Berlin Turns It On For European Shooting Stars: We Speak To Icelandic Actress Kristin Þóra Haraldsdóttir

EFP (European Film Promotion) and its supporters brought together the 22nd edition of the EUROPEAN SHOOTING STARS programme to Berlin International Film Festival. The ceremony, held on 11 February, at Berlinale Palast, was held in the presence of Festival Director Dieter Kosslick and Monika Grütters, German Federal Government Commissioner of Culture and the Media and a number of Europe’s cultural ministers.

The European Shooting Stars 2019 are supported by the following EFP member organisations: Danish Film Institute, Estonian Film Institute, German Films, Icelandic Film Centre, Screen Ireland, Macedonian Film Agency, Norwegian Film Institute, Polish Film Institute, Film Center Serbia and Swedish Film Institute.

European Shooting Stars Press Event, Berlin, 9 February 2019. Photo Credit: Lisa Hafey
European Shooting Stars Press Event, Berlin, 9 February 2019. Photo Credit: Lisa Hafey

This year’s European Shooting Stars were welcomed to the Berlinale Palast stage by US producer Martha de Laurentiis, responsible for no fewer than 40 films and miniseries, including both ‘Hannibal’ films and TV series – and presented with the European Shooting Star Award, donated by longstanding partner, Leysen1855. The prominent talent programme, which this year celebrates its 22nd edition, is financially supported by the Creative Europe – MEDIA Programme of the European Union, and participating EFP member organisations.

European Shootings Stars 2019 © Andreas Rentz / EFP
European Shootings Stars 2019 © Andreas Rentz/EFP

The above photo shows from left-right:

Ine Marie Wilmann (Norway), Milan Marić (Serbia), Ardalan Esmaili (Sweden), Aisling Franciosi (Ireland), Dawid Ogrodnik (Poland), Kristin Thora Haraldsdóttir (Iceland), Emma Drogunova(Germany), Rea Lest (Estonia), Blagoj Veselinov (FYR of Macedonia), Elliott Crosset Hove (Denmark), Dieter Kosslick (Festival Director of the Berlin International Film Festival).

On Saturday, 9 February, we attended EFP’s press event and heard from each of the European Shooting Stars, hosted by British film critic and presenter, Jason Solomons. Afterwards we had the immense privilege to speak to Icelandic actress, Kristin Þóra Haraldsdóttir, star of the recent release, ‘And Breathe Normally’, directed by Isold Uggadóttir.

I  hadn’t realised you had lived in Orpington! I’m from Bromley!

Really!

I heard and thought, oh my God! I’ll start with that! And that’s really thrown a lot of my questions out because you’ve really lived everywhere haven’t you?

Well I won’t say everywhere, but yes, I was born in Iceland and then we moved to Scotland, so I was a Dundonian…

I have friends in Dundee!

Then we moved to London, and lived in Orpington. Then back to Iceland, and I also lived in Denmark for one summer, and of course being a bilingual child I thought I adapted pretty quickly.

And kids do don’t they!

Yeah!

So do you live in Iceland now?

Yes I do.

Kristin Þóra Haraldsdóttir - European Shooting Stars Press Event, Berlin, 9 February 2019. Photo Credit: Lisa Hafey
Kristin Þóra Haraldsdóttir – European Shooting Stars Press Event, Berlin, 9 February 2019. Photo Credit: Lisa Hafey

How do you feel to be included as a European Shooting Star? Is it amazing?

It is amazing! It’s a huge honour, and it’s really surprising, and I’m a little bit nervous also, and it feels strange, saying it’s nervewracking when it’s such a huge opportunity, but of course it’s the first time I’ve had to do all these sorts of interviews, and I’m learning at the same time.

You’ve really just got into film recently?

Yeah!

And you’ve basically been thrown into the deep end, winning awards…

I’ve not won yet!

Nominated nominated! But you’ve just started really so it’s pretty huge.

I’ve had a lot of training in the theatre though, so like acting wise, it gave me a huge advantage, learning everything about the film industry.

