Hometown: Copenhagen, Denmark.
Least Favorite Thing About the Business: “So many people expect me to expose a lot about myself, private stuff, instead of concentrating on the work I’ve done.”
Favorite Thing: “Being able to live from doing what I am best at, acting!”
Priorities: In the near future she’ll be sticking close to home, says Hjejle, who is mother to a young son. “The most important thing for me,” she says, “is to have things working in Denmark.”
Danish actress Iben Hjejle, 28, emerged on the international film radar when her second pic, “Mifune,” bowed at the Berlin Intl. Film Festival last year.
The thesp, who hails from the theater world and had done just one prior pic (1996 Danish feature “Portland”), turned in a controlled but feisty perf as a troubled Copenhagen call girl who escapes her tormentor by taking a job as a housekeeper for a dysfunctional set of brothers in the countryside.
Not only was “Mifune” the most hotly chased pic at the fest (Sony Pictures Classics won the U.S. rights and released it this month), but Hjejle had been chosen to represent her country in the new talent showcase Shooting Stars, a sort of debutante ball for European actors held during the Berlin fest. At the Shooting Stars gala, she and “Mifune” director Soren Kragh-Jacobsen approached helmer Stephen Frears for a chat.
“After a few minutes,” remembers Hjejle, “he asked me if I’d be interested in working in the states.” Frears was working with John Cusack on an adaptation of “High Fidelity,” Brit Nick Hornby’s popular novel about a North London record shop owner named Rob who’s been dumped by his girlfriend and revisits old relationships to make sense of his predicament.
Frears reworked the material and set the story in Chicago. Hjejle snagged the part of Laura, the girlfriend Rob has lost and obsesses over. Luckily, she’d spent a year in America while in high school and her mother is an English teacher so Hjejle had little problem sounding American.
In fact, the Danish actress was so convincing she was surprised when she saw herself in some of the footage: “Who’s that cute little blonde American girl? Oh my God, it’s me!” she remembers thinking. Hjejle also credits her dialogue coach for helping her make the American inflections ring true.
While she’s grateful to have been asked to work on a Hollywood pic, Hjejle keeps it all in perspective. Noting her first taste of star power on a studio set, she says: “I was horrified a truckload of Coca-Cola would be flown in if I said I was thirsty.”
While she doesn’t rule out more overseas work (she’s repped in the U.S. by the William Morris Agency), she’ll next do some theater in Copenhagen before moving on to another Danish pic with Kragh-Jacobsen called “Skagerak.”