Anna Åström is a Swedish actress who has appeared on TV shows such as Vikings, Black Lake and Systrar 1968. Yet, as she reveals in this interview with Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge, none of her prior roles can compare to the unique experience of working on Ari Aster’s horror, Midsommar.
Q: Had you seen ‘Hereditary’ before this opportunity to work with director Ari Aster came up?
A: I hadn’t seen Hereditary before I met Ari. I’m not the biggest fan of horror movies but everyone was talking about it, so I made sure to see it before we started shooting. And I was definitely more intrigued to work with Ari after seeing it!
Q: The critical success of ‘Hereditary’ and now ‘Midsommar’ have led to a lot of intrigue around Ari. Can you give us any insight into the way he works and your experience working with him?
A: Ari knows exactly what he wants and he is very precise. But even if he knew what he wanted, he trusted us, gave us space and was very open minded for new ideas.
He is kind of a nerd, but in a good way (smiles).
Q: As I understand it, you play a member – named Karin – of the pagan fertility cult. Can you tell us anything about the character?
A: That’s right. She’s a member of the Hårga people. She grew up with the Hårga philosophy. The Hårgans are egoless, spiritual and emotional. They talk through their emotions.
We all got special runic symbols for our characters, which really stands for our character personalities. Karin has her both feet on Earth, stability, and she has the gift of speech and communication.
Q: How did you prepare for this role and get into the mind of a cult member?
A: We got some pages from Ari about the people and the cult. How they think and what they believe in – their philosophy. We also had a workshop where we did different kinds of tasks, we learned dances, songs, how the Hårgan walks and how they talk with their bodies. It was a cool experience.
Q: I’ve seen stills of you in the costume. How did you find the shoot, being part of a big cast and wearing those outfits?
A: Everything was very thought through. Everyone got their personal runic symbols on their clothes. The buildings had drawings on their walls. It was all specially designed for the project and almost everything was handmade.
They literally built up an entire Swedish village outside Budapest.
It was a very unusual shoot. And I don’t think I will ever experience something like it. We worked more as an ensemble than individuals, which I really liked.
Q: Florence Pugh plays the lead role in ‘Midsommar’. We’ve been excited to track her incredible rise since ‘Lady MacBeth’. What was Florence like to work with?
A: I think Florence is fantastic, both as an actress and as a person. I was very impressed by her. She is a strong and powerful woman but with lots of humour and warmth. A true star!
Q: I first saw you in Bernhard Wenger’s short film ‘Excuse Me, I’m looking for the Ping Pong Room and My Girlfriend’. It’s one of the most fun, quirky and thoughtful short films I’ve seen. What do you look for in the projects you take and the people you collaborate with?
A: It’s always different depending on the script, the director, the people that are involved and the company. So it could be a light script, but then the director has a vision that I find interesting. Or the other way around.
But my goal is to tell good stories and play interesting characters. So it could be an independent film or a small part.
Q: As well as ‘Midsommar’, you had a lead role in the Gabriel Henrique Gonzalez’s ‘How You Look At Me’. It sounds like a fascinating twisted love story. What can audiences expect?
A: Let’s say you can expect an unexpected turn…
Q: How was your experience on the film working with Ellie Turner, George Blagden and Gabriel?
A: They are all creative geniuses. It was my first feature film abroad, and they were the perfect people to have that experience with. Ellie Turner has become a very good friend of mine.
Q: What is next for you? Any ambitions to share?
A: I’ve been working a lot lately, so now I’m going to start with a couple of months off and after that we will see what happens (smiles).
Title image by Carl Thorborg