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My 2016: Jakob Oftebro

Cinema Scandinavia: This year was saw you in The Last King, which is based on a major part of Norway’s history. Did you have to do a lot of research for the role, and what was it like working alongside Kristofer Hivju?

Jakob Oftebro: Both Kristofer and I read a lot about the period and the Birkebeinerne, the king’s chosen men. We had to do a lot of training for the film as well; standing on wooden skis, though we are both Norwegian, isn’t exactly our speciality! Fencing and shooting with a bow and arrow was also a major part of the training. I guess it’s like a ‘Viking Training Package’: “This is what you need to be a real Norwegian Viking” Maybe if we launched it as a concept, it would be the new cross fit, just a Viking version.

Filming with Kristofer was such a joy, too. I have known him since I was a child, so we were like two children wanting to learn and discover everything together. It was a tough shoot, so I’m very happy we did it together.

CS: You were also in Satisfaction 1720, which is a completely different film altogether. Do you have a preference when it comes to genre? 

JO: Satisfaction 1720 was such a funny experience, and really, really different from The Last King. I loved working with Henrik Ruben Genz, Martin Buch, and Jørgen Johansson. I read Erlend Loes script while I was preparing for Gold Coast, and I laughed loudly several time during it. I think Erland is wonderful, and together with Genz we would create a completely different period piece.

I don’t think about genre when it comes to a role, but the script and the part is often very important. If the script is good, and my chemistry with the director is good, then it isn’t that difficult to say yes.

CS: You’ve worked in multiple Scandinavian countries. Do you find each country has a unique approach to film-making?

JO: Not really. Each production has the same goal: you want to make the best film or television series possible.

CS: How much of yourself is in each character you portray?

JO: A lot, I guess. Although I find the most interesting characters are the ones that are so completely different from yourself. I try to make each character I play as completely different as possible. I achieve that through lots of research and preparation, and often it is comedy that requires the most of that. But I like to believe the bigger the challenge, the better. So there is a lot of myself in each character, but if not my personality then there’s a lot of time that’s gone into hiding it.

CS: This year you were added to the Haugesund Walk of Fame as part of the Norwegian International Film Festival. On top of that, you got to host the Amanda Awards! What was that experience like?

 JO: It was such a huge honour! I couldn’t believe it; I was standing alongside the legendary Liv Ullmann! I didn’t think my name would be carved in any stone anywhere before the day I died. It was rather surreal but very touching. Of course, hosting the Amanda Awards as great fun. It was kind of weird to stand there in front of all my friends and colleagues and host the show, but it was also a great experience.

CS: You also went to Australia as a guest of honour at the Scandinavian Film Festival. Can you tell me about that experience?

JO: Being invited to Australia was fantastic. To meet the people at Palace Cinemas, and to see how much they do for Scandinavian film, was really amazing. And, of course, getting to see Australia. I had a great time there and want to go back soon.

CS: What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing Scandinavian actors today?

JO: The biggest challenge, that’s a difficult question. It’s probably the same in every country, but it would be fighting for the good parts. Also getting others to believe in your full potential while avoiding being typecast.

CS: Next year we’ll see you in the UK/Norwegian film The Snowman, as well as the Finnish film Tom of Finland. What can you tell us about these characters? 

JO: In The Snowman, I play Magnus Skarre. He’s Harry Hole’s colleague and helps him whenever he needs it. It was so inspiring to work with Thomas Alfredson, he’s such an extremely smart and talented director. I loved working with him and the rest of the crew.

In Tom of Finland, I play Jack, one of Tom’s friends. Dome Karukoski is such a fascinating director, and we had a great time shooting together. The story is incredible and so important, so I hope as many people as possible will go and see it.

CS: Where else can we see you next year?

JO: Next year I’ll be in a Norwegian television series titled Monster, directed by Anne Sewitsky and Pål Jackman. It’s a new Nordic Noir crime story and I’m really looking forward to that one. I’ll also be in Charlotte Seiling’s Mesteren alongside Søren Malling and Ane Dahl Torp. This is a movie I’m really looking forward to. Along with Tom of Finland and The Snowman, I’m really looking forward to 2017.

Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.