Interview: 'Klown' Writers/Stars Frank Hvam & Casper Christensen
by Jeremy Kirk
August 2, 2012
There's very little doubt that Klown is one of, if not the, year's best comedy. There's even less doubt how perfect of a match the film is for Drafthouse Films, who picked up the Danish import for a limited US release. As part of the film's initial release last week, Drafthouse arranged a very special canoe trip through their Rolling Roadshow arm of cinematic events and brought writers and stars of the series and film, Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen along with. Two of Denmark's leading comedians, the pair are as energetic as they are hilarious, and each carry more than a little similarity to their on-screen personas.
After the canoe trip, which you can read about here, and the evening's screening, we were lucky to have the opportunity to sit down with these two hysterical comedians. In the interview, we discussed the film, the Danish TV series on which it was based, canoe trips, Underberg, and the hierarchy of life's needs. It was a very entertaining interview that showcases just how quick and funny the pair can be, and what you might be getting into once you decide to experience Klown for yourself. Long story short, you absolutely should.
A little warning first. Hvam and Christensen speak freely about a lot of the jokes found in the film, so take this as a spoiler warning for Klovn: The Movie (which you can rent on iTunes). On with the interview:
How are you guys doing?
Frank Hvam: Perfect!
Casper Christensen: I couldn't feel better.
Hvam: This is the time of our life. [laughs]
Christensen: No, we really had a great week here. We flew into New York on Sunday and had a screening in Brooklyn on Monday. Two wonderful days in Los Angeles after that. We had a great screening…
Hvam: …at the silent movie theater.
Christensen: Man, was that fun. Good people showing up. It was a lot of fun. And then Austin has been awesome. Never thought about ever going to Austin, but now… I'm gonna be back. It's a lot of fun here.
You always kind of hear about Austin and then when you go, you're like, I have to come back.
Christensen: You know, you don't even hear about Austin in Europe. You hear about East Texas, and you think, "Do I wanna go show a movie where I'm giving somebody a blow job in Texas?" I don't think so. Then you come to Austin, and it seems more natural.
Austin is this little oasis of weird that's surrounded by Texas.
Christensen: If I was to open a tattoo place or a piercing place, it would be in Austin. It seems like everybody's pierced here.
Hvam: But when we went down the river, I saw a lot of private grounds and "Don't Trespass" signs, and we have those signs in Europe and Denmark, as well, but when there's not only a sign but an American flag, you just know…
Christensen: It's for real.
Hvam: It's for real. Don't trespass. There'll be a shotgun in the area.
Christensen: The worst that would happen in Denmark would be somebody going, "Hey. I told you not to go in there."
Hvam: Get out. Please.
Christensen: Please. Everybody's trespassing. Okay, then go. Just don't hurt me.
And you know everybody's carrying a gun here, too.
Christensen: Why didn't we get a gun?
Hvam: Why, Brandy [asking Brandy Fons of Fons PR]?
Christensen: Why am I not armed at this meeting?
Brandy: Tim League is the one who loves guns. Ask Tim that.
Christensen: That's true.
I haven't seen the original TV series, unfortunately. I would love to, and I'm intending to import it. But, for me, and anyone else who's in the same boat, kind of explain what the show is about and what the humor is like.
Christensen: The show is a lot like the movie. It's improvised dialogue but a straight storyline about Frank's life, and he's trying to do good, he's trying to do the right thing, but he's somewhat socially handicapped. He makes the wrong decisions for the right reasons.
Hvam: And actually he's under a big pressure, because he's trying to fight for his independence having Casper around. Casper is a very dominating guy. We all have a guy like that in our friend's circle, so Frank is under a lot of pressure. He wants to do the right things. He wants to make the right decisions, but Casper is pushing him.
Christensen: And another thing we have to say about the television series, there's stuff in the movie that's pretty far out, and we tried to kind of do the same thing in the television series. When we started out, we made up a list of taboos or topics that would really be hard to do comedy on. We had HIV, cancer, cannibalism, racial issues, and we wanted to try to do comedy on it having people feeling alright laughing, not feeling bad at the same time. So you got to have an open mind when you watch it. It's pretty wild stuff some of it.
That's one of the great things that I love about the movie. It pushes the envelope, but it never gets dark. It's never an ugly movie.
