Fantastic Fest Interview: Emil Johnsen From ‘Corridor’
Last week, we ran Jane’s review of Corridor, a movie that played at Fantastic Fest. It was a nifty, minimalist throw-back to Hitchcock, and the entire movie hinges on the performance of Emil Johnsen, who plays paranoid medical student Frank. Without his convincing performance, the movie would not be as compelling.
I had a chance to sit down with Emil for a one on one interview at Fantastic Fest. The following is a transcript of our interview with the actor. Let it be known that English is not his first language. Could have fooled me.
Frothygirlz: When I came in from the airport for Fantastic Fest, I actually shared a shuttle with Jonah Storm (the director of Corridor), so we talked about the movie before I had gotten to my hotel or anything. He said he had a project here, and I told him I would check it out. You never know how things are going to turn out, and I just saw the movie, and it was really good. I was going to support him, but I was genuinely impressed with the movie. Congratulations, very cool.
So, how did you come onto this project? Did you know the directors?
Emil Johnsen: Well, the thing is, yeah. I went to theater school at the theater academy in Sweden the same time that they were going to the film academy, so me and Jonah Lundberg actually started working together. I was in a short film that he made, then we started developing some other stuff together. When they got financing to make a feature I was already interested.
FG: Did you have any input on the story development, or was the story completely ready when they came to you?
EJ: I didn’t have so much input, no. I did have a lot of opinions about the script, and as far as I remember there were some things I wanted to change, and I think actually they did change some stuff. We collaborated a lot. I got the script way ahead, and read it, and I read several drafts of it. I did, however, want there to be more of a romantic development between and Lotte and Frank.
FG: It kind of starts going there…
EJ: It starts, but there’s one thing that is cut out, where Frank comes with a glass of milk, and I persuaded them to have something more romantic or sexual happen, but they cut that out.
FG: Well, it’s insinuated.
EJ: Yeah, I think that’s what they thought, that it is insinuated enough.
FG: Was it nerve-wracking to know that you were going to carry this entire movie? You are practically the only person in it.
EJ: No, not really.
FG: In the Q & A the directors were talking about Hitchcock and Polanski. Are you familiar with their movies as well, or did you watch any of them to kind of get an idea for what the guys were going for?
EJ: Yeah, I’ve watched their movies. Repulsion I watched, and I love Rosemary’s Baby, but Repulsion is almost more interesting. I loved Repulsion. Have you seen it?
FG: Actually, not in a long, long time.
EJ: She’s in a room by herself, and she becomes more and more crazy in her own confined space.
FG: What about Hitchcock? Do you have any favorite Hitchcock movies?
EJ: Well, I really like Psycho.
FG: Did you have any actors in mind that you were drawing from for this performance? Or did you just try to go in and make it your own?
EJ: Actually it’s funny. I really think that personally I am quite expressive and friendly, and Frank doesn’t show any emotions, he’s very stone-faced, so I worked with a dialect coach. Actually that gave quite a bit to me, because I spoke differently than I do privately.
I worked with his speech quite a bit, but watching other actors work, I don’t think I did that for this. But I love Philip Seymour Hoffman’s work, he loses himself in the characters. I think the way he works, I don’t see him so much, I just see characters. Invisible actors are the greatest actors, I think.
FG: You have another movie here that you’re in, don’t you?
EJ: Well I have a tiny part in Norwegian Ninja. It was a slightly bigger role in the script, but I think they had to edit that movie a lot. Some of the scenes I’m in are completely out, so I wouldn’t say my character has much significance in that movie.
FG: What are your thoughts on the festival?
EJ: I really like the festival. It’s a very, very friendly festival, it gives a very non-snobbish feel. Some film festivals I’ve been to, you have to show a badge just to go to the parties, and it is all closed off. Here it seems that the audience and the filmmakers are all mixing all the time.
FG: Is this your first time in the states?
EJ: No, I lived in New York for a while. I went to Lee Strasferd Theater and Film Institute. But this is my first time in Texas.
FG: Do you have any projects you would like to talk about?
EJ: Well there is a film, but I don’t think that it has a distributor in the states, but I was in the movie Guidance (English title) as one of the lead characters. It was in the theaters in January and February of 2010 in Sweden. Next I am doing a movie that doesn’t have an English title yet, but it is a romantic comedy.
FG: How will that be, switching gears after this? Are you looking forward to it?
EJ: Yes, because in Guidance I also played quite a dangerous character; a terrible character, actually. So I am looking forward to doing something lighter, warmer, and more expressive.
FG: Well, good luck. It was really fun to watch you in the movie.