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Renate Reinsve
Photograph: © Sara Angelica Spilling / Headpress / eyevine

Renate Reinsve: ‘What would I have done this film hadn’t happened? Become a carpenter’’

The star of ‘The Worst Person in the World’ on shroom-acting and how Paul Thomas Anderson made her cry

Written by
Sophie Monks Kaufman
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Norwegian native Renate Reinsve made a decision to give up acting, disillusioned by a slew of one-dimensional roles. The very next day, one of the most acclaimed directors working in the country, Joachim Trier, called to say he wanted her to be the leading lady in his next film. That now double Oscar-nominated anti-romcom, The Worst Person in the World, won Reinsve a Best Actress gong at Cannes for her gorgeously open performance as a woman navigating an ongoing existential crisis with joy. And she’s still pinching herself. 

Everyone from Dakota Johnson to Jamie Lee Curtis has raved about this film. Any theories as to why it’s connecting with people so strongly?
‘It’s trying to say something about how people connect to each other in the time we live in. People feel taken seriously because the film leaves space for the audience to fill in the blanks. It breathes, so it doesn’t push any emotion or tell you what to feel and think. It doesn’t give answers, but it asks a lot of good questions.’

Has there been a piece of feedback that stopped you in your tracks?
‘Paul Thomas Anderson described some acting that I did in one part of the movie as “the best acting in the world” at a Q&A. Then he said, “Do you think you weren’t nominated for an Oscar because people didn’t see the movie or because they’re stupid?” I was sitting there with tears in my eyes and the veins in my forehead pumping out. He is my favourite director, so that was huge. I can retire now.’

The Worst Person in the World
Photograph: MUBI

There’s a scene in the film where your character takes magic mushrooms. What’s the trick to shroom-acting?
‘I read this book called “The Power of the Actor” by Ivana Chubbuck. She has recipes for what to do with your body when you’re [acting] drunk, on cocaine, on shrooms and on heroin. I followed that and it worked.’

I read that you were going to give up acting before this film came along. What would you have done instead?
‘I was going to move to Italy and learn how to do carpentry. I decided that the day before Joachim called to say he was writing a script with me in mind. I had no hesitation. I love everything he’s done. It was a very strange coincidence.’

I was going to move to Italy and learn how to do carpentry

What do you remember about your first film role?
‘It was with Joachim Trier in Oslo, August 31. I was in the first grade in acting school and received an email: “Can you send an introduction of yourself?” I didn’t think I was going to get it. He decided to take me, but it was a very small part – I had one line. Still, because he wanted to capture a sunrise in different locations, I was there for nine days.’

The Worst Person in the World
Photograph: MUBIRunning through a motionless Oslo in the film’s centrepiece moment

What are your aspirations now that the world is at your feet?
‘I want to continue being a part of developing Norwegian films and work with directors anywhere, because great projects are everywhere. I want to work with people who want to explore human existence in the time we live in, who go deep into the material and push the limits of what cinema can be.’

Who are your acting heroes?
‘Isabelle Huppert is probably the one I’ve studied the most. Charlotte Gainsbourg too, especially for the way she handles grief and loss in Antichrist. I've seen a lot of Kristen Wiig on Saturday Night Live. She’s so funny – the same with Zach Galifianakis. I remember seeing Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! at the same time as seeing Lynch, Tarkovsky and Pasolini. I've always been drawn to both levity and heavy drama. I got to do both in this movie.’

The Worst Person in the World is in UK cinemas Mar 25. Read our review here.

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