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The Artist’s Wife: Lena Olin Discusses Optimism In A Midst Of Challenges [Exclusive Interview]

Lena Olin was born in Sweden with acting talent. She is the daughter of the actress Britta Holmberg and actor Stig Olin. Olins already had a successful career before arriving Hollywood. She has a remarkable career and is known for The Unberable Lightness of Being, Alias, Chocolat and Romeo Is Bleeding.  In addition, The Artist’s Wife that came out today in selector theaters and On-Damand.

Here is the synopsis of the film:

Claire (Lena Olin) lives a domestic life in the Hamptons as the wife of celebrated artist Richard Smythson (Bruce Dern). Once a promising painter herself, Claire now lives in the shadow of her husband’s illustrious career. While preparing work for his final show, Richard’s moods become increasingly erratic, and he is diagnosed with dementia. As his memory and behavior deteriorate, she shields his condition from the art community while trying to reconnect him with his estranged daughter and grandson from a previous marriage. Challenged by the loss of her world as she knew it, Claire must now decide whether to stand with Richard on the sidelines or step into the spotlight herself.

I had a lovely talk with Lena Olin to discuss her participation in The Artist’s Wife. She shared how much she enjoyed playing her character, Claire.

Nancy Tapia: Hello, Lena. I was fascinated by your character, Claire, in The Artist’s Wife. She gave this light of optimism when it comes to any life decision you decide to make. Can you tell me a little bit more to why you decided to sign on for this character?

Lena Olin: Hmm…I like what you said about optimisms cause that’s what I find too. I think Claire’s journey as she’s been married for decades. She’s had a great, complicated marriage. Then when life throws this at her and she has to sort of make out of love, I feel. Starts doing what she’s doing trying to protect and support Richard (Bruce Dern). There’s something very optimistic to me in how she connects with her own productivity. It’s almost like she gets her life back. Another kind of life, but she gets her life back in the midst of this tragedy. I think that was something powerful in that and that’s what attracted me to the project, among other things. 

The Artist's Wife
Lena Olin as Claire

Nancy Tapia: I admire the character’s wisdom. What was one of the characteristics that you admired about Claire?

Lena Olin: How she just keeps going and she so furiously protects him. You can’t with Alzheimers, it’s devastating. There’s no way of protecting someone from what goes on within himself and what he’s losing within himself. I feel that her furious way of trying to protect him I do admire that. She makes mistakes. She’s in a situation that is extremely challenging. I think that the ferocity with which she tries to protect him is something that I do admire.

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Nancy Tapia: I think most in the real world would have given up in the middle of it.

Lena Olin: Yeah…

Nancy Tapia: But that’s indeed a demonstration of love.

Lena Olin: Yeah..

Nancy Tapia: When it came to Claire’s feelings, there wasn’t a lot of dialogue. She was never very vocal about her frustration or pain. The camera takes focused in the impression, physical and facial expression. How challenging was that for you?

Lena Olin: I think that was really fun as an actor, because she’s not someone who talks about herself a lot or who she receives. The things that we can read as an audience is something that the camera will give away through, exactly what you said. Through feeling, what goes inside of her. I think that’s such a great challenge as an actor and it’s a great, fun part of our work. If it’s not all in your face, if it’s not all written in the script. I think with Claire, there’s so much going on, but she focuses on him, she focuses on his daughter. On how she can try and heal and help. Then the camera hopefully registers what goes on within her.

Nancy Tapia: I have to ask you, what was it like working with Bruce Dern? It must’ve been a great experience.

Lena Olin: It was such a blast. It was so much fun. I didn’t know him at all before. It’s so weird in our profession that we get thrown into relationship stuff (chuckles) stuff with people we don’t know. We don’t even know that we liked them and you’re supposed to be in this hot, loving relationship. It’s really a weird part and sometimes you just have to work your way through it (chuckles). But with Bruce there was just such a natural connection. He’s a really a fun person to be around. He’s so young at heart and mind. He will look at you and he will read things into who you are, which is so interesting. He would come up and say things to me, you know how people can say things to you about yourself. It’s like, “You have no idea.” You know? You’re just like “Mm.”

The Artist's Wife
Lena Olins as Claire and Bruce Dern as Richard

But with Bruce, it was almost a little poetic and fascinating. Then he would give really great advice and not with acting, but just the way he carries himself on set. Where he just throws himself into a scene. He will not say the lines that are written, always. Haha… A lot of the times he just goes on and he gets some kind of wind of something and he just runs with it. You just have to unbuckle him and hang in there, which is so much fun. I felt that! I was so intrigued and I think I have some sort of confidence in my work so that I could just sort of, “Okay, let’s take the gloves off Bruce.” And that was such a fun way of working.

Nancy Tapia: You guys definitely had a great chemistry in the scenes where everything was good. It was just super cute and humble.

Lena Olin: Haha

Nancy Tapia: This film was shown in a couple of film festivals. Did you have a chance to attend any of them?

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Lena Olin: Yes, a couple of them before all of this happened. Which was so rewarding and so great. In the Hamptons International Film Festival, a big part of the cast was there. Tom, (Tom Dolby, director) has been there a lot. Then we went to Mill Valley Festival Festival, which was amazing. We’ve had a couple, two or three festivals in Palm Spring. Maybe three festivals that we’ve gone to, which has been so great. It’s amazing to watch this film with an audience and to receive the reaction right after where people are very taken by it and it really stirs. I guess that’s why we do this, because we want to affect people. We want people to feel, we want people to ask questions to themselves and to the people around them. It was extremely rewarding to watch this with an audience and have Q and A’s or just be there afterwards and have people talk to you about and share. This film certainly opens up things and people would come up and share things with us. It was really sweet and great. So of course we wish we could do this more, but then it all stopped.

Nancy Tapia: We will get back to it eventually. Lena, it was a pleasure to speak to you. You have this extraordinary career history. I feel that this role of Claire was perfect for you, very classy.

Lena Olin: Thank you so much. I appreciate that.

Nancy Tapia: You did an awesome job and many more roles like this for you. Take care and thank you for the time.

Lena Olin: You too, thank you.

The Artist’s Wife is out in select theaters and On Demand today!

Source: LRM Online Exclusive

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