I sat down with director Susanne Bier to talk about the film in Toronto.
Women and Hollywood: I went to the press screening yesterday morning. And it was packed and it was 9:00 in the morning. Everyone was crying. And I was just like, well at a Susanne Bier movie you don’t usually cry in that way. I remember when I interviewed you last time you said you wanted to make something a more romantic and lighter, so this is clearly that film. Please talk about kind of the genesis of the story for this.
Susanne Bier: Anders Thomas Jensen and I had talked about making a movie which addressed the cancer issue, and we didn’t want to make it heavy-handed. We wanted to do something which had a lot of hope in it. And then for some reason we came up with a romantic comedy. We wanted to deal with someone who feels that she’s lost everything and with a heroine who you really long for to come out at the other end of the movie with having gained something. I kind of get bored if they’re all 25 and have great cars and are all great looking. I wanted something that had a little bit more at stake. And also we wanted to address the different generations.
WaH: The cancer it was very prevalent but also not dominating.
SB: That’s exactly how we wanted it. It had to be real. It had to be something where you kind of understand that it’s a real anxiety for her and she’s not – but it shouldn’t be the main point. It’s not a movie about cancer. It’s a movie about love, but cancer is for most of us, in many cases, very much part of our life.
WaH: Most of your films have had Danish actors, am I correct?
SB: Swedish and Danish.
WaH: So with Pierce Brosnan I knew that he would have to speak English for most of the movie. So what was it like integrating the two languages? It felt so natural.
SB: Well that’s the way it is. A lot of people who live in Denmark will understand Danish but not necessarily speak it. Also the reason we wanted that is because there’s also an element of alienation in there. There’s also an element of how you get it but you can’t convey your own voice in the same language.
WaH: And that’s what happened with the Patrick he was alienated from himself.
SB: Yes. Exactly. And it kind of terrified him.
WaH: The fear in him was palpable. The movie was so beautiful to watch the movie and Pierce Brosnan, I don’t think he has looked this good in a very long time. It looked like he has a certain freedom now.
SB: He was very free and I think he felt really at ease. Also the whole thing of him having the history of losing his first wife to cancer this was kind of in a way an important movie for him to make because it was light but still dealt with it. I really wanted him to play the part because I thought it was right. And then before we were going to talk on the phone I read up on him and I realized that his first wife had died of cancer. And I was kind of worried that it would be a problem for him. But I was also kind of thinking maybe it was the right time for him and I was very fortunate that it was the case.
WaH: Talk about Trine Dyrholm. She was the wife in A Better World. And in this movie she’s a hairdresser. There are a lot of class differences in the film.
SB: There’s clearly class difference which is also kind of fun. She’s got a certain innocence which hasn’t really been used properly in any other part, but I’ve kind of been dying to see that innocence in it’s full shape. I thought she would be great in that part. Most of her parts had been much darker and I thought it would kind of fun having this really insisting that this person being very, very positive. The character is slightly built on my mother. My mother has had breast cancer twice. And my mother has always been this very positive human being, a glass half full type. Like when she was in treatment and feeling really bad, she would always talk about some nurse that was particularly nice to her.