NB: Spoiler alert!!
Danish actor Claes Bang has had a rich career in both theatre and screen, most recently starring in films such as The Square, The Burnt Orange Heresy, and The Last Vermeer, as well as TV series such as The Affair and Dracula. Bang took some time out from filming The Northman in Ireland to chat to Glam about his latest project The Bay of Silence.
Bang very much seeks the personal and the truth in any character he plays.
” You can’t ever start with doing something universal: you need to get it as close to home as possible. You need to find that space somewhere inside yourself where you can connect with it. I start with what would I do in a situation like this. How would I deal with this? What would this trigger in me? Then if I can connect with something in me, and embody that, that will be something that reads [universally].”
Like many European actors, Bang works in several languages, most notably English, German and his native Danish. We wondered whether working in a different language gives a different feel or idiom to the work.
“It’s an interesting question, and I can’t exactly pinpoint it, but I have a feeling that different languages bring out different aspects of me. I don’t know if I have a sense of humour, although I would like to think that I do! But I have a feeling that my sense of humour is more out there in English. And I have a feeling that there’s a sort of seriousness about me that comes more out in German. Every language sits in a different way in your mouth and it’s really tiny things that happen. It’s as if one thing slightly changes and sends you in a different direction. This is something I think about a lot, and I am trying to find out exactly what it is. I’ll get back to you when I know a more accurate answer to this! It can be liberating sometimes to go somewhere you’ve never been, where nobody knows you. You can be kind of free. And perhaps its like that with language. There’s a whole background that drops when I stop speaking Danish.”
With such a diverse body of work it is interesting to note that Bang has never consciously carved out a path for himself in career terms, although he does have some “bucket list” projects.
“I don’t have a plan. I think projects need to present themselves to me. David Lynch is probably my biggest hero of all time , so I’ve love to do something with him. And I’d really love to get on stage in the UK.”
His choice of work is not driven by a penchant for any particular type of character, but rather the work as a whole.
“I don’t have any preference for any kind [of character]. I would always go by the content: what story is this? who are the people I’m doing this with? It will always be about the challenge and is this appealing to me.”
In The Bay of Silence, Bang plays Will, a man seemingly happily married, with two step-daughters and a baby son. Suddenly his world is thrown into mysterious turmoil. It was this mystery that drew him to the script.
“Will is obviously super-puzzled about what’s going on, and when I read it I was sort of puzzled in the same way.”
This is a harrowing work, that includes a scene where Will, finds the body of his dead baby son. An enormous amount of work went into getting that very confronting scene right.
“It was obviously a quite heavy thing to do in terms of the content. It’s a thing that you don’t wish upon your worst enemy, isn’t it? And I remember trying to investigate what happens to you if you lose your child. I’ve actually talked to people that lost their child but translating that into something you could use in a movie was a hard. What both of them say is that they went through a period of numbness. They spoke of it as if the world became something that couldn’t touch or be in touch with. On film you need something active for it to show on screen. So it became how can you make that numbness translate. A lot of work and consideration went into that. Will is also the anchor-point in this story: you see it from his POV. And his bewilderment and confusion needs to come across. You as an audience need to be taken to the same place. [The scene with the baby] was something we spent a lot of time thinking about. What has to happen in that scene is that it has to dawn on the audience one second before it dawns on him. I think if we didn’t get that scene right we’d have a problem for the rest of the film.”
COVID has naturally had an effect on the screen and stage industries in Europe, with The Northman only shooting now, when it was originally scheduled for March. Bang also finds working with a crew that is all masked up “alienating”. And it has thrown publicity into a maelstrom.
“I have three films coming out this year. With COVID it’s a mess because this film comes out in Australia one week and then that one comes out somewhere else the next week. And obviously you want to support these films as best you can.”
He does admit though, that press work being mostly online rather than face-to-face, enables him to meet these commitments at all hours of the day or night.
With that, he finished his morning coffee and went off for horse-riding lessons for his role in The Northman.
The Bay of Silence is currently available on DVD and video on demand.
Click here to read our review.
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