Hometown Girl Malin Åkerman on the Toronto Premiere of Bang Bang Club
Pick any random film that's opened in the last year, and odds are about 50/50 that Malin Åkerman starred in some capacity. OK, so I exaggerate, but let me put it this way: A week after interviewing Åkerman for her film The Romantics -- which opened last week in limited release -- the Swedish-Canadian actress is in Toronto for the world premiere of her latest effort The Bang-Bang Club. Busy!
Co-starring Ryan Phillippe and Taylor Kitsch, the film tells the true story of a group of photographers documenting the combustible period of South African history directly preceding the end of its apartheid era. Åkerman plays their editor, who develops a close bond with the group while publishing their controversial record of the conflict at hand. I'm checking the film out Monday and will have more about it later, but for now, Åkerman spoke with Movieline about adapting real life -- and bringing it back to Canada for all to see.
The Bang Bang Club premiere in Toronto is kind of a homecoming for you. Are you excited yet?
Yes! I am excited to see that. I'm nervous and excited to see that one.
Why are you nervous?
I haven't seen it. It's been a year and a half since we shot it and I'm really curious to see what it looks like.
What can you tell me about the film and your role in it?
I play a woman whose name is Robin Comley. She's a real woman who exists and whom I sat with to research her life, although my character is actually an amalgamation of two women they out into one. So it's not quite her. But she is a photo editor at a newspaper -- and she is to this day -- and she worked with these boys on these stories for the Bang Bang Club. They were a team, and to me they were heroes during that time because these men were brave enough to go out in the line of fire and risk their lives to get pictures, and she was brave enough to print them in a time when it hard to do so. She got a lot of visits from the authorities telling her she had printed photos of crime scenes -- and that it was a crime for her and they had an arrest warrant for her boys.
But she was a strong woman, and it was a difficult time. She wanted the world to see what was going on. I just thought it was a beautiful story. Two of these men -- one died from being shot by friendly fire, the other committed suicide because he couldn't deal with the fact that he just took pictures instead of saving people. Even though he took pictures that showed the world what was really going on over there. A lot of people didn't know, but the massacres were horrific. I love reading these kinds of books and stories, and when the script came along I was just really excited to be able to tell a story like that.
I guess I got lucky because it two characters, so it wasn't as much pressure as portraying her precisely. I had to play two parts. But at the same time I wanted to make sure her strength and vulnerability showed through in the character, and that she was portrayed thoughtfully at least in terms of the work that she did and the effects of any of the events that were true to her. Like when Ken Oosterbroek got shot by friendly fire? I said, "What was that like?" Because she had to go to the hospital for him. And she said she was stoic and didn't shed a tear.
For me, as an actress, I'd probably go in there bawling my eyes out if one of my boys had just died. But she was the rock among all them, and I wanted that to be real. There were moments that were definitely her in that character, and I really worked at that.
Have you ever had a film premiere at Toronto before?
Never! This is my first.
Considering those nerves of yours, how do you plan to approach the premiere?
I don't know. My friends and family will be there. I guess there is a little bit more pressure because it is about going back home, you know? I don't want people to be disappointed; I want it to be a great film, I want people to be excited and happy. It really is such a welcoming place. I'm just excited to go and hang out and have fun.