Christensen: Thank you. That's important. Frank put it very well. It's a heartfelt story of a man who's trying to save his marriage and his unborn child. It's got a lot of heart in it. That's very important for us. You can't make people laugh the right way if they feel bad about laughing. You gotta feel good about it. We like emotions. We have relationships.
Hvam: We're a couple of like-minded guys.
Hvam: We like to laugh. We don't like to be evil. We don't like to be provocative. We wanted good stories and have a good laugh at the same time.
The television series ran for six seasons. Was the movie an idea for a possible seventh season or was that always going to be a standalone movie?
Christensen: We had the television show and took a break for almost 1-1/2 years. Did not do any work on Klown at all, and Frank and I wanted to write a movie together. We really couldn't agree on what it should be about. I wanted to do a Klown movie, and Frank wanted to do something completely new. In the end I convinced him that it might be a good idea to do a Klown movie just for the reasons that we knew the characters so well, so it would make it easier for us to write and we could try to go new places with both the acting and the story, and we did it, and I think it was really good that we did. We learned so much from it.
Hvam: It was good that we did it, and we found out that the movie world, the film world is so snobbish. We have made some great episodes, some really good episodes. Nobody cared. But then you make one, good movie, everybody is like, "Hey, come visit us."
Christensen: No, I think it's more about the channels of getting a movie out to different parts of the world with festivals are a lot more organized. Television is more about buying and selling, and there isn't as much love in television as there is around movies.
Hvam: Yeah, there's more passion about movies. But we've always been passionate about our TV stuff.
Christensen: Yeah, I'm just saying about the rest of the world:
It's a lot easier to import a movie to this country than it is a TV show.
I was looking up your works last night, and it's a bunch of TV shows that I've never heard of personally.
Christensen: You know, we tried to sell the remake and the original television show to the American market, and we got some good response from the people who actually watched it. But then the networks were kind of, "Nah. It's subtitled. It's provocative. No." But the people who actually sat down and spent the time and do the effort, they kind of like it. But a movie's easier. You go in, an hour and a half later, you've seen the whole work. It's done for you.
Hvam: And now we're not going back to TV.
Christensen:No, never. There's no ambition in that shit. [laughs]
Who's idea was it to have the movie center around a canoe trip?
Hvam: I think we came up with that idea together.
Christensen: I remember it. We were talking about doing a road movie, and we both agreed that would be a lot of fun. The time didn't work for us, because it takes four hours to drive from end of the country to another, so it would almost be in real time. You had to slow the process down. At some point we came up with the idea that canoeing would just slow the process down.
Hvam: We talked about cycling.
Christensen: We talked about bicycling.
Christensen: I think it came out of a fun thought of having a car chase in a canoe, like a canoe chase. It got started with that. Wouldn't it be fun to have canoes…like you turn around to use the hand brake, but you use a paddle instead. That's what we laughed about doing, and I think it's alright. Canoeing is good. You've got the two main characters stuck in a boat with a child. When you see it, you're gonna see they have to be together. They're out in the canoe. They're out on the water. Telephone doesn't work. They can't get ashore. It symbolizes the whole movie watching that canoe.
Hvam: Yeah, it's perfect.
And you brought up Bo. I have to give credit to Marcuz Jess Petersen. What was the auditioning process like for that?
Hvam: 800 kids.
Christensen: Open audition.
Hvam: Yeah, and he did so well. We was by far the best.
Christensen: We wanted a kid who worked as well as the kid in Bad Santa. But when you open audition, you can't say, "I want a chubby kid." You can't. It's open for everybody. So 800 kids showed up, and there were a lot of good ones, but he had the right age, the right look. The one thing that got him the part is we auditioned doing the scene where he comes to the tent and has peed in his pants. That was one of the final auditions. There were three guys at the point, and he was very good. His face is like a silent movie actor really.
Hvam: And he's not acting too much. He's very understated.
Christensen: He doesn't say much in the movie.
I noticed that last night. There's not a lot of dialogue with him, but he doesn't need it.
Hvam: We didn't know that he would be that good. I think if we had known beforehand that we would get a child with that skill and acting talent, we would have probably given him more story. I think so.
Christensen: Maybe, but then again some of the fun is that the grownups, Casper and Frank, talk grownup language. Really raw and being assholes that goes right over the head of that kid. That's kind of what makes the lines stand out when you're doing the scenes. So I think it's good he's just in the middle listening to it.
