Friday night TOH met with Danish star Paprika Steen before her appearance at the American Cinematheque's sneak preview of Applause, as the film started its Oscar-qualifying run at Laemmle's Sunset 5 Theatre. The flip cam interview is below.
In Applause, Paprika Steen plays Thea, an actress struggling to command her own life with the same conviction that she commands the stage. We are introduced to her playing Martha in Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf - a character Steen herself has played on stage and one that intertwines mysteriously with Thea's current grasp on, and relationship to, her own life. Reminiscent of Gena Rowlands' actress Myrtle Gordon in John Cassavettes' 1977 Opening Night, Steen flawlessly creates an intricate and palpable web of raw nerves while inhabiting the lonely burning house that is Thea.
This is Martin Zandvliet's directorial debut (he also co-wrote with Anders Frithiof August), but credit Steen with making this a must-see. Steen is well-known to Danish audiences. But while she appeared in three of the acclaimed Dogme 95 film movement's films (Lars von Trier's The Idiots , Thomas Vinterberg's The Celebration , Soren Kragh-Jacobsen's Mifune's Last Song ), Susanne Bier's Open Hearts (with Mads Mikkelson), plus dozens of other films and TV shows (with many Danish acting awards to prove it), she's unknown to American audiences. Half-American, Steen is hungry to work in American films with American directors.
Why hasn't she already? "You have to ask them," she jokes. "I have no idea why they didn't hire me ten years ago!" Perhaps it is because there are so many strong American actresses, she guesses. But within this year's abundance of Oscar-worthy performances, hers is one of them. She can do comedy or drama, is tall, sounds almost American and charms with a mixture of piercing blue eyes and a youthful don't-mess-with-me confidence. So what's next? "I am meeting a director Saturday in New York. It sounded fun," she smiles coyly. Applause is a game changer.
Below, she discusses Applause, Thea, and what's next: