‘Klown’ Interview: Stars Casper Christensen and Frank Hvam Discuss The Ultimate Experience
Last month, the fine folks at the Alamo Drafthouse set up a fantastic experience for a very special screening of the new Danish film ‘Klown,’ which hits theaters this Friday courtesy of Drafthouse Films. For the event, we took a journey to the Guadalupe river for a canoe trip with the film’s creators, and stars Casper Christensen and Frank Hvam, followed by a special outdoor screening and an interview with them the next morning.
The trip began with a long drive out to North Spring Branch to the Guadalupe canoe livery, to rendezvous with fellow fans of cinema, members of the press, and the film’s creators and stars Casper Christensen and Frank Hvam. We were paired up and hauled out to the mouth of the river on a rickety bus, where we were given canoes to drag out to the water and board for our four-mile journey back to the screening site. It was a beautiful, exhausting and ultimately rewarding trip as we navigated the too-shallow waters (thanks to the drought), avoided dangerous rocks and even had a mishap with a giant spider who was hitching a ride on our particular canoe.
Dangers and hardships aside, the scenery was breathtaking and the trip was a load of fun, bumping into the canoes of our friends and trying to make it back to the site in one piece. Yours truly was terrified at first, not wanting the canoe to overturn, lest I hit my head on a giant rock and, you know, die or something. But we made it! Our canoe didn’t tip over at all… Well, until the very end as my companion tried to maneuver the canoe to the exit stairs and completely overturned us in the process of getting out.
We gathered on a giant law with an inflatable screen and ate delicious hot dogs and strawberry crepes and drank refreshing beers courtesy of the Drafthouse. Never has a meal felt so earned. But the ultimate reward was the screening, hosted by Drafthouse founder Tim League, and stars Christensen and Hvam, who came all the way from Denmark for a string of special advance screenings in the US.
We had a chance to chat with the gentlemen bright and early the next morning, all of us exhausted and sore from the previous night’s journey.
Did you guys have a lot of fun yesterday?
Casper: We’ve had a lot of fun since we came over. We came over Sunday and just been working.
I heard the New York screening went over really well.
Casper: It was good.
Frank: It was really fun, you know.
Can you explain to our readers, who may not be very familiar, what ‘Klown’ is?
Frank: First of all, it’s a comedy. And it’s a comedy that pushes the envelope, and there’s lots of sex in it. But it’s also deep, deep inside a heartfelt story about a guy who’s fighting for his marriage and his unborn child, and in his effort to save his marriage he kidnaps an 11-year-old boy to prove that he can be a father. And that, of course, is a terrible idea. That’s basically it.
It was a television series in Denmark before it became a film — how popular is the series over there?
Casper: We did six seasons. We started off at a small channel. Both Frank and I are known comedians back home, and it did take one season before the television show took off. It was kind of different when it all started. We came from a more traditional sitcom — acting and writing, and it was more traditional, mainstream kind of thing, and then we suddenly came out using our own names and having these, I mean really provoking people with the issues we’re talking about, and it took a season before it got picked up, but then it got really big.
Frank: It just exploded.
Casper: Yeah, and the movie was seen by one-fifth of the population.
Frank: That’s ridiculous.
Casper: That’s kind of a lot of people.
With your comedy background, you guys do a lot of improvisation. How much of the film is improvised?
Casper: The dialogue.
Frank: The dialogue alone. We have a very, very strict storyline, a precise storyline. We know exactly what to do in each scene, where the story’s going and how to get out of the scene. So it’s basically it’s only the dialogue, but we are both stand-up comedians and we don’t have acting skills so it’s very easy for us to improvise.
Casper: It’s easier!
Frank: It’s easier because the repetition thing, saying the same thing 10 takes in a row, that’s very difficult for us.
Casper: We kind of find emotions when writing it. The way we write is that we have some ideas for the story, and then we kind of — when writing it, we act at the same time. We sit and we do the scene while writing it, just sitting next to each other going, “Oh, wouldn’t it be so funny if Casper was trying to get Frank to do a threesome with this other girl and going, ‘Yeah, do it Frank, do it! She just made us pancakes!’” We try to act it out and it helps a lot when we get to shooting. We kind of rehearse the whole thing. We kind of know the motions we want to go through but not the direct dialogue.
We try to make each other laugh the whole time. Frank is more conservative in really trying not to laugh. I mean, he’s very much on the project. You cannot laugh when you shoot ’cause then you’ll ruin the take! And I’m all about having a great day. I just wanna laugh right now. So that kind of makes me work even harder to make him laugh.
Did you select your co-stars for the series and the film based on their ability or willingness to improvise?
Frank: Yeah because some of the guys, some of the characters are from the series we knew they would be able to improvise. All the new characters, of course, we had to cast them. You never know who’s going to be good at improvising and who’s not. You can have a very skilled actor, a very celebrated actor, famous actor and then it turns out he’s a complete disaster when it comes to improvising.
Casper: We had the thing about Iben Hjejle, who plays my girlfriend, she’s in the television series too, and the reason why we had to have her with us is because she was my girlfriend in real life, and we wanted it to be as close [to] real life as possible. We could not invent a new girlfriend because she was very famous and everybody knew that we were going out together. She didn’t like improv at all, so I had to convince her to start working it. She wanted to do different stuff, but we had to work hard and we gotta do improv, we’ve gotta do this. She didn’t even want to do comedy at that point.
Casper: But she was very good in it.
Frank: She’s a very good actress.
She is fantastic in the film.
Frank: The people who play their profession is nearly always…
Capser: Like a policeman.
Frank: Like a policeman, they’re always a policeman. Or if it’s a nurse, it’s always a nurse. They know how to put things right on their own field. If it’s an actor, he’s playing a policeman. And that can be very annoying to look at.
Casper: So we tried to audition, so if we want to do a policeman we have a policeman who wanted to try to act.
Casper: …If the part is not too big.
Speaking of hiring people to play themselves, how similar are the two of you to your characters?
Casper: Spot on.
Frank: I’m the country boy, Casper is the city slicker. I’m the introverted guy, you’re the outroverted guy. In real life, I’m a bit of a nerd, he’s the womanizer.
So you’re just the Odd Couple.
Frank: Yeah, we’re the Odd Couple, yeah. For sure.
Casper: I’d like to thank you for all the nice words.
Frank: You’re welcome. But of course we have turned up the volume so much.
Casper: I think the one thing that is so true is that we are really, really different in real life, too. We’re so two totally different personalities. And so when you see the television show or the movie, you kind of go, how come these guys are friends? But it’s like this in real life. We live totally different lives. We’re very good friends, and that’s how the world is, man. You have friends that are so different from yourself. I think that the difference between us, that’s almost like in the movie, right?
Casper: But the characters of course are weirder in the movie, or too much in the movie.
Frank: We meet in the writing process.
Casper: We don’t see each other privately that much.
Frank: But we are writing all the time, so…
Casper: That’s right. You see each other 10 hours a day for 14 years, you don’t wanna go out afterwards to hang out. You’ve got enough. You want to meet other people sometimes.
You mentioned earlier how heartfelt the film is, and ‘Klown’ is surprisingly very sweet. Was that something you were going for when you initially began working on it?
Frank: Yeah, we started with the story before we began thinking in sex scenes. We wanted to have this good, heartfelt, motivated story as an engine for the whole movie.
Casper: We had our director, Mikkel Norgaard, he did the sitcom before the film. He did the whole six seasons of ‘Klown,’ he did the movie. He’s a very good guy, and he’s a little bit more sentimental and really knows how to get the good vibes and the heartfelt emotions show on the screen, ’cause we can write it but he’s the one who comes up with the small scene like the bus scene where Frank and the kid are sitting there and they move closer to each other. He’s the guy who comes up with stuff like that, and so it’s very important. He should have been here, really.
Frank: Yeah, he should.
Speaking of the young boy, Bo — were his parents comfortable with the situations he’d have to be involved in. You mentioned last night that he went to audition without their knowledge.
Frank: We took an orphan.
Casper: Don’t even make fun of that! He’s so close. His mom just died, just before he auditioned, and I think that’s why he’s so good.
Frank: Shut up.
Casper: Not in a bad way! But, I mean, it’s terrible for that kid, but that kind of… that’s the thing that made him want to do something different with his life. Never acted before. His dad didn’t even know that he was auditioning. He’s 12 years old.
Frank: But it’s important to note his dad was there for the shoot.
Casper: Oh, yeah, his dad was there for the whole thing.
Frank: He has a great dad. They loved his work in the movie, and they were there at the recordings, the shootings, his dad was present.
Casper: And the opening night.
Frank: They were all over it.
Casper: All supportive.
Frank: He became the class hero. He made such a good job. He was part of a very successful movie and it hasn’t been easy for him. When it comes to that little penis story. You know, eventually the penis grows, so it’s all good.
Casper: It’s all good. That’s a good trick. If you have someone, a character in a movie you feel sorry for, just let them have a bigger penis at the end of the movie.
Frank: They can lose everything in life, but…
Casper: That’s the way you do it.
Frank: Give them a big penis.
Casper: Give them a bigger penis. Not big, just bigger.
Is censorship more liberal in Denmark? A film like this, if it were made in the US, would be very controversial. Is there more that you can get away with over there?
Casper: It depends on what you find is provocative or needed to be censored. We have stricter laws about showing violence and blood and gore. But sex, they go a little easier. Nudity’s not that bad.
Frank: Nudity’s not bad at all. If the sex scenes are not too explicit, they go right through.
Casper: And it’s not a sex scene, there’s no penetration, it’s just funny. It is just a comedy. But Denmark is liberated. We were the first country in the world to free porn back in 1969.
Frank: This shy finger in the ass…
Casper: The what?
Frank: The shy finger in the ass! I think that’s the worst of it.
Casper: But you didn’t stick your finger in the ass.
Frank: No, no. I was gentle.
It’s an implied finger.
Casper: Yes. How close were you, really?
Casper: Tell the truth.
Frank: Ah! I can’t remember anymore!
Casper: You were pretty close. You trimmed your nails before to make it more…
Frank: Yeah, I clipped my nails before the scene to…
Casper: And washed your hands afterwards.
Frank: Yes, yes.
Such a gentleman!
Casper: You want to make that scene work, so of course you… But that was one of those things where you were laughing, so finally I got him to laugh.
Frank: But it’s rated 11 years in Denmark. We wouldn’t recommend children to see it, if they’re 11 years old, but that’s because they won’t get the film — its adult humor.
Casper: But they still find it funny. They relate to the kid. For an 11-year-old boy to see another 11-year-old boy’s penis is not that bad.
Frank: It happens all the time.
Casper: It happens all the time, but it’s more of grown-ups do stupid things when they’re horny, and I think you said that in the movie, and that’s what the movie is also about.
Frank: And grown-up people think stupid things about other grown-up people because they’re horny themselves.
Are there any plans for more ‘Klown’? Maybe another movie?
Frank: Let’s see how this goes first. We’re in the middle of it. We’re so excited about it.
Casper: We’ve gotta write a new movie, we know that. We’ve set time off to be writing it in January, but we don’t yet if we wanna continue writing ‘Klown’ or if we just wanna do something different. This is the third big project for television that we’ve done, and we change it every time. We did a sketch show, then a sitcom, then ‘Klown,’ then we just recently did a comedy tour. We kinda like that new excitement of starting something up. Beginning again, new page, start again.
Frank: Finding new good people.
Casper: Yeah, finding people, finding characters. We had a lot of fun doing the film, so we might do it again.
‘Klown’ premieres in select theaters Friday, July 27, 2012.