Currently working my way through The Bridge season two, so why not read up on some Kim Bodnia? Came across him talking about season 3 of the show, which is exciting! Read below or click here
Sporting an impressive sheepskin coat, he is taller than we imagined and broad-shouldered, with intense blue eyes. His hand shake is firm, his voice big and his enthusiasm infectious, yet there is something about Kim Bodnia’s aura that is hard to define.
Most know him as the character Martin Rhode, a Danish detective, and for the last month an estimated one million Britons and expats have been glued to their screens watching double-bill episodes of the 10-part detective drama The Bridge. The series is filmed in two languages (Swedish and Danish) that most have never even aspired to understand, let alone speak, but this has in no way hampered its phenomenal success.
It is the day before the final two episodes of The Bridge II are aired, Bodnia is at the Sanderson Hotel in central London, and guests are turning their heads. He has recently returned from New York, where he was busy directing The Tailor’s Tale, a play by his cousin Alexander Bodin Saphir about his Jewish grandfather’s brother’s life in Copenhagen during the Nazi occupation. “It obviously can’t get more personal and intimate than this,” says Bodnia. “This is something I knew I needed to do – it’s a part of my history, the story I’ve always wanted to tell the world.”
He then transports us back in time, recounting anecdotes from his early days in theatre. He is relaxed and clearly excited to be in town to appear at the Nordicana festival at The Old Truman Brewery.
The fastest runner in Denmark
Born to Jewish parents, Bodnia grew up in Copenhagen and in his youth wrote music, lyrics and poems. He never enjoyed school during his early years, but fortunately a photographic memory helped him pull through. He went on to study at the National school of theatre in Copenhagen.
“I’m half-Russian, half-Polish and all Jewish. At 14, I was the fastest runner in Denmark, believe it or not, and a youth champion in the 100-metre run and long jump and later on a professional goalkeeper, but a foot injury put a stop to any plans to become an athlete,” says the actor.
Unperturbed and with the prospect of a new fate, Bodnia eagerly turned to the theatre, which in a sense was the perfect way for him to declare his love of art to the world. “All I want to do with my acting, for as long as I live, is to connect people through love. That’s my mission,” Kim explains in a serious tone.
He orders a salad and a tall grapefruit juice, announcing that he is currently going through a vegetarian phase. “When we recorded The Bridge I ate lots of meat to get the energy to keep me going, but normally I don’t need to eat that much; salads are usually enough for me.”
We chat casually about his love of acting and passion for performance art, what he describes as his destiny. His grandmother, who played an important role in his life, would often remind him of how far she had predicted he would go, and he gets quite emotional talking about her.
A gentle bear of a man
Bodnia is often described as a gentle bear of a man with strong and warm characteristics, which leads us to ask about his peculiar interest in animal behaviour, something he has been studying for years. “I study all animals,” he says. “In fact, I’ve always used animal behaviour as a reference for my acting, as their response pattern is different and unpredictable. Take Harald in In China They Eat Dogs: he is a gorilla, and if you look closely, you can see him standing like a gorilla in several scenes – it’s proven to be a very useful skill. I often judge people by what animal they might be.”
A father of four, Bodnia’s children – his first son, with the actress Lotte Andersen, and his other three children, with his wife, actress Rikke Louise Andersson – all share his love of the arts. “My family is everything to me: I need them and would be nobody without them. It’s often very hard to live for long periods without them, but we talk on the telephone and I tell my kids that longing is all about love,” he says.
“They’ve got art in their genes; acting is in their blood and they are already showing great potential. My eldest son, Louis, is a terrific piano player: he recently gave a performance in New York and was improvising like I’ve never seen. My two little boys Charlie and Miles are also raving about the theatre, along with my daughter, Nomi, who loves to sing and dance.”
Just about to make a big move to New York, neither Bodnia nor his family can wait. “I feel at home over there,” he explains. “It’s easy to fit in. You’re never alone in a big city like New York as you easily connect with people. Denmark has always felt small and it is a bit claustrophobic; moving abroad is something I’ve wanted to do all my life.”
Third season all about Saga
While preparing the move, Bodnia has also started recording the third season of The Bridge, which has already been sold to 150 countries, and is understandably excited about what is to come. “It’s out of control, complete madness – but in a wonderful way. So far it’s all been about Martin, but this time the focus will be on Saga and what’s really going on inside this closed book of a character,” the actor reveals. “At the end of the second season, we just began to find out about her past, but there is more to come. It’s going to be great.”
Of all the characters Bodnia has played, he insists that he has most in common with Martin, who is strong, warm and sensitive – a far cry from the tormented and unpredictable characters he has played so well in the past, resulting in people actually thinking of him as “a bastard in real life, which in a way is actually the highest praise an actor can receive,” he suggests.
“I had a gut feeling that the series was going to be a success,” Bodnia admits. “Yet I had no idea that it would become such a success in the UK. We’ve always held UK productions in such high regard, and now you’re admiring our work, which is incredible. I have loved every minute of it, not least playing alongside Sofia Helin (Saga Norén), a fascinating character and in my opinion far from emotionless as people often describe her; on the contrary, I find her full of emotions, almost child-like.”
Bodnia’s early breakthrough was as macho character Jens in Ole Bornedal’s Nightwatch (1994). After that, he starred in what many consider his best performance to date, Nicolas Winding Refn’s cult movie, Pusher (1996), where he plays a low-level drug dealer named Frank, alongside Mads Mikkelsen. Since then, he has appeared in nearly 60 films, including Bleeder (1999), In China They Eat Dogs (1999), and its prequel Old Men in New Cars (2002).
Bodnia will soon be seen playing alongside Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in the not-yet released Hollywood production Serena, based on the novel of the same name by American author Ron Rash, and directed by Susanne Bier.
The Bridge Seasons I&II are available on DVD and Blu-ray from Arrow Film’s Nordic Noir label.