Q&A: Joel Kinnaman Talks 'RoboCop,' 'Easy Money' and International Stardom

Joel Kinnaman isn't exactly the first person you'd think of when naming international movie stars. Well, that's about to change.

The Swedish actor is best known in the United States for his lead role in AMC's "The Killing," as well as his upcoming gig as RoboCop in the film's upcoming remake. In Europe, he's earned raves for his performance in the Swedish crime thriller "Easy Money," which comes out in the U.S. this week.

In the film, which has earned Martin Scorsese's seal of approval, Kinnaman is a college student named J.W. who is desperate to convince a group of wealthy colleagues that he belongs among them. But, to blend in, he'll need a steady flow of cash and winds up mixed up in a world of assassins and drug kingpins.

Something tells us the 32-year-old actor won't have to work nearly as hard to fit in here in the U.S.

Your English sounds totally American. How many languages do you actually speak?

I like to say that I speak four, which is Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and English. But Swedish people would laugh at me when I say that because Norwegian is pretty much a dialect, but I do speak it. Danish is a different language even though Danish people understand Swedes and very few Swedes understand Danish.

Have you ever been in a situation like J.W., trying to fit in with a group of people that may not have felt natural?

Actually, the complete opposite to that. I'm from the south side of Stockholm that, when I grew up, it was still kind of the working class part of town in the inner city and has a long history of being a blue collar community. [The rich kids] were always the enemy … Sweden is a monarchy, so there's this aristocracy and people are nobles. We'd go to that part of town to beat them up and take their things. So if somebody from my neighborhood was like aspiring or revering them, you couldn’t do anything worse.

That was actually a big challenge for me when I got the part. Even though J.W. wasn't part of that community, he was so good at impersonating it, so they couldn't trace it. So my goal was that I had to learn that world better than J.W. so I could choose his mistakes … I hung out with these upper class kids that I sort of secretly detested, but I had to become one of them.

What did you think when it was announced that "Easy Money" was going to be remade in the U.S., starring Zac Efron?

I didn't really think anything of it. It was just something I didn't feel a part of in any way. I was just, "OK, go ahead."

You weren't thinking, "Come on! What about me?"

No, because I had already done it.

Penelope Cruz played the same role in …

Oh, that's right. "Vanilla Sky," right? I mean, I’m sure he'll do a great job.

Has it been a goal of sorts for you to become a star on two continents? Was that part of your plan?

I don't think being a star has ever been part of the plan. But I always want to do really good work, even when I made career moves with projects that made more sense in sort of a career way than in an artistic way … like I did with "The Darkest Hour." When I read that material, I knew that this is not going to be a great movie – I thought it was going to be better than it was – but that was something that made sense.

In the States, it's different because then you sort of have to become a name to be eligible for certain kinds of parts, and some of those parts is stuff I really want to do, especially $20 million drama movies. If you're going to play a lead in those, you have to be a name. Otherwise they won't get that financing. So there's that side of it, too.

I'd argue you scored the role in "RoboCop" before really being much of a name here.

Yeah, that's like a shortcut, because the actual franchise is so big, so they can afford to have somebody that's not a big name for that. So that should settle that.

Fair enough. So can you tell us, is the movie going to be campy like the original or is it going to go a little more dark, a little more of a "Dark Knight" sort of approach to that story?

I think it's going to be the latter. Verhoeven has a very special tone, but Jose Padilha is a very accomplished director that has a very specific voice and this is going to carry his voice. There's an element of political satire in this, but the tone is not going to be Verhoeven's film.

Other than the tone, what would you say is the biggest difference?

The biggest difference, I think, is where robotics is today. It's in a very different place than it was in 1986 when they were developing "RoboCop." We've come so far already, so our vision of where robotics is in the future is very much more advanced, and that's going to be a very big difference.

Will Peter Weller make a cameo?

I don’t know. That would be awesome though. I hope so.

What are you hearing about "The Killing" getting renewed?

I haven't heard anything, positive or negative.

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