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Joel Kinnaman on Lola Versus, Bulking Up for RoboCop, and Who Killed Rosie Larsen

Joel Kinnaman. Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Joel Kinnaman is a little tired, but can you blame him? He’s been working nonstop in both Sweden and the U.S. for the past few years, headlining the Snabba Cash film trilogy, The Killing TV series, and locking up parts in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Safe House, and most spectacularly, the lead in RoboCop. But there’s a definite darkness to all those crime stories, so Kinnaman took a break with the post-romantic-comedy Lola Versus, in which he gets to jilt Greta Gerwig three weeks before their wedding and watch her spiral out of control. Fun! Kinnaman, who was a good sport about being woken up, chatted with Vulture about breaking up, bulking up, and wrapping up Rosie Larsen’s murder.

You awake?
Sorry, I’m groggy. But I can speak. That’s one of my great qualities. Maybe my only one. I was up late, shooting an H&M commercial in London at night.

Your character in Lola Versus makes paintings of celebrity sex tapes. Have you ever heard of anyone doing that before?
It’s a pretty good idea, right? He’s obviously got good taste. [Laughs.] Or Daryl [Wein] and Zoe [Lister-Jones] have a really good imagination

He does have an enviable apartment, so maybe he’s a success. Or maybe he’s a trust-fund kid.
I was wondering about that, too. [Laughs.] He must come from money. It was a pretty reasonably sized loft, but when we shot in there, it became the loft from hell. That summer was really hot, and that apartment does not have air conditioning. So imagine 50 people in there, the crew, the equipment, the lights, and it’s 100 degrees outside. It was like stepping into a sauna. You just walk in, and it’s a wall of heat.

Unlike most movies of this genre, this gets into breakup territory fairly quickly. Why do you think he dumps Lola three weeks before the wedding, since he’s not able to articulate it?
I think he has that fear that many of us have, Is this the right thing? Am I doing this for the right reason? Or am I just going through the motions of what’s expected of me? I built up a little backstory in my mind of their relationship, how long they had been together, where they grew up, and that helped me play into that situation. I usually dive in deeper with characters who have experiences that I don’t have, to get into their world, but this is something we’ve all had our own experiences with. I just think he’s scared, and that they’re better off without each other. Sometimes if you start a relationship when you’re young, you’re not as fully developed as a person. You need a relationship that lets you develop in different ways. You need to bounce off different people. 

You must have enjoyed getting to be clean for a change.
Yeah, I didn’t have to spend so much time getting haggard in makeup. [Laughs.] And Luke is just so much lighter, overall. I’m usually drawn to darker, sinister characters, who are plagued by themselves and the situations they end up in, so this was like a vacation from that universe.

As The Killing finale approaches, are fans going to be satisfied this season?
You know, I was surprised at the magnitude of the backlash. It felt a little odd, because if you just go with the flow and have a little patience, you’ll know. Maybe it was a marketing mistake, because people felt like they had been promised an answer last season, because the promo campaign asked, “Who killed Rosie Larsen?” 

And yet, that same promo campaign was utilized for Twin Peaks: “Who killed Laura Palmer?” That wasn’t answered in the first season, either.
Something has certainly changed a lot in the last ten, twenty years. It’s like we’re all plagued by attention deficit disorder. But the killer will make sense, and it does pay off. But I also went, “You bastards!” when I found out, because I knew it, and I didn’t know it, you know? That’s what I really liked about the writing, because of all the clues and detours, it really did come together in this intricately woven web, so that for me was the most satisfying thing.

I heard members of the crew were betting on who the killer is?
Yeah, I was not a participant in that. That would have been stealing. [Laughs.] You can’t bet if you’re in the loop!

You’re spending the next few months prepping for RoboCop, which you start shooting in August. What do you need to do?
I need to gain a little weight. Holder is scrawny, and Alex Murphy is more of a heavier guy, because he’s doing SWAT in 2049. And so even though Holder’s also a cop, I need to go in and learn SWAT training. We want to be very accurate. I had done ride-alongs with the Compton sheriff’s office when I was researching Holder, and that kind of information does come into play. This time, I need to do a lot more than that.

Besides both being cops, Holder and RoboCop have something else in common — not much in the closet.
[Laughs.] So you say. But Holder’s got a bunch of different hoodies. They’re just all the same color!

Zac Efron is planning to remake your Swedish hit Snabba Cash, now called Easy Money. And the Weinstein Co. is bringing the original to the States in July. How do you feel about the film that was your calling card actually getting the chance to have a big audience?
I’m excited to see what they do with Zac. And I’m really excited to see if American audiences will like this movie, because it sort of blew up at the market screenings, and it’s a big movie in the business, but it’s not widely known. They waited on releasing it here because it’s based on a book by Jens Lapidus, and they wanted to wait until the translation was released in the U.S. And the movie sequel is already coming out in Sweden in August! So I’m thrilled.

Can we talk about your accent for a moment?
Even though my father is American, I mostly grew up in Sweden, so I grew up bilingual. I went to high school in Texas for one year. But I think that’s a gift you can give your kids, to be bilingual, because you do get a different sense of the language. I know that I picked up an accent while not living in the States, so my accent isn’t full American when I’m speaking English, but I can hear how different my accent is. And if you are bilingual, it’s just easier to learn a third language. It’s one of the things I wish I had learned, a third language.

You didn’t pick up anything? Not even a little Norwegian?
Well, I speak Norwegian and Danish. I guess I can count that. But I think it’s easier to pick up dialects and accents if you have a trained ear for them as a kid. I never thought I was particularly good at it, but I work on it a lot. Well, actually, on Holder, I didn’t work on it so much, but I’ve played parts in Sweden with different accents, and those I worked on a lot. Safe House, that was a Texas accent. But I’m glad to work on it a lot.

Sometimes when Alexander Skarsgård speaks, he’ll slip into a slight Southern accent because he’s so used to hearing that on True Blood.
He’s the only Swede who has successfully played an American. He’s done an incredible job of it, the dialect. And he doesn’t have the gift that I got — he came here, and he worked at it. And it’s quite an achievement, because it’s a very different tonal language, Swedish compared to American English. His younger brother Gustaf is my best friend, and I know Alex well. He’s a wonderful guy. Really smart, wonderful guy.

Would you feel comfortable with him enough to go, “Hey! Get me a cameo on True Blood!”?
Nah, I wouldn’t do that. I don’t ask for favors. I’m happy with one TV show as it is — I don’t need to do True Blood. Stop nagging me! [Laughs.]

Joel Kinnaman on Who Killed Rosie Larsen