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Lukas Moodysson
Photograph: Courtesy Magnolia PicturesLukas Moodysson, director of We Are the Best!

5 questions with We Are the Best! director Lukas Moodysson

The Swedish director chats about his killer girl-pink drama, the must-see indie film of the summer

We Are the Best!, the latest from Swedish auteur Lukas Moodysson (Show Me Love), is badass. Then again, a movie about three picked-on 13-year-old girls starting a punk band in early-’80s Stockholm sort of has to be. But it’s also tender, funny and legitimately moving—in short, it’s one of the most surprising feel-good films of the year.

We Are the Best! is based on your wife Coco’s autobiographical graphic novel. Was it hard to direct star Mira Barkhammar without thinking, What would my wife do in this scene?
It just felt like a stupid idea to constantly remind them, “Now, you’re portraying a real character who happens also to be my wife.” I wanted the actors to feel like they created their own characters; they brought in a lot of their own energy. Bobo [Barkhammar’s character] is really shy, unlike Coco.

Did your wife like the movie?
Yeah, a lot. Well, there were some things that she didn’t like [Laughs], some things that she thinks are better in the book. There are moments [in the book] about being afraid of death that wouldn’t work in the film.

Punk movies can sometimes feel too nostalgic or cliché. How did you avoid that?

I really didn’t want that cartoony feeling. I wanted them to dress like they had just taken something from the wardrobe, like their grandfather’s jacket or their old trousers, and put it together in some strange way. The same thing with the haircuts: I remember growing up and trying to have a cool haircut. I never succeeded.

What was your worst haircut?

At one point, I wanted to look like Robert Smith of the Cure. That didn’t really work out.

The girls are mocked pretty badly by their classmates. Were you ever bullied? 
There was a time—this is earlier than punk—when I had really long hair, and that was quite uncommon, at least where I grew up. All the tough boys would always say I looked like a girl or something like that. I still, at nine or ten, had the feeling that it didn’t really matter if people think that you are ugly or look like a girl or something, that you should just keep on doing what you do. I think’s that what the film is about.

We Are the Best! opens May 30.
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