Emerging talent is given an open stage at fest

AGATA BUZEK

Agata Buzek has already amassed an enviable list of credits, collaborating with some of the world’s leading filmmakers — from countrymen like Andrzej Wajda (“The Revenge,” 2002) and Krzysztof Zanussi (“The Hidden Treasure,” 2000), and international auteurs such as Marleen Gorris (“Within the Whirlwind,” 2008) and Peter Greenaway (“Nightwatching,” from 2007).

For me it’s essential, in this profession, to be diverse in your choices,” she says. “It’s exciting, and it also gives you the opportunity to develop and learn.

There’s no particular genre that’s most interesting to me; I just look for a story I want to tell, a story that makes sense, that touches me.”

The daughter of a former Polish prime minister, Buzek made her screen debut in 1998 on the international production “La ballata dei lavavetri” for ex-pat U.S. helmer Peter del Monte. She’s worked in TV and film ever since, in a variety of territories, and last year received the actress award at the 34th Polish Film Festival for her performance in Borys Lankosz’s “Reverse.”

The Hudsucker Proxy” and “Fargo” are among her favorite films, and she admits a desire to work with the Coen brothers. But the 33-year-old actress displays a refreshingly laid-back approach to her career: “I just want to live my life,” she says, “and manage the best way I can.”

DRAGOS BUCUR

Not only does Romanian actor Bucur come to the Berlinale this year representing the hottest nation, right now, on the international fest circuit, he can even claim some of the credit himself, having appeared in a number of the signal works of the New Romanian Cinema.

After pairing with Christi Puiu for the helmer’s debut feature, 2001’s “Stuff and Dough,” the pair re-teamed for the 2005 breakout pic “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.” The following year he starred in Radu Muntean’s “The Paper Will Be Blue,” and took a small role in Francis Ford Coppola’s Romanian-shot “Youth Without Youth.”

Most recently, he played the titular cop in Corneliu Porumboiu’s “Police, Adjective,” which won Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes, and has amassed critical raves around the world.

With his local industry in such rude health, Bucur is understandably hesitant, right now, to seek fame and fortune across the Atlantic. “I still have Romanian directors that I want to work with. We all started together, and we should go on together.”

Anyway, he says, though Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” remains one of his inspirations, by and large “I prefer European films. There’s something special about European cinematography — maybe,” he adds dryly, “because in those movies the actor is still more important than special effects and CGI.”

He has, however, recently starred alongside Colin Farrell and Ed Harris in Peter Weir’s WWII drama “The Way Back.” For Weir, he has nothing but praise: “He’s an amazing man, an artist. In a way, my dearest wish was fulfilled before I even had it.”

ANDERS BAASMO CHRISTIANSEN

Christiansen may be familiar to international viewers as the lead in Rune Denstad Langlo’s well-liked “North,” but in his homeland, he’s already a bona-fide star, renowned since his debut in the 2003 box office hit “Buddy” (which earned him actor kudos), and for his portrayal of the young Henrik Ibsen on TV.

Asked what actors he admires, he cites Stellan Skarsgard (“he shows it’s possible for a Scandinavian actor to have an international career”) and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Why Hoffman? “Look at me!” he laughs. “I’m a big guy, too. And I think it’s fascinating to watch him challenge the way a screen actor is ‘supposed’ to look. Plus, he’s doing all these different characters, making these very different kinds of films. He’s pushing himself all the time. And that’s what interests me. That restlessness.”

It’s a tendancy that shapes his own working habits: “Every time I do a movie I’m longing to be back on stage. Every time I do comedy, I want to get back into a drama. I’m never satisfied. It’s like I’m diving into something and trying to escape from it at the same time. That’s just what drives me, I guess.”

Given this, his 2010 looks especially satisfying, with a forthcoming TV comedy followed by Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” onstage in Oslo, alongside Liv Ullmann.

So why, then, does he seem so laid-back? “I kind of take things as they come. Years ago I thought that every door might open if I pushed hard enough. But I’m 34 now, and a lot more relaxed, and a lot happier.”

