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Lars von Trier interview: Cocaine and female actors

'Mean' Danish filmmaker returned to the University of Copenhagen after nine years and spoke out about … everything

It was the first visit to the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) in nine years, and the world-famous film director Lars von Trier was to speak out.

After three years of self-imposed silence, Lars von Trier had recently come out and admitted to substance abuse and the fear of not being able to write without the alcohol and drugs. Wednesday 15 April the Danish filmmaker, who is known for his controversial comments, gave an in-depth interview at the University of Copenhagen. It turned out to be about his personal life, his substance abuse, the Muhammad cartoons, his artistic vision, the difference between female and male actors and his future work.

“I am mean around other people and I would not want to be friends with me myself,” Lars von Trier noted at the UCPH interview, which had been widely reported.

From cocaine to moderate drinking

The auditorium was crammed, and people were sitting on the seats, stairs and floor. Peter Schepelern, who conducted the interview, got the first laugh when he noted with a smile how nice it was to see how people showed up to see him, Schepelern.

His first question was one of the questions we all wanted to ask: How is Lars von Trier doing? After three years of (almost) self-imposed silence, we are all eager to hear the man speak. Trier says he is not well, but not bad off either.

Trier is the one who mentions his alcoholism when he states that he spent the three years in AA, but that he is now drinking again! “Moderately. But perhaps not moderately enough.”

In terms of the other substances, Trier also admitted to having been under the influence of cocaine throughout most of his career up until after ‘Antichrist’. Specifically ‘Two grams of coke a day – I can recommend that! And then some vodka.’

Muhammad cartoons, male and female actors

Trier also spoke out about some more serious subjects. In relation to a discussion on the Danish group of cultural radicals (Danish: kulturradikalisme) the debate turns to the Muhammad cartoons. Here Trier started his response with a harsh comment: “Jyllands-Posten is a shitty paper” (Danish: lorteavis) and asserted that Jyllands-Posten [JP] misused their freedom of speech by targeting a minority group in Denmark.

He later clarifies that the difference between JP and Charlie Hebdo is that JP did not realize the global repercussions of the cartoons, whereas Hebdo knew exactly what they were doing.

Another statement that could be seen as controversial emerges when Trier is asked about his choice of female protagonists. Here Trier says that working with female actors is much easier, because men always want to stay in control.

Trier the artist – his legacy and future

Trier watches very few films, he says, because he is on a path in filmmaking that he does not wish to corrupt with influence from other contemporary filmmakers. We also learn that Trier hates one of his own films – namely ‘Breaking the Waves’. Trier finds it important that he creates something necessary and something strange. Here ‘Breaking the Waves’ has failed.

In terms of influences, Trier is asked by a student how much he compares himself to David Lynch [film writer, producer and director known best for Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks, ed.]. Here Trier says that his series ‘Riget’ is highly influenced by Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’, but that he also sees [Russian director. ed.] Tarkovsky as an important influence on his work.

Trier’s current plan for the future is a TV-series from a serial killer’s perspective, which Trier is currently writing. The series will consist of eight episodes and “the protagonist is for once not going to be female”.

The series is called “The House that Jack Built”, but Trier did not have much else to say about it since it is still in the making.

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