Was there ever a point while making the movie where one of you turned to the other, and you were like, "This is too far. We've gone too far?"
Christensen: We had so many discussions about, "How could this happen in the real world?" And if we could not convince the other one that it could actually happen, it's not gonna be in the movie.
Hvam: That's the motivation all the time.
Christensen: All the time. And that's where we spent most of our time where we know it's fun, we kind of like the idea of a pearl necklace, but how are we gonna get Frank to give his mother-in-law a pearl necklace? We spent some time figuring that one out. It seems so easy now, but it isn't easy giving your mother-in-law a pearl necklace. You gotta work around it.
Hvam: Not in a movie. Not in real life.
Christensen: Nowhere. And there's not a country in the world where a pearl necklace is a good idea on your mother-in-law.
The pearl necklace is a good example. What's been the strangest reaction to a scene that you've seen so far?
Christensen: I think we've pretty much knew in Denmark how the reaction would be. And we don't do screenings. We didn't. We did not have any screenings after. We just knew exactly what we wanted to tell and how we wanted to tell it, and we kind of hit it on the spot. It was pretty precise, because we've been doing the television show for so long. But over here, there were some strange reactions sometimes.
Hvam: Yeah, the homosexual story is bigger over here than in Denmark.
It gets more laughs, you mean?
Hvam: Yeah, I guess it's a bigger taboo over here.
Christensen: The man flirting is just a fun idea in the movie in Denmark, but over here it's something that people… homosexuality is funny.
Hvam: But, of course, you being banged is also a big thing.
Christensen: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Hvam: Also because Casper's character is a very smooth operator, he knows how to spin, he's good at socializing, he knows how to convince people in all respects, so many young men have had Casper as a role model back home. He's so smart. He gets away with it.
Christensen: He gets laid.
Hvam: Yeah, and he gets laid at the same time. When those young people saw Casper being banged, making love…
Christensen: I was raped, Frank. I was raped.
Christensen: Yeah, let's put it that way.
Hvam: They were extremely disappointed. Why, Casper? Why?
Christensen: Yeah, that's true.
Hvam: They would tear down the posters. Not that gay, terrible guy any more.
Christensen: I betrayed a generation.
Hvam: You did.
Christensen: One thing I notice, just a small thing. There's this, I think it's a very beautiful scene. Frank is teaching Bo how to swim, and after they get out they're drying themselves off. Frank says, "Let me take a look at that little penis. Oh, it's not that bad." It gets a laugh over here. In Denmark, it was like a heartfelt scene. It was like, "Oh, Frank is turning around, showing interest, he's being nice for the good reasons." Over here, you're like, "Heeheehee, he's looking at a boy's penis."
Hvam: Oh, we laughed a little about it, too.
Christensen: We laughed also about it, because you were funny.
How much Underberg was consumed during the making of this movie?
Hvam: Huge amount.
Christensen: It was hard. It's a stupid drink to put in a movie, because that paper wrapped around it. You've got to open a new one every time you're doing a shoot. If it was just a bottle, you could just fill it up with water, but you had to open it again and again.
Hvam: And that's been the way we do things. If we drink alcohol in front of the camera, we drink real alcohol, because we're not real actors. If we're going to play a little bit tipsy, we have to be a little bit tipsy. That's the rule. And it's a convenient rule.
Christensen: It doesn't taste that good. We have 10 a day.
I've never had it. It's bitters?
Hvam: Yeah, it's bitters. A schnapps.
Christensen: It's 40 proof.
Casper, I have to ask. On the hierarchy of priorities, we all know P over F. Is there anything over P?
Christensen: That's a good question. You put it at the end, man. I gotta be thinking about that all day, because once you take the fatherhood out, and that's not an option, I think you've gotta go for the P. There's nothing above it.
Hvam: That's what makes you get up in the morning.
Christensen: Yeah, it gets you up.
Hvam: That's P.
Christensen: You've gotta get that P.
A huge thank you to stars Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen for their time and for Drafthouse Films and Fons PR for arranging the interview up. Klown is a hilarious movie, and it had a great time chatting with these two talented creators and stars. Klown is currently playing in New York, Los Angeles and Austin + on VOD, and expands to more theaters in the coming weeks. Visit the official site for more.