Friday, June 15, 2012

Harriet Andersson morning discussion hosted by Liselott Forsman and Foster Hirsch

Harriet Andersson in the morning discussion at the Kitisenranta School, 15 June 2012. Photo: Taru Kalvi.

The School (Kitisenrannan koulu), Sodankylä, Midnight Sun Film Festival, Friday, 15 June 2012. The discussion was conducted in English.

Q: WHAT WAS THE FIRST FILM YOU SAW? A: I saw my first movie when I was four years old, at Sunday school. It was a Tarzan movie with Johnny Weissmuller. I liked the monkeys. At 14-15 I started really to go to the movies, but I didn't have much money. I don't remember much about them. I was bad at school. The school was not interesting for me except for gymnastics. But my parents said "if you are not working you are not going to eat". I met an opera singer when I was 15 and so I got into Calle Flygare's theatre school. My make-up teacher said: "you, you don't have a face". I was 16. It was a cruel thing to say.

Stockholm was a small town. Others were trying to get to the Dramaten theatre school. I was getting roles at the Oscars theatre owned by Anders Sandrew. And I started to get film roles in movies like Medan staden sover and Trots, directed by Gustaf Molander, and with actors like Inga Tidblad. Gustaf Molander wanted me to talk "stockholmska", in the Stockholm dialect, "that's what I want", to speak naturally.

FH: THAT WAS THE TREND: SPEAKING NATURALLY, THE WAY PEOPLE SPEAK. A: I was influenced by A Streetcar Named Desire, how Marlon Brando is calling "Stella".

Q: FEMALE MODELS? A: Gunn Wållgren, she was fantastic.

Q: INGMAR BERGMAN? A: In Gustaf Molander's movies I was getting good reviews and I was allowed to speak naturally. I heard that Ingmar had asked, "this new girl, how is she", if you "can get something out of her", like about a sack of potatoes.

Q: HOW WAS GUSTAF MOLANDER WITH ACTORS? A: He was sweet, fine, a little boring, a good director, never raised his voice. Ingmar Bergman I had actually met already in 1948 when he was making Fängelse. I went to his office where he was sitting with the beret on his head. I don't know whether he even looked at me. I had heard rumours that he hit actors, kicked them. The first time I saw him he didn't see me.

I was afraid because of all those rumours, but I liked some of his films. In Filmstaden we did a test with Lars Ekborg. He was also a little afraid. The cinematographer was Gunnar Fischer, a lovely man. We shot eight minutes in one take. We shot it twice.

FH: HOW CLOSE WERE YOU TO MONIKA? A: I was 20, she was 17. I was not so bad. I was a rebel, but I could behave when I wanted to. My father didn't want me to be an actor.

FH: YOU HAD WORKED AS AN ELEVATOR OPERATOR. A: Yes, and once Gunn Wållgren came in to the lift, she was very kind, and wanted to get into the third floor, but I just looked at her and the lift went nearly through the roof. That was the best thing that happened that year. Sometimes I just stood there one hour in vain. FH: LEARNING FAST OBSERVATION. A: Seeing right through you in the first minute.

Q: WHEN YOU READ THE SCRIPT OF MONIKA WHAT DID YOU THINK? A: It had first been a book, then a weekly magazine serial, very popular. I didn't need to wear so much makeup, and clothes: "go out and find something that Monika can have". Ingmar was not so much in his own element in the nature. The boat was on land. On the first day of shooting we did the mushroom scene, and Ingmar said "I can't use these two actors". But we were getting a little sun, we got tanned, and the boat got into the sea...

Q: YOU ALMOST LOST YOUR ROLES? A: Because of that scene with the food. Q: SHE'S A DOER. EXCERPT: SOMMAREN MED MONIKA: Monika eats meat like a wild woman.

A: I learned very early: don't stop acting when the camera is rolling. FH: THERE IS A WONDERFUL FREEDOM AND EASE... A: There were no rehearsals, not many takes, Ingmar was not like that. FH: YOU ARE FREER AT THE FIRST TAKE. A: At the first, at the second - after that it gets harder. I go by the instinct. When the camera starts, I start. In my attention there is a half for the technique, and a half for the acting. Bo Widerberg said that "she feels the [ground?] through her shoes". FH: DID INGMAR BERGMAN ALLOW IMPROVISATION? A: In a way.

