Hello there…. Eva Melander who plays the lead role in the Cannes-winning film Border, shown in Swedish cinemas now. What was it like receiving all the praise at the festival?
Initially I was just pleased the film was to be screened in Cannes, and happy about it being in the section Un certain regard, so I went down there to work. That was it. During the screening I was full of nervous expectations, you listen to the audience and how it reacts to the film. When we received what felt like neverending standing ovations afterwards, it was a powerful feeling. Overwhelming. After that I had a couple of intense press days and the film got good reviews – it could not have gone any better!
How did you get involved in the project?
The process was nothing out of the ordinary. A casting agent got in touch and asked me if I was interested in auditioning. I immediately felt that it was a fascinating role, one that would come with challenges I hadn’t even fantasised about before.
Did you already have a relation to the short story the film is based on?
I hadn’t read it before my audition, but I was hooked as soon as I had. It is such an extraordinary story about a person who has completely supressed and forgotten who she is, but slowly begins to realise. She exists in the twilight zone between complete realism and the supernatural, that is to say in John Ajvide Lindqvist’s amazing universe. That got me hooked.
Did you know the director, Ali Abbasi?
No, I met him for the first time at a so-called call back after my first audition and felt complete faith in him, and vice versa. So, we started working on the material together and I felt safe with his way of attacking the script, throughout the whole process.
You and Eero Milonoff interact very well together, had you worked together before?
I met him for the first time when I first met Ali, but we had an immediate connection. After we had gotten our parts, we often spoke on the phone and talked about our training, how much weight we had managed to put on. That is how we got to know each other, haha.
Yes, I heard you put on 18 kilos for the part, how do you do that?
I had the help of a personal trainer and dietitian, David “D-Flex” Seisay. I did bodybuilding (just the torso) four days a week and ate every 1,5 hours. I saw it as a full-time job, with a food schedule on my fridge. The first six weeks I put on more than 10 kilos.
How did these preparations affect you and your life during this period?
I had trouble sleeping due to night sweats and I experienced mood swings. I also became short of breath very easily and found it hard to walk and talk at the same time; it kind of feels like your body is being poisoned.
How did you manage to lose the weight after you finished shooting?
To not become ill when eating as much as I did, you must eat proper food – not just crisps and stuff. That also makes it easier to lose the weight again, but I ate pretty much just vegetables and went to bed hungry. It simply took time to get back into your body.
And, on top of all that, the actual shooting wasn’t that easy for you either?
The days kicked off with four hours in makeup, for example at 2 a.m., and then 10 hours of filming plus one hour to get the makeup off – it was an enormous challenge. It was a very particular mask, as well. People who worked on The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter films and Game of Thrones were flown in from all over the world, to work on it. Only my upper lip was natural and to play a character who by nature is subdued in her facial expressions, combined with all the layers of gelatine and silicone was, again, challenging.
Without revealing too much, the film does contain a very special sex scene – what was it like to shoot it?
Really, it wasn’t more difficult than any other scene. But every now and again Eero and I looked at each other and shook our heads at what a strange profession we have, and just laughed.
The last time we saw you in a feature film you had one of the parts in the strong and controversial Flocking, a performance for which you received a Guldbagge Award. What are your feelings about the film now, a few years later?
I have always considered it a good and important film. We have travelled the whole world with it and whatever the cultural context people have stood up and thanked us for telling their story.
Speaking of awards, you already seem to be on the list of favourites for next year’s Guldbagge gala, how much do you care about this type of recognition?
It means a lot, in a job context for example, where people maybe aren’t quite sure of who you are. And of course it is a recognition of all the work you have put into a part.
What does the near future look like, is by any chance a new collaboration with Ali Abbasi on the cards?
No, it is not, but I would enjoy working with him again. Next up is playing the lead role in “Richard III” at Uppsala Stadsteater and I will also spend the autumn trying to piece together future film projects, all still under wraps.
Footnote: The photo of Eva Melander on the start page is taken by Tove Risberg
Eva Melander lists actors, in no particular order, who have been her role models and inspirations
An important role model when I started in the theatre. Her acting was so full of humanity. Calm and powerful.
Both directed and acted in my favourite film as a child, "Åke och hans värld" ("Åke and his world"). A humanist and artist, a great source of inspiration.
When I think of Gösta Ekman's performances in film and theatre I almost get goosebumps. The enormous range between comedy and drama is mind blowing. The skill, imagination and presence.
Two years before i was admitted to Teaterhögskolan (Drama School) I saw Ann Petrén in a play called ”Irinas nya liv” ("Irinas new life") at the small stage Unga Klara. Her power, sense of humour and complete lack of pretentiousness blew my mind. I felt such freedom and pleasure when seeing what acting could be.
For her courage to be and act wide open and without protection. It has always inspired me to dare go beyond norms and boundaries.