Trine Dyrholm, an accomplished and versatile Danish actress with a long career on stage as well as in film and television, impressed international audiences with her performance in Susanne Bier’s Oscar-winning “In a Better World,” and was more recently seen as the imperious dowager Queen Juliana Maria in last year’s Oscar nominee “A Royal Affair.” Now she’s reunited with Bier to co-star with Pierce Brosnan in “Love Is All You Need,” a romantic comedy—or more properly dramedy—in which she plays a hairdresser who’s just completed a course of chemotherapy for breast cancer and separated from her unfaithful husband, and encounters Brosnan, a wealthy widower, on the way to the wedding of his son to her daughter in Italy. Sparks don’t fly between them immediately, but of course they’re inevitable.
“The first time I met him,” Dyrholm said of Brosnan in a Dallas interview, “I was very nervous because he’s obviously a very big star. And the chemistry had to be very good—for the story, that’s quite important. And the first time we met was at the first reading, and he was just so generous. He just grabbed my hand—my arm—and said some of the lines into my eyes, and kind of invited me into his space, in a relaxed and very nice way. It was just very easy, and very fun.” That was the case even in a scene in which Ida, her character, has to give Brosnan a trim with the scissors, and the thought of ruining his beautiful head of hair might have been traumatic. “I learned to cut without cutting,” she admitted.
Bier is mostly known to international viewers for serious fare, but though this film has a dark side, it’s lighter in mood than most of her films. “She wanted to tell a story about topics like breast cancer, for instance…that usually aren’t in a romantic comedy,” Dryholm explained. “But she wanted to tell a story about that in a light way. That’s why she did this film.
“Actually, she did a romantic comedy years ago that was a huge success, called ‘The One and Only.’ So the audience in Denmark also know her as a comedy director. But the international audience don’t know that at all. But I think that after the Oscar, she just wanted to do what she wanted, and she wanted to do this film.
“We have a good relationship,” Dyrholm continued. “She’s very bright, fun to work with. Doing ‘In a Better World’ and this film was not much different, though the material is very different. But she has very sarcastic humor on set, in a fun way. So you relax working with her. She is the boss, but at the same time she gives a lot of freedom, maybe because of the hand-held camera. You can just act, and then you can tell what she thinks.”
Dyrholm said that she found the style of shooting favored by Bier and her cameraman to be especially helpful: “[Cinematographer Morten Soborg] used a hand-held camera, always. You don’t always know where the camera is, so you have to be acting all the time. It’s more alive—like theatre, in a way. Sometimes you can’t tell it’s hand-held, because he’s so good at it. But you can feel it, I think. There are some crane shots and dollies, but mostly it’s him with the camera.” She also appreciated the Italian location: “It was so beautiful. I’ve been to Italy many times, but never up the Amalfi coast. And I think that it fits the story—it has a glamorous look, almost a postcard look, and at the same time it has this rough, melancholic nature. “
How did Dyrholm prepare for the role? “I did what I always do,” she said. “I prepare a lot, read the script many times, and then I work physically with the character. This time it helped me with the wig, because it was the character, in a way, for me, because I wanted her to be very feminine and alive in hair and body. Suzanne had to help me to stay in character, because this character is new for me, because she’s so open and not aggressive. I’m much more tough and cynical as a person. It could easily be too dark, so she had to help me lighten it up…the openness, the softness.”
Was she irritated by Ida’s decision to agree to reunite with her husband, despite his infidelity? “Yes, of course,” she said. “But I understand her very well. It takes a long time before we really realize what is going on in life. And I think that she’s been together with this guy since she’s been sixteen or eighteen—from a young age. And this was just how her life has turned out. And I think she has never questioned a different way. And suddenly all these things happen. And she just thinks, this is how my life should be. She doesn’t question, because she’s not used to questioning things. She’s not a reflective type; she does what she has to do. And she doesn’t think that much about herself—she wants to be a good mother, a good housewife, a good hairdresser. She’s so strong, and yet so inexperienced in many ways.
“As an actress it’s very important for me to be on the edge all the time, and to find the opposite feeling. This character, she’s so open, so happy—not happy, but sunny. So where is the dark? The breast cancer, the loneliness, her inner world. I think it’s always interesting to find the other fit for the character.”
One of her acting techniques, Dyrholm said, is to develop interior monologues for her characters. “It’s useful as an emotional bank, I call it,” she explained. And then when performing she does what she termed a ‘free jump’: “You have to know a lot of things, and then be brave enough to act as though you didn’t know anything…to show your feelings but not to give them away.”
Asked whether she would consider coming to the United States for roles in English-language films, she replied, “When I did ‘The Celebration’ [in 1998], there were a lot of—not offers, but…there were possibilities to go for it. But I was not ready yet. I was too immature, and I wanted to explore my acting. Now it would be a better time for me to explore the world, because I am much more experienced, because when you work in another language, it takes something from your acting. It’s very difficult to work in another language. But it’s also interesting, and I’d love to do it, because it’s challenging in a good way.”