ZRINKA CVITESIC

As a teenager, Cvitesic was torn between music, acting and dancing. In the end, she joined the Croatian National Theatre company: “I took roles that scared me — Shakespeare, Chekhov — trying to find out who I was, testing myself and my abilities. Whether I … good enough.”

Her personal touchstones were revealing: one being Audrey Hepburn, a classic movie star (“she left a mark not only in filmmaking, but in fashion and in culture”); the other being Meryl Streep, a consummate professional, the actor’s actor. “If I’d done the kind of work she’s done, I could die feeling completely fulfilled.”

Cvitesic made her TV debut in 2000. She scored her first bigscreen role in Branko Ivanda’s pic “Horseman” (2004), earning a slew of favorable notices, and followed it a year later with the female lead in the wonderfully-titled “What’s a Man Without a Moustache?”

Most recently, she has starred as Luna in “On the Path” for former Berlinale Gold Bear-winner Jasmilla Zbanic (“Grbavica”), which screens in competition at this year’s Berlinale.

To me,” she says, “acting is like a sport. You have to practice every day, otherwise you get lazy and out of shape. You can backslide easily, forget your skills.

And in Croatia we don’t have so many choices: you either work, or not. You might be doing a theater drama for 600 people, or a soap opera, or something really tiny … but really, it’s not so different. Work is work. And the important things are always the same: a capable director, a strong script and a good team.”

ANAIS DEMOUSTIER

Anais Demoustier began her career with the kind of break many actors only dream of: alongside Isaballe Huppert in a Michael Haneke film, 2003’s “Time of the Wolf.” She was 14.

Today she looks back on the experience with gratitude but also a faint bit of regret: “It was an amazing time, crazy and exciting. But I think I was too young to really appreciate the opportunity for what it was, or to learn as much as I could have.” For that reason, she longs to work with Haneke again.

After graduating from high school, Demoustier trained in Lille and New York, and soon began landing films: “The Beautiful Person” in 2007 for Christophe Honore, “Grown-Ups” the same year. Soon she will be seen in Frederic Pelle’s “La tete ailleurs.”

Unsurprisingly, she declares her favorite actress is Huppert. “Without question. Partly because I began my career with her, and she helped me discover cinema. But more than that, because I love the choices she makes, the movies she does. She’s fearless. And whenever she does something, she does it with absolute conviction.”

Recently Demoustier showed courage of her own, as a troubled girl in writer-director Juliette Garcias’ “Be Good.” “It just felt truthful, to me. The character, her state of mind. And I think, for an actor, truth is the only essential thing.”

KRYSTOF HADEK

Born into a showbiz family in Prague — his mother, Jana Hadek, is a respected documentary filmmaker, and his older brother, Matthew Hadek, is an actor — Krystof Hadek elected to go into the family business, studying music and drama at the Prague National Conservatory.

While there, he was cast in Jan Sverak’s 2001 WWII drama “Dark Blue World” in which he portrayed the doomed flyer Karel, tormented by his unrequited love for a beautiful Englishwoman. The performance brought him to international attention, led to postgraduate studies at the London Academy and seemed to set the pattern for a career that has been divided between his homeland and other countries.

His filmography hints at a restless soul driven by a desire to push himself beyond his comfort zone. There’s a U.S. credit — Steven Edell’s “A Son’s War” in 2008. But there’s also a Spanish feature (“Cosmos”) and a Swedish production, Fredrik Edfeldt’s superb “The Girl,” one of the Variety Critics’ Choice films at last year’s Karlovy Vary fest. Few of his generation could claim to have worked so widely. And he’s not yet 30.

Hadek has just wrapped Czech-German co-prod “Three Seasons in Hell” for writer-director Tomas Masin. He plays a young poet in communist Czechoslovakia who retreats from Soviet ideology into a private world of sexual hedonism.

EDWARD HOGG

British actor Edward Hogg graduated from London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 2002 and plunged into legit work — along the way amassing a string of bit parts in various films, most notably Charles Shyer’s 2004 remake of “Alfie”.

But it was his lead role in Dominic Murphy’s “White Lightnin’ ” — as Appalachian “dancing outlaw” Jesco White — that bought him to international attention. Hogg’s performance revealed the focused intensity of his stage work, and generated strong word of mouth, earning him actor awards at the Monterrey and Mumbai film festivals in 2009, and a British Independent Film Award nomination for Most Promising Newcomer.

