Rie Hedegaard is the first mover and shaker within the Danish casting sphere and has been working as a casting director since 1984. Her work on recent productions includes the TV series “Follow The Money” and seasons one and two of “Rides upon the Storm.” During spring 2019, Rie will be working on the first Danish-produced HBO Nordic series called “The Conqueror.” Rie Hedegaard was deeply involved throughout the Dogme period in the mid ‘90s and was the casting director of Thomas Vinterberg’s “Festen” and Lars von Trier’s, “The Idiots” among many others. In her career, she has maintained a close working relationship with directors such as Lars von Trier, O.C. Madsen, Per Fly, Thomas Vinterberg, Christoffer Boe and Anders Thomas Jensen. In the recent years, Rie Hedegaard has been working with several other successful film directors, such as Kaspar Munk, Hlynur Pálmason, Fenar Armad, Isabella Eklöf, Louise Friedberg, Jacob Bitch and Anders Mathessen. In 2005, she was invited by the Danish Film Institute to co-found the ICDN, the International Casting Director Network, which currently includes twenty-five countries. She has also been teaching internationally, giving various master classes, together with Stephen Frears, for instance. Rie is an experienced and well-respected teacher and has been associated with the Danish National School of Performing Arts as a teacher working with casting since 2002.
Tara Karajica talks to her about her career as casting director.
Can you talk about your background? How did you get into casting?
Rie Hedegaard: It started for me at an early stage, in fact. I was only fourteen when I started to imagine different characters in films and plays. At that time, we didn’t have access to all the platforms. All we had were the plays on stage – and that was great – and then, one TV channel.
How does one, actually, become a casting director?
R.H.: By following your interest and curiosity, and be developing your knowledge when it comes to actors. And then, it demands an eye for creating authentic moments.
How familiar do you have to be with an actor’s work? Do you see all of their and the directors’ films? And, you have to see how they would work and fit together? It seems impossible!
R.H.: In theater season, I go to see plays three times a week, to see actors and their work and to, hopefully, get inspired by their talent. This is where I do most of my ground work. I watch their work as much as possible as well as projects from the National Film School. When it comes to whom and what would work and fit together, casting has, in my opinion, a lot to do with taste – for an interesting combination.
The casting process is different in the US and Europe. Can you elaborate on that?
R.H.: Oh, yes! Very different! In Denmark, we only have three or four agents, which means we often do all the preparation work ourselves. We have the direct contact with the actors which, of course, gives us a personal connection, based on trust and faith in each other.
How much do the agents interfere? Do they help or are they more like a barrier? How do you work with them?
R.H.: It depends. The best agents understand their role and don’t interfere with the artistic process. They get the same information as the actor. The personal relationship with the actors make the work with agents less complicated and we can focus on the creation of the character.
How much do you have to take into account the personal relationships (feuds) between directors and actors and actors and actors? This can be a problem in the casting… How do you avoid this? How do you work around the problems?
R.H.: First of all, in my work, I try not to focus on the emotional part of the job. I truly focus on the task and the characters. With highly professional people, the personal feelings should be left outside the door.
I’d like to know about the ICDN, which you co-founded. How does it help you professionally, how does it help casting directors in their jobs and how does it facilitate the casting process in Europe and the world?
R.H.: Throughout the last fifteen years, it has been of great assistance to my work and me, allowing me to share different challenges with my colleagues and to also help develop and reach new heights within the casting profession.
Talking about the under-appreciation of casting directors, in Locarno there is the European Casting Director Award now, and it’s the first and only festival that does that and it’s in partnership with the ICDN. Are there other initiatives?
R.H.: As far as I know, there is a group working on exactly that. For example, I was nominated for Best Casting in the series Ride Upon the Storm in London at the C21 Awards. So there are more initiatives!
According to you, how much of the magic of a film is thanks to a casting director – because a film would’ve been different were it another casting? How much of your work goes into this?
R.H.: I would love to say that casting is everything and I do my work as if it were. I try not to jump to easy solutions; every script has its own life. I don’t like reusing over and over again and I love to discover new sides of an actor. And I really have great fun when I discover a totally unknown actor, young or old – it doesn’t matter!
You say that “the diverse myriad across ethnicity is a must, and in general the interpersonal contact, the dialogue is the basis for the authentication we are thriving to reproduce in all the wonderful stories.” Can you elaborate on that?
R.H.: We work together with actors to create a snippet of reality and, at the same time, we work together as a team. Action and reaction create situations. It is really important to see actors eye to eye, with empathy and humanity, and understand and respect their challenges and communicate with them personally and truthfully.
When you do co-productions, how many do you get a year and how is it to work on a co-production in Denmark? What is the difference between working on purely Danish films and on co-productions with other countries?
R.H.: I do many co-productions – right now, with a German company and a wonderful German director, Friedemann Fromm. Once the culture barriers are down, we work as a team and it is a great inspiration for both of us.
How do you, personally, work when you are casting? What is your process?
R.H.: I research and I write casting texts to get the right emotions that the character demands. Often, the script is not written and I, therefore, write casting scenes that contain the needed emotions for the character like for instance jealousy, anger etc. And from that base, I improvise – mostly to see if the actor has fully understood the mental aspects of the part.
What is the film you are proudest of for your work as a casting director?
R.H.: The Celebration by Thomas Vinterberg and Breaking the Waves by Lars Von Trier. Both are very close to my heart.
The situation of women in the film industry is a very hot topic today. What is your take on it and how is it in Denmark?
R.H.: Luckily, we have lots of competent women in important positions in the industry in Denmark. Many skilled female photographers, set designers, directors etc. I am quite satisfied with the way it is in Denmark. As for the industry itself, I can only speak for myself and Denmark.
I believe you are not the only one in Denmark. How many more active female casting directors are there in Denmark right now? Do you work together?
R.H.: Since we don’t have an organization for casting directors in Denmark, I simply don’t know the amount. But when it comes to feature films, I guess five or seven are working with that – maybe more. Several are mostly doing commercials.
What is the next film you are working on?
R.H.: We start shooting a film in two weeks – it’s a drama. I am also working on the first HBO produced series in Denmark, The Conqueror, directed by Per Fly, whom I have been working with for more than twenty years now. I guess it is one of the largest projects we have had in Denmark until now.