A: In 1951 I got engaged with Per Oscarsson. Ingmar was married with a fantastic woman, Gun Grut, and they had a one year old son. We went out, as happens often in film, we came home when Per was not there, to pick up things. Ingmar had to tell Gun. She lived on the same street. Ingmar Bergman had a small room with a kitchen and a balcony, where I smoked. Gycklarnas afton was the story of our life at that time. "Can I come back?" "What? Never!" Q: IT WAS YOUR STORY ON SCREEN. A: The romantic side ended soon. We moved to Malmö, to the Malmö stadsteater. They were not very nice in the newspapers. There were headlines like "Now He'll Make Her His Hanna in The Merry Widow". I was 21, and it was the first time I played real theatre. I had started singing in revues, and now I got to play real fine theatre.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR DEAREST THEATRE ROLE? A: Hedvig in The Wild Duck. When I acted in Anne Frank's Diary there was a malicious article by Lars Schmidt before the premiere in the paper with the headline "From Revue to Anne Frank". I made a good Anne Frank, and after the premiere there was a big bunch of roses from Lars Schmidt to me with apologies.

Q: HOW WAS IT TO SWITCH FROM THE CAMERA TO THE STAGE. A: Ingmar was the one who gave me a contract. Mimi Pollak, a friend of Greta Garbo, was one of the few women directors. "Harriet lilla", she said. "This is not a film studio. I can't hear you". [Harriet gives a Mimi Pollak imitation].

FH: THE PROCESS IS DIFFERENT. A: It takes such a long time. In a film you shoot scene by scene, and then it's finished and stays forever. At the theatre you recite every evening the same words. I was not happy at Dramaten.


Q: GYCKLARNAS AFTON. A: I had no part in the screenwriting. He hired a room at a hotel, and never showed me the script. He used small pieces of paper with yellow lines, and the script was made in his handwriting. FH: NEVER COLLABORATION? A: No. FH: The idea about the dark island... A: I said "I think it's shit". He got very angry. Q: COULD YOU CENSOR YOUR LINES? A: A little yes. Some words maybe. He was very understanding.

Q: ÅKE GRÖNBERG IS INGMAR BERGMAN'S ALTER EGO, THE BOSS OF THE CIRCUS. HASSE EKMAN PLAYS FRITZ. A: Hasse Ekman was a director, too, the son of Gösta Ekman, a beautiful man. The terms were not so good between Ingmar Bergman and Hasse Ekman, he made another kind of film, some very good films.

Q: HASSE EKMAN. A: I played a circus rider, "she can bite a nut, ride the biggest horse with just the pressure of her legs". I was really strong in those days. There was an arm wrestling scene with Hasse Ekman, and I kept winning. "Nej för fan", said Ingmar, but I didn't want to be weak. EXCERPT: GYCKLARNAS AFTON. A: It's difficult to explain, I was lucky to have this role, it was a joy. Even in horrible scenes there was a comfort.

FH: IN MONIKA YOU PLAYED A CONTEMPORARY ROLE, IN GYCKLARNAS AFTON, A PERIOD ROLE. YOUR BODY LANGUAGE IS DIFFERENT. A: I had a good costume designer, Mago, who designed for me such a corsette that I couldn't eat anything. I got to open it during lunch. I was starving. FH: YOUR PERFORMANCE IS MORE CONSCIOUS. A: The script was good. You have to learn to move in the costume, you can't move in the same way.

Q: THROUGH MAGO YOU MET MARLENE DIETRICH. A: She was a fantastic woman. We were at Jörn's house, and she said: "Why don't you let my good friend Balmain work for you. You come down and live in my apartment." She lived in a fantastic house. Jörn spoke a little French, and Balmain made me five pieces.

