Back in Sweden you made a film THE KETCHUP EFFECT. It did pretty well as the second highest grossing Swedish film of 2004. What was it about?
THE KETCHUP EFFECT ("Hip Hip Hora" in Swedish) is sort of a Swedish version of “Thirteen.” It is of course purely coincidental, I wrote it about two years before I saw "Thirteen," which came out about the same time as my film in Sweden. It’s about growing up too fast and all that, but it has a lighter, more humorous tone than “Thirteen”. Some of the events in the film are inspired by my own growing up, but only vaguely, and of course changed to fit the story better.
You´re making a practice of coming to fair Gotham City. Doing research for a new film?
Yes, I am making a practice out of it. In my ideal life I would stay here for at least a few months a year. I came here last year for inspiration to write my new script, which took place in New York. But also to get away from Stockholm and a little life crisis that I was going through.
What happened was I had made my first feature film that came out in Sweden in the beginning of 2004. It did pretty well, which is great, but the success brought a lot of demands with it that I felt unable to live up to, so I kind of wanted to get away from it all. Or rather I wanted to get away from the public version of me, who had become a person I didn’t really like or could relate to. I wanted to go somewhere where no one knew who I was, and just start off clean, meeting new people, finding out who I was all over again.
I didn’t know anyone, and at first I was pretty lonely. The first or second day I was talking to a bum in Tompkins Square. He was about to leave, but then I offered him a bottle of vodka so that he would stay and talk to me for a while longer.
And did he talk longer?
Oh, of course. But I made the mistake of giving him the bottle at the beginning not the end. He stayed about ten minutes, I guess to be polite, and then he went on his way. I think he would have stayed and talked to me longer if I had held on to the bottle.
Somehow it was an obvious choice. I have always known instinctively that I would love New York. How I knew that I’m not sure. Maybe it’s the whole mythology around it, created by movies, music and media in general. And my instincts were right, it is the most inspiring place in the world.
Well, what about Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam? No inspiration in those places?
Well, those are all OK places. But to me, and I realise this may sound naive, New York has a sort of magic and energy that is unique. You can feel it just walking out in the street. And I am not claiming it to be an objective fact. It’s like being in love. It’s hard to explain why you love one person more than someone else.
What’s your favorite thing about NYC?
Because anything can happen, and it does.
Did anything happen to you? Have any interesting experiences here?
Well, I went to this psychic woman who read my palm. That was actually pretty creepy. She approached me in the street, very nice and friendly, and offered to read my palm for 2 dollars. And that’s practically for free, so I figured ”why not?”. So, she took my hand, looked me deep into the eyes, and started telling me things that really seemed to make sense. That I was in a time of change and that I had important choices to make, that I was feeling a bit lonely, etcetera. I was impressed that she would know so many things about me, and felt sure she was the real thing. Then she said she was a bit worried about me. That I had ”a blue spot” in my aura, she couldn’t see what it was, but if I made an appointment at her place in Queens she could look into it further. Being open to new experiences as I was, I made an appointment with her the next day in Queens.
When I came there it turned out to be in her home, and that her whole family were psychics. The apartment had white leather furniture and an enormous widescreen TV, it didn’t feel very spiritual. But anyway, we sat ourselves down in the white leather sofa, and she started talking to me in a really calm voice, carressing my hand and constantly looking me in the eyes. She talked about my life and goals, I asked her questions. Not everything she said seemed right, but just someone listening to me, and holding my hand, in a town where I didn’t know anyone, that felt really reassuring. I was almost in a hypnotic stage when the whole thing turned. In the same calm voice, she said that something was preventing me from being happy, from getting the things I wanted out of life. And this, she explained, was not of this world. Something evil was working against me, and that was the blue spot in my aura. ”Teresa”, she said, ”This will not go away. You will never be happy. Everything you love will be taken away from you”.
My God, that’s brutal! Talk about a hard sell. What then?
At the stage I was, of course I started crying. She went on ”But I can help you. Do you want me to help you?” Well, what do you think I said?
Oh, Teresa, you are such a sucker. The one born that minute?