Yet he’s quick to share credit with Murphy: “So much of acting, to me, is about your relationship with the director. You do the best work when you’re comfortable and confident and it’s possible to stretch yourself.

I remember watching the LA BAFTA awards on TV, and there was (Robert) De Niro, and they showed some clips. And you realize that every one of his early films was incredible — especially his work with Scorsese.

And it occurred to me that that’s the key: as an actor, starting out, you need to find a director who wants to work with you repeatedly, so that you can build up a sense of trust in each other. And if you do, you’ll find you can give them more than you know you’re capable of.”

For now, the Yorkshire-born actor is pragmatic: “I take the work when it’s given,” he says. “It’s not like I’m being offered six films and get to take my pick.”

MICHELE RIONDINO

Some actors are besotted by the sound of their own voices; Michele Riondino is not one of them. The 30-year-old Italian takes most pleasure in the sheer physicality of acting: “I tend to focus my attention, first of all, on gesture and movement, and the way these things then shape the voice and the language of a character,” he explains.

At first, more than a psychological interpretation, I start by challenging the script physically — trying to develop a physical memory, rather than just a reading of the lines I’m speaking.”

After graduating from drama school in 2000, Riondino worked successfully in theater and TV before commencing his film career in 2008 with “The Past Is a Foreign Land” for helmer Daniele Vicari. This electrifying debut propelled him to attention, earning him awards at the Rome and Miami film festivals.

He followed with roles in Marco Risi’s “Fortapasc” and Valerio Mieli’s “Ten Winters” (both 2009) and can soon be seen in Mario Martone’s forthcoming “Noi credevamo.”

The Taranto-born actor is very thoughtful about his craft. Asked what directors he’d like to work with, he replies that, because of his fascination with movement, he’s naturally drawn to the grotesque and surreal: “Therefore, my first choice would be Tim Burton.”

But at the same time, he adds, “I also like the silence of characters just living in a world they didn’t choose, driven by a tragic fate that uses them. So I also very much admire Gus Van Sant.”

LOTTE VERBEEK

While studying at the Theatre Academy in her hometown of Amsterdam (she graduated in 2008), Dutch actress Verbeek won the lead in a TV drama series, “Moes,” which bought her to national attention. Film roles followed most notably, in Urszula Antoniak’s 2009 drama “Nothing Personal,” for which she received actress awards at the Locarno and Marrakesh fests.

In addition to Dutch and English, the 27-year-old is fluent in French, Italian and German. “I love languages,” she says. “And in particular, acting in other languages. To me, the whole basis of acting is curiosity. In people, of course, but also in other cultures.

At the same time, you’re never 100% at ease in another language; you’re always a visitor. Which is good, because I do feel that you can only bring out the best if you’re not comfortable. It brings out something fresh in you, and makes it intriguing, hopefully, for an audience.” She laughs, brightly. “Hopefully!”

But it’s also a sound career decision, as Verbeek admits: “I want to be able to work across Europe, not just in the Netherlands. There are so many incredible filmmakers out there, so many opportunities.”

Nevertheless, she remains equally committed to legit work: “You can get selfish, I think, with the camera focused only on you.”

PIHLA VIITALA

In 2009, 27-year-old Finnish actress Pihla Viitala barely paused long enough to draw breath, with leads in three features (including Julius Kemp’s “Reykjavik Whale-Watching Massacre”) and TV.

She’s just wrapped the Aki Kaurismaki-produced “Bad Family,” and wrote and directed her first film, a half-hour short. “I do like to be busy,” she admits, laughing.

Helsinki native made her film debut in 2007 with “Ganes” and quickly established herself as one of the most visible thesps there. “I have a dream that I might act in French movies,” she admits. “I lived there, studied there. I speak French.”

What’s the appeal of the French industry? “Well, partly the fact that it is an industry. Finland has no real film industry to speak of — we only make about 10 films a year. … And for a woman it’s even more difficult, because most of the roles are for men. I’ve been very, very lucky to have done as much as I have.”

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