Interview with Florian Lukas

published 4 November 2011
written by Kathy and Karo

Read the interview in German

When we heard of Florian Lukas, fellow actor of Rupert’s new film Into The White, attending the worldpremiere of the German-Chinese movie iPhone You in Berlin back in May, our Karo and Kathy didn’t hesitate. They took the event as a chance to get into an exclusive talk with Lukas, chatting about meeting Horst Schopis, foreign languages and a mysterious hood. Enjoy their report:

Well, that was a premiere you don’t see every day, starting right under a train station, eating famous Berlin Currywurst, drinking beer and ending in an impressive cinema, which once was a brewery.
Right before Florian was about to go on the red carpet we got a couple of minutes with him and he told us about wearing warm underwear, working schedules in Norway and their skiing skills on and off set.

Little side-note: While speaking to Florian, we were interrupted by a busy cinema-worker walking a motorcycle, asking us to hold a door open for him. Florian reacted without any airs and graces, opened the door saying: “Of course!” The poor employee turned as beet red when he eventually realised who he had just been talking to. Nice to know, there are still actors who are down-to-earth enough to open doors. 🙂 Was it cold?
FL: Yes, it was really cold in Norway, but we wore flight suits, so in that case it was the right thing to wear. Did you wear woolen underwear, just like a Norwegian journalist suggested? Did you need it, or were there other possibilities?
FL: Yeah, we sometimes wore fleece – fleece is certainly great – under our clothes. Like, when you didn’t see the uniforms underneath. There are two scenes in which we didn’t wear the flight suits outside. It looks really warm and cosy with the sunshine, but… …it wasn‘t.
FL: You just have to deal with it. Yeah. How many hours did you shoot per day? When you were outside in Norway?
FL: Well, in Norway, different to Germany, they are very strict with the working hours. We were outside for about ten hours, and in Sweden it is the same. In Germany, no one cares about the working hours; you start at 12 hours, just like that. Yeah, we stayed in an absolutely beautiful hotel, I don’t know if you’ve seen photos; and during the weekend, we went skiing. It was a great time. Did you go skiing privately, too?
FL: Yes, at the weekend, like I said. Conveniently, there was a ski-lift in the back and the director lent me his skis and so I could go. Well, in that case we have to ask if Rupert went skiing.
FL: *laughing* He’s never done it before.
FL: Yeeeeeeah… I saw him on skis. On set?
FL: In private. And in the movie he’s skiing, too. All five of you?
FL: Nope, only Rupert and Stig Henrik, the Norwegian actor, who plays a German soldier. These two?
FL: Yes. And what was it like, with this international cast? I mean, you five are from very different…

At this moment, we were interrupted, as he had to head over to the red carpet. However, Florian left with the suggestion of finding him for a second time after the film.