Q: KARIN - SÅSOM I EN SPEGEL. A: At that time I was married to a farmer, I drove a tractor and had a daughter down there. My husband was not interested in film or theatre. Ingmar called me and told that he'll send me a script. "Read it and call me". It was difficult, I must say, "too difficult for me". "Prata inte skit", he said. That was his first film at Fårö. Sven Nykvist was the cinematographer. We were down there for three weeks for exteriors. In the studio we built the wreck. That's where she raped her little brother. It was a happy time. The script girl's mother fixed the dinners.

FH: WHAT DID YOU DRAW ON FOR THE KNOWLEDGE ON THE WOMAN'S LOSING HER MIND. A: I visited a mental hospital, and the doctor called his nurse. "I'm not sick". Of course everybody says so. The doctor got the script, too. I didn't know so much about schizophrenia, hearing voices. The task was to show what happens inside the brain.

Q: INGMAR BERGMAN IN PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL TERMS? A: He was always a professional, always set work before anything else.

Q: SVEN NYKVIST. A: Gunnar Fischer and Sven Nykvist were both most sweet and kind men. Sven especially never said a bad word. He was very quiet. Ingmar, too, became nicer. I liked Sven very much. Sven did a lot for Ingmar. We teased him.

Q: VISKNINGAR OCH ROP, ERLAND JOSEPHSON. A: Liv Ullmann was so fantastic, so beautiful. Agnes is very sick. She is going to die and knows it. EXCERPT: VISKNINGAR OCH ROP. Erland Josephson as the doctor.

FH: YOU PLAYED THE EXTREME PARTS OF KARIN AND AGNES. WHY THOSE ROLES? A: I asked him. I don't remember. It's been such a long time. I was wondering about it. I was very happy. He knew I could do it. Erland Josephson died this spring, you know. Between the takes there was another life.

Q: MAI ZETTERLING. A: Älskande par was based on a novel by Agnes von Krusenstjerna. I read her novels at a young age. Mai called me and asked me to play in her movie. I hated her as a director, "Look here, do that". An actress herself, she behaved in this way. I said: "Please Mai, don't play when I'm playing". After two and a half years she called me again. She had also asked Gunnel and Bibi. She said: "I'm much nicer now" and started to cry. Flickorna was a funny thing to do, nervous - difficult.

If there is a difficulty with a director, go to the cinematographer, and be friendly with him. The only exception for me has been in a German film directed by Frank Wysbar, Barbara - wild wie das Meer. During the love scene the cinematographer shouted: "Halt! Das geht nicht. So kann man nicht küssen".

Q: JÖRN DONNER. A: In 1954 we met him in Helsinki during the Monika premiere. Ingmar didn't like Helsinki, and I was afraid because of the Russians. Jörn came, we talked, he gave a book he'd written. We stayed for two days. I didn't think much about Jörn. In the early years the Berlin Film Festival took place in the summer, and in 1962 it was hot and nice. Mago had been born in Berlin. Everywhere I saw Jörn. He didn't talk much. He was good-looking, and I was free. He lived in Djurgården in Stockholm. We were having dinner with Mago, and Jörn had given his phone number, so we called him and had coffee at his place. Our first movie together was En söndag i september. I was very much in love. He is the man I loved the most. He is my best friend also. Att älska we did with Zbigniew Cybulski. He was very funny. For that movie I got the award in Venice Film Festival for best actress. Again I lived together with a director.

Q: HOW WAS IT NOW TO LIVE AND WORK WITH A DIRECTOR? A: Not exactly the same. I was not always nice in the studio. He was new. I held my nose up a little. Q: YOU WERE TOGETHER FOR EIGHT YEARS, UNTIL HÄR BÖRJAR ÄVENTYRET. A: He was a little shy, too. Are Finnish men always shy? I learned Finnish words, good bad words, and words like "kulta, kulta".

Q: IN ANNA, THE CHARACTER YOU PLAYED WAS UNBALANCED AGAIN. A: I don't remember, I haven't seen it in a long time.

I felt at home in Helsinki and at Jörn's island. It was always very nice. I miss it sometimes.
Jörn also produced Fanny och Alexander, "too expensive", they said.

