You Can Only Learn By Doing Things Yourself

Actor and mentor Thure Lindhardt shares his knowledge and insight in regards to the environment, social media, the nordic noir genre and his love of teaching. But you have to be the one who generates the work, he insists. The best he can do is guide you.

Thure Lindhardt is one of the most successful Danish actors working in TV and film today. Besides appearing in big budget blockbuster films like Angels and Demons, Fast and Furious 6 and Into the Wild, he also appears in a number of Scandinavian projects, notably in the successful nordic crime television series The Bridge, which was available in more than one hundred countries. In the series he plays a homicide detective by the name of Henrik Sabroe, who spirals into depression and drug abuse after the murder of his wife and the disappearance of his two daughters. These types of character narratives, he believes, are what make Scandinavian shows so relevant as they “take characters that are on the fringes of society and then bring them to the screen. These people can do wonders” he says, also referring to his on-screen partner Saga Norén, a police investigator living with Asperger’s syndrome. “[Danish] culture has a lot to offer to the world, it’s concerned about democracy and human rights. It’s a very rich country, and with wealth comes power and with power comes responsibility” he explains.

Lindhardt was born in Copenhagen, grew up in Roskilde and went to drama school in Odense, graduating in 1998. Now living in the Nørrebro area of Copenhagen, he expresses his enthusiasm and attachment to the city: “I’ve been to many places in the world but [Copenhagen] is just a very good city, especially for young people. People bike around, you can have a really good life here”. In addition to having an appealing capital, Denmark is is also an eco-friendly country that is at the forefront of renewable energy. But he insists there is still a lot to be done in regards to the environment. “Have you read Factfulness [by Hans Rosling]? The world population is growing rapidly, and by the end of the century we won’t be talking about thousands of refugees escaping war, one billion people are going to come [to Scandinavia] as a way to escape pollution and famine, it’s just a fact” he says. “Do we want to live on this planet in seventy years or not? We need to just wake up and do everything that’s possible” he urges.

Although not a fan of social media, he sometimes uses it as a way to reach out to people about topics close to his heart and to promote his upcoming projects. “I think it’s the devil in disguise” he confesses when asked what he thinks of social media. “If I’m in a movie or television series, the company wants me to promote it, which makes sense. Social media is a wonderful way of communicating, the only problem is that it’s so emotional… it’s visual and it’s emotional. For example, if you see a shocking video exposing animal cruelty, you have an emotional reaction to it, and then six minutes later you’re confronted to a new video. We never have time to think or feel or reflect and so we’re constantly confused. People like Trump, he can come up with a lie four times a day and nobody will say anything because the moment you see it, another lie will pop up and nobody has time to react to the previous one”. This leads to his worry about people’s attention span and how rapidly it’s diminishing. “We used to be able to concentrate for twelve seconds. Ten years later, it’s lowered to seven seconds, which is almost half. Who are we if we don’t have our skills of thinking and abilities to concentrate? We can’t do anything” he says worryingly.

His new film In Love & War is a Danish-German WWI epic based on a true story. “It’s a story about a man who comes back from war, someone who is home but not really ‘there’.” he tells me. Lindhardt plays a character who he describes as being as “an opportunist”, a Danish general who works for the German police and who ends up being “more German than the Germans”, striving to be accepted. “The basic need for a human being is to be accepted by everyone else and by the group. We call it ‘flokdyr mentalitet’ in Danish, a need to be a part of the pack” he adds. Lindhardt plays the antagonist, which he considers to be the best kind of role. “It’s so much fun because you get to live out everything you are not allowed to do in society” he says enthusiastically. “We have these rules in society, because in order to live with each other you need to make rules, and although breaking those rules can be of terrible pain to others, it can be a liberating thing for yourself, which is why it’s dangerous.”

When Lindhardt is not busy filming or working on different projects, he enjoys teaching and gives regular workshops to up-and-coming actors, a task he sees as a “responsibility”. “If you have an experience of any kind, then you have a responsibility of sharing it” he says. He believes that teaching, which he calls a “tremendous gift”, is a good way of helping someone reach their potential. “But ultimately you have to do it yourself. Nobody can do it for you. I can’t generate anything for you, I can’t produce things for you, you have to be the one creating or finding inspiration. And teachers are there to guide, to show the way or to suggest. The best thing a teacher can do is to suggest: you can only learn by doing things yourself.” Does he have a particular method when he is building a character? “Technique is very important. With acting you don’t have an instrument, you are the instrument. It sounds pretentious, but it’s true! What else do you have? You need technique… and you can’t always count on your emotions, they come and go.”

To generate is to create and acting is all about creating and bringing a character to life. Thure Lindhardt has an incredible capacity of interpreting a variety of roles and playing in depth characters that require imagination, ambition and technique. As well as film and television, he also does theatre and experimental projects, and when asked if he does it to challenge himself or to get to know himself better, he replies “I don’t really do it to learn something new about myself. At some point you need to leave that part behind. You have to start looking around you and think ‘What can I give?’ We should cherish wisdom and just play our part. And to do that we need to know ourselves and know who we are”. Does he know who he is now? “I know right now who I am but in five years maybe I’ll say ‘No I didn’t’. Truth is not really fixed, it’s movable. You can look at someone and say ‘I love you’ and mean it from the bottom of your heart but ten years later you can meet that person again and be like ‘Wait that one? No’. And that’s truth.”

In Love & War is out now.


Team credits:

Words by Roxanne Nielsen
Photography by Benoit Grogan-Avignon