The 2022 Semiramis Award for Excellence in Casting will be presented at the prestigious Torino Film Festival in Italy on 26th November. Running up to the event, we will be posting interviews with all of this year’s nominees. Please meet ICDN member Catrin Wideryd, nominated for the Swedish film COMEDY QUEEN (directed by Sanna Lenken), in conversation with ICDN Advisory Board member Florentina Bratfanof.
How did you start work for this project? How long did you work on the casting?
The producer (Rebecka Lafrenz) at FLX called me one day, in the late fall of 2020, and said she was working on this project with a book by award winning author Jenny Jägerfeld (writer and psychologist), which was being adapted into a film script. Since I hadn’t read the book she told me briefly about the story. Sanna Lenken was a director whom I had been working with on several projects before and she is one of my absolute favourite directors so it was very easy for me to say “I absolutely want to do this!”
I began the casting early in 2021 and I had about three months within a period of five months before the shooting started in May the same year. Since I casted both the adults and the teenagers for this film I would say that it is quite an average time (and budget) for the casting process for a film like this in Sweden.
As the casting process is an extremely collaborative affair, please name three people that supported this casting process and why.
The best projects I have worked on are the ones where the director, the producer/s and I are fully synchronised and when the trust for one another’s work is for real. Sometimes we disagree on things of course, but when the choices of the cast are being made we are all on the same page on why we make those specific choices. True teamwork that is, to me. And on this film I already knew that the director Sanna Lenken and I have that sync. And with two amazing and competent producers like Rebecka Lafrenz and Anna Anthony, it always felt very safe. I knew they both had a deep trust in Sanna’s and my creative process.
One of the qualities of the movie is the ensemble cast. In Comedy Queen, the mix between actors and children’s casting is amazing, the feeling of them, as a family, with all the highs and lows. How long did it take for this mix to come together? Can you tell us about a specific scene used in the casting process to try them out?
Finding the girl who would play Sasha, the lead, of course was essential to who were to portray the rest of her family. As we wanted to be fully open for a girl of any origin to play Sasha we had to be a bit patient with casting her dad and mum of course. I was quite convinced as soon as I auditioned Sigrid that she was our Sasha.
The first audition scene all the girls did was the one when Sasha talks to her uncle Ossie at the bar, asking him if he thinks she could become a comedian. I chose that scene because it was quite a simple situation, with much of Sasha’s witty attitude in it. And I also let them prepare their own jokes to do a bit of an improv around it.
And once we had our Sasha we tested a few Abbe (her dad) with her. Sanna had recently worked with Oscar Töringe, so we brought him, too. They did the scene where Sasha has torn the jacket of her bully and Abbe is quite upset with her and wants her to apologise. The scene ends with Sasha shouting at her dad that she’d rather kill herself than apologise to that girl.
Sigrid had done an amazing job doing that scene over and over again with several different actors, she really went all in every time. When Oscar came in to the audition room, they just had this immediate connection. It is hard to describe what it is really, other than a certain energy. We could feel from their first take that they felt like father and daughter. When they did that scene for the first time it was as heart gripping as it is in the movie. I was filming and I couldn’t see anything because my eyes were all teared up. For us there never was a doubt that Sigrid and Oscar would play Sasha and Abbe.
Can you tell us about a difficult moment in the casting process you managed to overcome? What happened?
Actually this casting process was very smooth. I already knew Sigrid and was thinking of her from the start. I even said to Rebecka during that first phone call that I might already know our Sasha. The only “problem” was that Sasha in the book was eleven turning twelve. And Sigrid was by that time already 15 years old. But she looked a bit younger. So my first question was if it would be possible to make Sasha a tiny bit older in the film… In the end we just added a year so that Sasha in the film turns 13. Apart from that it was a bit of a challenge to have a casting process in the middle of covid. I guess all of us had challenges with that. For me it meant that I could not go visit any schools or have open casting calls like I would have normally donw. But in the end it worked out well and I really think we could not have found any better teenage actors than we did!