She told me she would arrange a seance and communicate with the spiritual world. I figured what can it hurt? I’m going to lose everything I love anyway.
And she’d give it back to you for, uh, how much?
$145.00 . She said she needed that to buy special crystals and candles. I said ”$145.00 is a lot of money”. She said, ”Well, it’s a small price to pay for your happiness. It’s only money. And you’re not really a materialistic person anyway, are you?” I was still kind of upset, and really wanted the blue spot of my aura to go away, so I ended up paying her the $145.00. But when I came back the day after, she said that the evil spirits were stronger than she thought, and she didn’t really have any answers, she needed to have another go, and of course she needed more money for that. But then I kind of backed out of it. I said I didn’t bring any cash, I need to go get some, and then I just sort of left. After a few days the blue spot in my aura seemed to sort of have disappeared by itself.
You’ve got to be making this up. That’s ridiculous.
No, it’s 100% and $145.00 plus a few subway rides true. I have another story too. But I’m not sure its proper for public consumption…
No fair. That’s teasing. What gives?
OK, well… I had just managed to get some friends and they invited me to a party. I was a little nervous about making a good impression, and since I am Swedish I took care of the problem by drinking enormous amounts of alcohol. So then I met this German woman called Helga. She was tall and blond and had an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent. She started giving me drinks, and after a while everything went blank and then I woke up half naked in a loft somewhere with Helga beside me. ”You are such a little cutie” she said. ”Now, come on. Undress me”. I am normally a totally heterosexual person, but I was here for new experience, so… What the hell. I undressed her.
I’m not gonna go into details, and in fact I don’t even remember most of it, but I can say efter that experience I have more understanding for guys who sort of fumble about and don’t really know what to do. Cause it was really hard, even though I was ”familiar with the device”. Anyway, I passed out, and when I woke up there were people sleeping all around on the floor, and I suddenly wasn’t sure if they had been there all the time or not. I sneaked off in the middle of the night and I never saw her again.
You’re working on a couple new scripts. Did any of these experiences make their way into them?
Actually I came here with the intention of writing a script that took place here. Later on my Producer in Sweden convinced me to change the environment to Stockholm, but that’s a different story… So I was consciously looking for things to write about. But the way inspiration works is hard to explain. My script is definitely affected by the people I met here and the things I did, but to trace events and characters in the script back to reality would be hard.
Actually, I had, at age 27 believe it or not, the first drug experience of my life here in New York. That was pretty crazy and that experience is in there… I think in one way or another all of the experiences I mentioned will make their way into stories I write eventually.
Sweden’s not a place most Gothamists make it to. Asked you before about the best, how about the worst you find here?
Strange men in the streets, making random comments about your body and your looks in general. I mean, is it supposed to be a compliment? It’s not working anyway.
How about the things that are just plain odd, weird or you don’t understand? Any Gothamisms or Americanisms that just make youur eyes roll?
Well, there is one thing that strikes me as a strange contradiction. In many senses New York is probably the most tolerant place in the world. Here all of the world’s nationalities plus a wide range of nutcases co-exist fairly peacefully. But at the same time there are these little fascist rules and regulations about little things that you would think no sane person would even think to come up with. I did a lot of walking around the first time I was here, and I would come across all kinds of signs with bizarre prohibitions. Like “No dog toys allowed” (in a park), “No ball games” (between two houses), “unnecessary noice prohibited” (in a big street crossing) and perhaps the most bizarre of all “Please run or walk in a counter-clockwise direction” (by the reservoir in Central Park).
Preview on what your new film is going to be about?
I’m writing two different scripts right now, so I’m not sure which one will make it to the screen first. One of them is an American Beauty-ish sort of story. It’s a pretty dark story about two families in in a seemingly tranquil neighborhood. There are five or six characters who interact in different ways.
The other story is about a young woman, her dad who doesn’t really care about her, and her fucked up love life. But I don’t want to go into details about that because it is still in development.
Planning to come to Gotham for any film festivals?
I would have to make a new film first, and then I could get invited. The last one is too old by now.