German actor Franz Rogowski started out in theatre and dance before coming to the screen with Jakob Lass Frontalwatte and Love Steaks – for which he won the Best Actor Award at the Munich Film Festival in 2013.
In 2015, he joined the Münchner Kammerspiele theater, and at the same time, solidified his on-screen credentials with leading roles in Sebastian Shippers award-wining one-take film Victoria and Jan Henrik Stahlber’s Fikkefuchs. His most recent work includes leading roles in two films that are screening in Competition at this year’s Berlinale: Transit by Christian Petzold and In the Aisles by Thomas Stuber. He has worked with big international names such as Michael Haneke (Happy End) and Terrence Malick, whose film is yet to hit the screens. Silence is his biggest inspiration.
Rogowski is one of the 2018 European Shooting Stars. Sabine Kues caught up with him at this year’s Berlinale.
You are a very busy man. You have two films in competition at this years Berlinale – In the Aisles and Transit. You must have been shooting non-stop the last year?
Franz Rogowski: In this case, two and a half years of post-production fell together around the same release dates. That is the reason why you might think I was shooting three films at once. There are different processes in post-production. Fikkefuchs took two and a half years of post-production. Lux, for example, took ten months whereas Haneke only needs a week of editing. Terrence Malick might even edit for two years. No one really knows when the film will be released.
What was it like to work with such big names as Michael Haneke and Terrence Malick?
F.R.: It was incredible. It’s always great when projection can be transformed into experience.
Did you enforce getting that part?
F.R.: Of course I enforced it – with a jackhammer!
You basically stood in front of Terrence Malick’s house and kept ringing the doorbell?
F.R.: That’s right. For weeks. Completely unnerved, he finally invited me in.
What do you look for in a character when you decide on a film project?
F.R.: If the part has a secret that doesn’t reveal itself in total. When something lies within the unspoken. When the story does not need to explain itself and, of course, if the story touches me personally in a way, or if I consider it to be an important topic.
Your first film was Frontalwatte by Jakob Lass and since, you’ve been acting in most of his films – how did your relationship evolve?
F.R.: We’ve known each other for a long time. We started making films together as students. Before we made Love Steaks together, we had already shot another feature film and two short films as well as an unreleased film that was never edited. I’ve shot more films with him than with anyone else. We both come, more or less, from the same generation of people that have found their place in Film here in Berlin.
Do you like his approach of improvising?
F.R.: Yes, it’s great! He improvises and works with liberal structures that he kind of guides. By now, more people work in this fashion, but you have to say that he was one of the first to do it with such a resolute consistency.
Is this approach also what intrigued you to work with Terrence Malick?
F.R.:Terrence Malick is also a big improviser. He might do impro takes of half an hour and then just pass by to whisper something in your ear. There is a lot of room for experimenting. The decision to work with him came from the fact that he made films that touched me a lot; films that I grew up with.
You are often cast in love stories and for parts of unique characters – also outcasts. Are these parts often offered to you or are you intrigued by them the most?
F.R.: I believe that often one is connected to specific attributes. I was lucky to have been cast in Love Steaks and Victoria right at the beginning, which opened up a broad spectrum for me. From someone really soft who asks himself and the world in general a lot of questions to someone who speaks little and rather pumps up his shoulders in the fitness studio and who would rather swing a fist than start a conversation… Being able to play these different characters is the best thing that can happen to you.
Your original background is dance. How did you get into acting?
F.R.: That was a long process through different schools and also the theater scene in Berlin which often combines dance and theater. Expressive dance was an important time for me in which I worked with directors on stage.
And then, you were offered a film job?
F.R.: I just felt like I wanted to speak. You can deal with a lot of big themes as a dancer, but when it comes to small meticulous things it’s also good if you get to speak for a bit. Just saying “hello” is already easier to say than to dance.
You are very physical and energetic on screen – at least in the last films. Do you think that comes from your background as a dancer?
F.R.: I find the body to be very real and on which you can rely. Knowing what happened to my character’s mother twenty years earlier sometimes helps me less than to know how I move, how I interact with space, how I behave towards women or towards my own body. As a dancer, I also used to work with movements that a regular person usually works with: running around, falling, throwing yourself against a wall, shouting... That was my dance vocabulary.
What is up next for you?
F.R.: Of course, there are a lot of nice things that you cannot talk about… But right after the Berlinale, I will be in a play in Munich at the Kammerspiele by the Japanese director Toshiki Okada. The play is called No Sex.
C. Photo Credit: harald fuhr_efp (2018)
Interview with Franz Rogowski:
“Being able to play these different characters is the best thing that can happen to you”
Name: Sabine Kues