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The night before Renate Reinsve received the call from director Joachim Trier, she had decided to give up acting after years of frustration with the roles being offered her in Norwegian film and TV. “Two-dimensional female characters just there to serve the plot,” she recalls.
Then she got the call.
“It was literally the next day. Joachim called and said, ‘I’m writing a movie and I want you to play the lead. I’m writing it with you in mind,'” she says.
Trier remembered Reinsve from her one-line role — “Let’s go to the party!” — in his 2011 film, Oslo, August 31st, when the actress was still in theater school. After seeing her onstage in works by Chekhov and Ibsen, he knew her talent was being wasted on bad Norwegian sitcoms. The role he was offering in his “anti-romantic romantic comedy” was something completely different. Julie in The Worst Person in the World is a woman approaching 30 who doesn’t know what she wants from life. Funny but flawed, charming yet chaotic, Julie slips in and out of jobs and relationships, uncertain or unwilling to commit.
“It was very important to me that Julie not be me, but I do see a lot of myself in her,” says Reinsve, “her indecisiveness, how restless she is. When we started, I studied Diane Keaton a lot, in Annie Hall but also in all her interviews. That was my baseline. Then, and this might sound strange, but I looked at Timothée Chalamet in Call Me by Your Name because of how deeply he goes into emotions while still keeping a levity and charm, and there’s a certain messiness about his performance.”
The title of Trier’s film comes from a self-deprecating Norwegian saying — “It’s what you say when you’ve done something shitty,” says Reinsve — but The Worst Person has been the best thing to happen to her. The film premiered in competition at Cannes, where she won the festival’s prize for best actress. Cut to awards season, and The Worst Person in the World has made the 15-film shortlist for the 2022 Oscars in the best international feature category and is considered a frontrunner. The National Society of Film Critics also named Reinsve a runner-up for best actress of 2021 on Jan. 8. Neon will bow the film in North America on Feb. 4.
“It’s been totally surreal and totally amazing,” she says, “to go from wanting to quit acting to suddenly winning this award and have this response, having everyone watching the movie feeling the same way about it as we did when we made it.”
It’s almost, she says, like a scene from the film when time seems to stop and Julie runs through the streets of Oslo, passing people who are frozen like statues.
“There was no CGI for that,” she recalls. “All those other people were extras standing still as I ran up and down, again and again, for each take. As we were doing it, ordinary people kind of understood, and they joined in, just freezing in place and staying for the rest of the day. It was as if the whole city just joined in. Like the opposite of a flash mob.”
This story first appeared in the Jan. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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