Nordic Honorary Dragon Award recipient Sidse Babett Knudsen said at Sweden’s Göteborg Film Festival that she felt “frustrated” when filming HBO’s “Westworld,” particularly regarding the treatment of horses.
“In the U.S., they don’t have a flat hierarchy, which won’t surprise anyone. I would knock on the producers’ door all the time, saying: ‘These horses have been out in the sun for 10 hours, they are going to fucking die,” she recalled. “They are not even working today – get them in the shade!’”
She continued, “As a Dane, I was just looking at the resources, money and logic, going: ‘It’s crazy!’ But, of course, it’s super irritating when an actress talks about horses all the time. How did they react? Not well.”
In the first season of the dystopian series, Knudsen played Theresa Cullen, Westworld’s head of quality assurance. HBO did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.
“You are ‘only’ an actor, so eat with your actors and don’t speak to technicians, because they will get scared. You are a baby – you can’t even go to the bathroom without someone with a headset informing everyone about it,” Knudsen said. “I love watching other filmmakers. It’s magical. But in the U.S., you come on set when you are needed and then you go back to your trailer.”
Soon to be seen in Gustav Möller’s Berlin-premiering “Sons,” Knudsen also opened up about a much happier experience, one that turned her into a superstar: “Borgen.”
“That was super interesting, because it was such a weird casting. I came from comedy and I was not the obvious choice. I am not the obvious choice in anything, actually,” she said. “But the fantastic thing about having such a key role in a TV show is that you have so much time.”
Her character, Birgitte Nyborg, who became the first female prime minister of Denmark, became a role model. Knudsen reflected on studying actual politicians to prepare for the role.
“I was inspired by a few of them. I saw a doc about Tony Blair and noticed his body language changed so much when he became friends with Bush,” she said. “He moved in a certain way and then he became, well, more Bush-y. Adam [Price, show’s creator], like certain men, thought it would be enough if I would just lose 20 kilos, which I wasn’t able to do.”
She continued, “The most progressive way to do a story about a female PM was for it to be the most normal thing in the world. At first, they had scenes that ended with: ‘And then a woman comes into a room.’ We decided to change it and forget about gender unless it’s about gender … She was a woman in a world where it would be completely normal for a woman to take this position, which was not the case – even in Denmark. But there was this need for it to be possible.”
Knudsen came back to the role in 2022.
“I would never open the door. It was a principle that really annoyed people, but it made sense to me. Birgitte was at that stage in her life. The world has become a more cynical place, so she goes a bit ‘Breaking Bad.’ But it will get better again!,” she assured the audience, gathered at the Stora Theatern for the screening of Jessica Hausner’s divisive “Club Zero.”
A film she has never actually seen – until now.
“Jesus,” she said. “I decided to make the film because of Mia [Wasikowska], who is a magical being. I can hardly say her name without crying. I had no idea how this film would turn out visually. Sometimes you had no clue what the camera was doing and who was in the scene. It was simpler [than I expected]. I thought it would be more… sickening.”
Before receiving her honorary award, she recalled her beginnings. Wanting to be an actor from an early age, she headed to France to be an au pair – and to audition.
“When they would see I was from Scandinavia, they would go: ‘Do the accent.’ They wanted the Swedish Chef from ‘The Muppet Show’ – that’s what they thought I should sound like,” she laughed.
Undeterred, she would eventually make her feature debut in Jonas Elmer’s “Let’s Get Lost.”
“People didn’t want to watch Danish films and we needed something new. It was a collective,” she said of the film. “As an actor, you had a seat at the table, you were a part of creating a story and taking responsibility for it. We were a generation that felt we had the right to share our opinions and we are still like that. I never shut up.”
Not even about those horses.
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