'The Square' Star Claes Bang on Becoming a Sex Symbol at 50

Claes Bang - H - 2017
Credit: Getty Images for DIFF

The lead star of Ruben Ostlund's Cannes-winning satire discusses his dramatic career change while at the Dubai Film Festival.

Like almost every single Cannes, this year’s film festival saw several careers given a Palme-fueled boost on the Croisette.

Among them was Claes Bang, star of Ruben Ostlund’s art satire The Square, which didn’t just win the main prize at the festival but on Sunday dominated the European Film Awards, winning six prizes including the best film award. Bang himself bagged best actor, and on Monday also earned a Golden Globe nomination, while The Square now looks set to go into the Oscars foreign-language race as firm favorite.

No sooner had the film had its first press screening in Cannes back in May than its 50-year-old star, already a regular face in Danish theaters and on German TV, was being singled out by critics as one to watch.

“I was actually super happy with my career and how it was going,” Bang tells The Hollywood Reporter from the sidelines of the Dubai International Film Festival, where The Square had a gala screening. “I never thought anybody would land something as amazing as this on my desk — I got to drive the limo of my job with this role.”

His casting landed him — almost instantaneously — a U.S. agent in UTA’s Nigel Meiojas. According to Claes, Maiojas tracked him down the second he discovered that none of his crop of well-known clients had landed the lead role for Ostlund’s hotly tipped follow-up to his box-office hit Force Majeure.

“He said, ‘Well, who the fuck is going to get this amazing part?’ Ruben told him my name, he went straight to his computer, found me online, found out that he knows my German agent, phoned her, got my number and phoned me,” Bang says. “When you get a phone call like that in Denmark, it says ‘Beverly Hills’ on it, and I’m like, ‘Hello, this is Claes.' But I hadn’t even signed anything yet. He was super fast, and that was super flattering.”

Since then, Bang has taped for several scripts that have come his way, and last month it was revealed that he had been cast as the villain opposite Claire Foy in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Sony’s next installment in the Millennium franchise.

“He’s not like your psychopath baddie, he’s a fixer,” says Bang, who is shortly heading to Berlin to begin pre-production. “He will do everything from getting the coffee to doing the really dirty work.”

Another film on the horizon is The Bay of Silence, being produced and written by actress Caroline Goodall and based on the novel by Lisa St. Aubin de Teran, with Olga Kurylenko also attached. Bang says the financing isn’t quite there yet, and talks with directors are still ongoing. “But the script is amazing,” he says. “Goodall saw The Square and thought I was right for it, so I’m really hoping that’s going to come together, because I fucking loved the script.”

But it wasn’t just filmmakers who saw something after watching The Square, with Bang’s dashing looks and his character’s suave, sharp-suited appearance become something of a talking point.

Even the Cannes jury agreed, with Agnes Jaoui commenting, “The main actor, I felt in love, I must say, and I’m not the only one,” (with Will Smith agreeing).

“If it’s something that people think, it’s not that I get it,” says Bang, smiling when asked about his new "sex symbol" status. “When I’m with people, it’s not like I’m thinking there’s some weird vibe. That’s super flattering if people say that. But it’s not that I detect it in the way they relate to me.”