Q: IN PROFESSIONAL LIFE, FILM IS FIRST. HOW DID JÖRN AND INGMAR COMMUNICATE? A: I wasn't there. My part in Fanny och Alexander was a small part, a good part. They should be happy about Fanny och Alexander.

FH: YOU ALSO PLAYED FOR SIDNEY LUMET IN A DEADLY AFFAIR AND FOR JERRY LEWIS IN THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED. A: In the Jerry Lewis film I had a small part as his wife. At that time he was not a nice man, a little sick, they said. His face was always to the camera. I didn't say anything.  Q: HE HAD A REPUTATION OF HAVING NO SENSE OF HUMOUR. A: That's true. I was never paid at all. The production company, Europa Films, doesn't exist. FH: JERRY LEWIS HAS LOCKED IT UP, HIS HOLOCAUST FILM. A: I remember the scene at the train station, the big lamps. It was evening, it was cold. It cost a lot of money.

FH: SIDNEY LUMET. A: He was so sweet. We did a lot of rehearsing, which is very rare. "Don't worry about the language, just act". James Mason and Simone Signoret were wonderful. Maximilian Schell was not so nice.

FH: WOULD YOU HAVE WANTED TO DO MORE INTERNATIONAL ROLES? A: No, because of the language. I had already had the experience of that German film with Frank Wysbar. I feel more comfortable at home.

Q: JAMES MASON, SIMONE SIGNORET. A: I had no scenes with Signoret, but she took care of me. James Mason asked me to dinner, "no blue jeans". His car came, he looked very satisfied, and he had this wonderful voice. "A lady never drinks whisky on the rocks".


Q: YOU ALSO WORKED WITH ERIK BLOMBERG. A: Bröllopsnatten was a Swedish-Finnish-Polish co-production based on a short story by Émile Zola, Överfallet / L'Attaque du moulin. I starred with Folke Sundqvist. It was a difficult time in Poland, and there was not much food. Erik had his wife, Mirjami Kuosmanen, with him. I had seen The White Reindeer, and was a little afraid of Mirjami. She was difficult. We worked for three and a half months. When we were leaving the whole village lay down on the floor: "don't forget us". Erik - Mirjami... the Finnish language can be exclusive.

Q: LARS VON TRIER. A: Dogville was a luxury holiday. I had a small part. Lauren Bacall was very funny. I like Lars. He loves to be a photographer. Q: YOU TICKLE ME. A: They should be scared of me. "What would Ingmar say". He was very much talking about Ingmar. Q: DID YOU SEE THE DEMONS? A: I didn't live with Lars; I didn't see them.

Q: INGMAR BERGMAN DID SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT AND ALL THESE WOMEN, YET THEY SAY HE HAD NO SENSE OF HUMOUR. A: He had his own sense of humour. In 1955 we separated, and Ingmar was doing a series of soap commercials for Tvålen Bris. He had found a new actress, Bibi Andersson, and he told me: "Get out of the studio!" Immediately I thought: "She's coming after me". Two years later, she was. Ingmar got thinner. He was sick of jealousy. He had his sense of humour in a way of his own. Q: EDGY? A: A little different.

Q: YOU STAYED GOOD FRIENDS. A: He called once a month on Saturday mornings: "Do I disturb you?", and we would talk one and a half hours. He talked, talked, talked. He was very lonely down there after Ingrid died.

FH: DID THAT ROCKY ISLAND EXPRESS SOMETHING OF HIS PERSONALITY? A: I don't know. He would take a long walk along the beach alone. He liked it.

Q: DID HE INSTRUCT YOU SEPARATELY? A: Sometimes. He was nice most of the time. He would put his arm around me or he grabbed my wrist when it was more serious. He never played in front of me, never said too much. Q: NOT OVER-ANALYZING. A: He may have been different with others. FH: HOW ABOUT THE ROLES WHERE YOU WEREN'T CAST? A: Gunnel in her roles was fantastic. In Persona, Bibi and Liv were so alike, so grateful and happy.

Q: WHICH FILM WOULD YOU TAKE TO THE DESERT ISLAND? A: I don't want to take one movie to a desert island, that would be hell. I don't know, no. [After repeated persuasion:] A Streetcar Named Desire.

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