About two hours later, after the film and a Q&A, we met up with Florian Lukas again, who was not only set for a quick chat but spent an entire hour talking to us! How did you communicate on the set of “I Phone you“?
FL: With the aid of Dan, the director, and a translator. This means….
FL: German, English, Chinese, all mixed up. But as Julia, the moderator [of the Q&A], said, they are talking Chinese together all the time and… You stand aside…
FL: …you stand aside and you just listen to it, because it sounds really nice. And she has a pleasant kind of voice.
FL: Yes, but Yjyan [Jiang, the female lead actress], she talks even less English than you think she does. Well, I got the feeling she only understood half of everything, but they always keep on nodding nicely. It worked somehow. Sometimes with the aid of hands and feet. Did she even learn a little bit German? Or not at all?
FL: Not at all. They tried to teach me some Chinese words, but I don’t remember anything. Nothing. Not even what words they were. What about Norwegian? Is it easier?
FL: Yes! “Tyssen tag” means “Thank you”. “Szysseschieler” [paraphrased] or something like that is ‘actor’. They spoke Norwegian most of the time, not English, even though they speak perfect English, you just learned the words along the way. And there is a dessert called “Ekke tusses”. So there was food? 😉
FL: The food was great. I have never eaten that much fish in my life, like I did in Norway. So you basically spoke English on set?
FL: Only English, yes. Even though most of them learned German in school. There were many Swedish and Danish people in the team and what I didn’t know, they understand each other, even if everyone speaks in his own language. That was new for me and it is great. Yeah, we have a Danish staff member and she translates all the Swedish and Norwegian articles. She said that it is difficult for her to understand spoken Norwegian, but the texts …
FL: Yes, they understand, but don’t speak. That was kind of funny at the table. Three nations were sitting there and everyone spoke in his own language, but they understood each other. What was it like to meet Horst Schopis?
FL: That was amazing. He had an iPhone …
*everyone laughs*
FL: That was fascinating. He was 98 and he even knew how to use it. Something not even all young men do…
FL: He told me lots of things, even about the politics of the day. I mean, we didn’t have much time, and I thought “That’s nice Horst” – He offered me to call him by his first name- “but let us take a look back, less talking about Angela Merkel or Afghanistan.” He had an incredible overview and it is amazing to meet someone like him. He said: “You can ask me everything. Everything. Whether I was a Nazi…“
If you meet someone like him, as an actor, even more so if you have to play him, you ask unprejudiced without any judgement. You don’t confront someone with conceptions you could get in retrospect. It is good to imagine “I am in 1940” and you forget the whole mess of the years after. You are just a soldier. It was great to meet him. How much time did you get to talk with him?
FL: We had a whole evening and a little bit more the next day. Did you read his book?
FL: Yes. Well the part of the movie is a little bit short. It tells more about captivity as a prisoner of war. And I guess he was lucky to be brought over to Canada. They had…. It sounds almost ‘nice’…
FL: With all the attempts to escape, yes. I guess better than to be in Russia. But ‘nice’… I don’t think so, if you keep thinking “it can be half of a year or a whole year…” You don’t often meet someone who experienced all this. It’s rare. And many don’t or didn’t want to talk about that time. Did the other four actors get a chance to ask him something? For example what it was like in Grotli?
FL: It is documented very well in his book and the owner of the hotel, Arel, who runs it, he does so in the fifth generation. He showed us all the locations. The story is very bonded with the hotel, he was so proud of us being there, because this story is his family story, too. He knows very much. He also told us very much, because he knows all the details. He is the grandson?
FL: I don’t know, to be honest. He is in his fifties, I guess, so yeah, he has to be the grandson of the owner in 1940. Well, it isn’t like it was yesterday.
FL: Yeah, about 70 years ago. And the five of you? You are in very different periods of life, too.
FL: Yeah, Stig Henrik, the Norwegian actor, is quite cool. He is already a grandfather. And he is 45. Really?! We didn’t know that.
FL: Yes. And you know, he was the maddest of us. It was nice. And David is 20, right?
FL: He is 20 or 21. He’s a very focused pro, really great. It was a lot of fun, because we are quite different. And I guess you’ll see that in the movie. I hope you will. Not that you get bored with five guys just standing in plump suits. But the shots look amazing, I’ve never seen something like this before… they are awesome… Are you five very different compared to your roles?
FL: That’s difficult to say. I am not a Prussian officer. I don’t know. The most discrepancy is between Stig Henrik and his role. Definitely. He is a really playful guy who has to play a serious, silent German soldier. But anything else, it is really difficult to say. How did he do it? Did he get German lessons or did he learn it just right on set?
FL: Well, he had some German lessons, like many Norwegians, he understands some German. And I tried to help him. Right before the scenes or in the evening, we talked about his lines. He had a coach, but the coach taught him a strange military slang, so Prussian… Not High German. Well, it was somewhat absurd. Especially if a Norwegian tries it… And the movie is in English and German…?
FL: It is German, English, but the Germans speak better English than they did in 1940. He writes in the book, that they weren’t speaking English, only a little bit, but you can’t do a movie like this. I hope the English is ok, not that bad… I watched lots of old movies and the Germans are always speaking with a really hard accent and everyone is laughing about it. We didn’t want to do that. You can’t do this today. Did Rupert speak German with you? Because he learned it.
FL: Rupert didn’t speak German at all. Did he tell you…
FL: No… He kept that quiet…
FL: He can understand German??? Well, he learned it at school. He speaks a little bit.
FL: No, I didn’t know that…. Something for the premiere…
FL: Yeah, I will talk to him about that… I really didn’t know that. But his Liverpool accent is really heavy! Yes?!
FL: It’s fun listening to it. Is it that different to his own accent?
FL: Pretty different! If you read the lines… I mean, we know the lines, but sometimes it was really difficult to understand what he said. We asked every now and then “What did he say?”. Even the English people have their problems to understand this hard accent. And Lachlan? How do you pronouns his name, actually?
FL: Yeah, I asked that myself. Loch-lan, nah, Loch-lann. Lach-lenn? Loch-lahn. Lochlan. Lochlan Nieboer. Lochlan Nieboer. How was it? Did he speak a “normal“ English?
FL: Yes, he plays an upper-class officer and he speaks… well, like you imagine he would. Did Calle/Zentropa tell you what happened in the background via Twitter, among the fans? You know, you are starting to shoot the movie and everyone has an eye on it and waits desperately for news.
FL: You mean the blog? I didn’t follow it at first. They never showed any pictures of you guys.
FL: Nah, they didn’t. On the first day when we drove around in the snow, Rupert wore a funny winterhat. Do you know that hat? You mean from the tour?
FL: Yeah. I mean… he had this really funny woolly hat, with this funny woolen moustache. And Rupert is nice. Really nice. Yeah, there was this press conference and everyone was wondering why he is wearing a hood in those pictures…
FL: What hood? Well, Rupert wore a hood all the time. Was it because of the haircut? He didn’t show his hair one single time and everyone was wondering if he was ashamed.
FL: No idea. I can’t tell you. I never thought about it. You wouldn’t believe how people were thinking about it all the time.
FL: He just wore a hood. I don’t know. I think he was just tired. It was a long night. Yes, you can tell by looking at the photos.
FL: I didn’t even recognize myself!
FL: What are you two doing? Teacher and doctor.
FL: Doctor? And you are Yes, why?
FL: Well, I always wondered who it is. And you both are two out of… how many are there, working on the site? Active ones, cause some are currently too busy with their private life… about five of us. Five “Comrades”…

And with that, we said our goodbyes to each other, but not before Florian agreed to pose for another photo, once again showing us that he really is a thoroughly nice chap. Not every actor would spontaneously spend over an hour chatting with fans and giving an impromptu interview.
With the hope we’d see each other again in 2012 for the premieres of “Into The White”, we left the cinema, with the title song of “I Phone You” in our heads…

Tausend Dank an Florian Lukas für den tollen Abend, and for further information about “I Phone You”, check the official (German) website or imdb!

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