Fares who has worked with Espinosa on a number of films since 2000. But I think bringing his people with him speaks volumes about loyalty and friendship and the kind of person Daniel Espinosa is. I loved Easy Money I enjoyed Easy Money 2 and am looking forward to both Easy Money 3 and  Daniel Espinosa's next film Child 44. But in the meantime Easy Money (Snabba cash) is in cinemas from today 19 July 2013

When JW becomes a drug runner in order to maintain his double life, his fate becomes tied to two other men: Jorge, a fugitive on the run from both the Serbian mafia and the police, and mafia enforcer Mrado, who is on the hunt for Jorge.

Director: Daniel Espinosa
Writers: Daniel Espinosa, Jens Lapidus
Stars: Joel Kinnaman, Matias Varela, Dragomir Mrsic

The Establishing Shot: I CHAT WITH DANIEL ESPINOSA ABOUT EASY MONEY, CHILD 44 AND WORKING WITH RIDLEY SCOTT & HE GETS A FAN FOR LIFE - EASY MONEY REVIEW

Wanna fight?
Craig is a retired superhero, an obsessive hobbyist, comics fan, gadget lover & flâneur who knows an unhealthy amount about Ian Fleming's James Bond.

When not watching or making films he takes pictures, eats, drinks, dives, tries to connect to nature whilst mentally storyboarding the greatest film ever made. He also  & sometimes utilises owl-themed gadgets to fight crime. 

A list of his 132 favourite films can be found hereIf you would still like to contact Craig please use any of the buttons below: 


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