Kristin Þóra Haraldsdóttir - European Shooting Stars Press Event, Berlin, 9 February 2019. Photo Credit: Lisa Hafey
Kristin Þóra Haraldsdóttir – European Shooting Stars Press Event, Berlin, 9 February 2019. Photo Credit: Lisa Hafey

Iceland seems to be this country of over-achievers [laughs] it’s not a bad thing – but what is it about Iceland that produces these people who get to the top of their game? Is it because it’s a big country with a small population – do you have a lot to prove do you think?

I don’t know, it’s a really interesting question. There’s not an answer I can really give you – but maybe it’s like the force of nature gives you energy; I don’t know.

It just seems like there’s a lot of big Icelandic names out there, it just strikes me like there’s something in the people?

I’ve never really thought about it! Maybe it’s the Viking element – the whole “go all the way” attitude! It’s all extremes – either it’s freezing or it’s not – like an example from nature, our biggest glacier is also an active volcano! To me it’s so much growing up around that energy – maybe it gives you some kind of [growls] force to do something!

So, with that in mind, how much of a part do you feel Iceland itself has played in the formation of your acting style?

I think I use that example as a metaphor in my mind – about the biggest glacier also being an active volcano – I try to find the opposites of the character, what the contrasts are, what’s surprising; there’s always new elements. So quite a lot actually!

Emma Drogunova, Ardalan Esmaili, and Kristin Þóra Haraldsdóttir speaking to Jason Solomons - European Shooting Stars Press Event, Berlin, 9 February 2019. Photo Credit: Lisa Hafey
Emma Drogunova, Ardalan Esmaili, and Kristin Þóra Haraldsdóttir speaking to Jason Solomons – European Shooting Stars Press Event, Berlin, 9 February 2019. Photo Credit: Lisa Hafey

So when did you decide to become an actor?

Because I was raised in the United Kingdom, in Dundee and London, my parents didn’t have any babysitters for me and my brother, they always took us with them when they wanted to go to shows, so I wasn’t just seeing “children’s” plays, I was seeing a wide variety of theatre, so maybe that inspired me to become part of it.

Is your family an artistic, acting sort of family?

No! They’re a lot of doctors, and in business, just had an interest in culture, theatre and music.

I watched ‘And Breathe Normally’ last night, and I was struck by how believable your character was. So how did you prepare for that.

I listened to a lot of podcasts, people who were recovering from addictions, and also I focused a lot on motherhood, because I believe that is what the two main characters (Lára, Kristin’s character, and Adja, played by Babetida Sadjo) had in common. So often we think there’s not a “we”, that it’s “us” and “you”, and forget that we are all the same, and the motherhood is something they connected on. I focused on all those feelings.

European Shooting Stars Press Event, Berlin, 9 February 2019. Photo Credit: Lisa Hafey
European Shooting Stars Press Event, Berlin, 9 February 2019. Photo Credit: Lisa Hafey

I was thinking how Lára was going through her own turmoil, and trying to cover up for Eldar – how do you do that!

And in the backstory, she had lost custody of Eldar once already, so she didn’t want to have to go through that again, she had so much to fight for. It was such an important element that was used so often through the story, that she was so breakable; something that you’d never imagine, “that could happen to me” “I will never be the mother who lost a child”.

I was really worried that she was going to lose him again, I was really rooting for her! [Kristin: YESS] So what’s next on your personal horizon?

I’ll be doing more theatre work, with the National Theatre of Iceland, and I’ll be spending time with my family and friends.

One more question! What question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview but nobody ever does?

I’m always so nervous about questions that I never have time to think what *would* I like to be asked! No dream question – just a dream of stopping being so nervous!

Thank you so much for speaking to us.

You can find out more about European Shooting Stars from their official website.

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About the author

Lisa has been writing for over 20 years, starting as the entertainment editor on her university newspaper. Since then she's written for Popwrapped, Maximum Pop, Celebmix, and ListenOnRepeat.

Lisa loves all good music, with particular fondness for Jedward and David Bowie. She's interviewed Edward Grimes (Jedward), Kevin Godley, Trevor Horn, Paul Young, Peter Cox (Go West), Brendan B Brown (Wheatus), Bruce Foxton (The Jam), among many many more. Lisa is also available for freelance writing - please email lisa@essentiallypop.com

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