Interview with Alba August

The danish-swedish star talks her cinema heroes and her role in Pernille Fischer Christensen’s film Becoming Astrid

Alba August is very young, but she already has an impressive career: the danish-swedish actress, born in 1993, comes from a family of artists (her father is danish director Bille August and her mother is swedish actress Pernilla August) but she studied at the Drama School in Copenaghen to follow her own path.

The actress got her first leading role at the age of 20, in William Olson’s film Reliance, but International audience remember her face from the tv show The Rain (returning on Netflix with the second season on May 17, 2019). Now she is in the spotlight thanks to her brillant perfomance in Pernille Fischer Christensen’s Becoming Astrid, a touching biopic about swedish writer Astrid Lindgren, which was critically acclaimed at last year’s Berlin international Film Festival.

The film had its first italian screening in Rome on Thursday, at Nordic Film Fest.

Set in the 1920s, August plays a young Astrid Lindgren, living a carefree life with her family in a small, conservative village in the rural Sweden. Long before writing the Pippi Longstocking series, Astrid was a teenager who loved to dance and to invent stories for her younger sisters. In the attempt to cut loose and follow her dreams, she accepts an internship at a local newspaper where she falls in love with its married editor, Blomberg. When she finds out to be pregnant, she leaves her home and goes to Copenhagen, to secretly give birth to her son, Lasse, and avoid a scandal. Forced to temporarily leave her baby in the care of a foster mother, Astrid realizes that she’s not in love with Blomberg and refuses his money and his offer of marriage. She moves to Stockholm to build her future, hoping to bring Lasse back with her as soon as possible. This painful experience, and the newfound courage that came with it, will later become the foundation of her literary work, inspiring children all over the world.

Alba August is one of the special guests of 2019’s edition of Nordic Film Fest: we met her yesteday to discuss her acting debut, her role as Astrid Lindgren and her projects for the future.

You’re only 25, but you got your first small role in 2001, in your father’s film A Song for Martin. How did you decide to start acting?

«My father is a director, my mother is an actress: basically in 2001 I was joining my father at work when he couldn’t find a nanny. I grew up around a lot of artists: I think the people I looked up to were doing those kind of things and that affected me, for sure.»

Who are your cinema icons?

«I had the chance to see The Favourite by Yorgos Lanthimos and it was so inspiring: Olivia Colman is amazing. I love Michelle Williams too: I think she’s very generous to her characters.»

How did you prepare for the role of Astrid Lindgren?

«Actually when I was invited for casting i had no idea who she was. Then I watched a documentary about her and I was touched by her story. I read her biography by Jens Andersen with the director Pernille Fischer Christensen, the film is partly based on that book. I had two months before shooting: I had to learn typewriting, stenography and I had to get used to sheep and cows, because Astrid grew up in a farm: it was scary.»

People know Lindgren’s books, but they know little about her personal life: she got pregnant when she was a teenager and it was a scandal: she had to confront a very religious community in the 1920s. How did you feel in her shoes?

«I think she was panicking: she was dealing with so much shame, mostly coming from society. Astrid’s parents were very religious and they thought they had to push hera way for a while to avoid a scandal. We have to understand that it was a different time and that they were just trying to protect the family. I think that Astrid was super-scared, but she was also very brave.»

Did you have any literary heroes before this film?

«Not really, but Astrid Lindgren became one of my heroes after this film: I think she was a very strong woman and I have even more respect for her now, because I know her backstory.»

This was a very demanding character: which role would you like to play next?

«I don’t know, it always depends on the script. I like challenges, I like to play different characters. Maybe there’s one thing: my father is danish and my mother is swedish, so I had to learn to act in danish and swedish. I would like to act in english because I’ve never had the chance to do that.»



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