Susanne Bier gives herself a little break
The Canadian Press
Sometimes you need a break from the heavy stuff. And most of Susanne Bier’s filmography is nothing but heavy stuff: The post-war drama Brothers, the grim family dramas After the Wedding and Things We Lost in the Fire, the Oscar-winning In a Better World. Big themes, big emotions, high stakes.
So it comes as a surprise to see Bier’s name on Love Is All You Need, a (literally) sunny romance about Ida (Trine Dyrholm, most recently seen in A Royal Affair), a middle-aged cancer survivor abandoned by her husband just before their daughter is to be married in Italy. Deciding to make the trip anyway, she winds up crashing into Philip (Pierce Brosnan), a widower who’s heading in the same direction.
You may have noticed the phrase “cancer survivor” in the previous paragraph. Bier’s not gone totally soft. Over the phone from Copenhagen, she explains that neither she nor her longtime collaborator, screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen, wanted to go totally soft.
“A number of times,” she says, “we had been approached with movies which dealt with cancer, and neither of us felt that we really had the right way of doing it. And then we realized that if we were doing a romantic comedy, maybe that’s how we could do it – we both felt very strongly that if we were to do a movie which dealt with cancer, it would have to have a positive, interesting message, and not be claustrophobic and everything. And then once we kind of went down that road, [the story] came very naturally.”
Bier points out that plenty of people in the real world have dealt with illness in their lives, refusing to let it define them. She saw Ida the same way, as someone who has a lot going on in her life – including the dissolution of her marriage – but won’t let it stop her from living.
“There’s a lot of romantic comedies around, and a lot of them, they bore me,” Bier laughs. “I mean, I’m not interested in [watching] two perfect kids who have perfect lives and perfect friends and perfect jobs, and all they need to do is meet one another. I was more intrigued by rooting for Philip and Ida meeting one another and having a second chance at happiness.”
I ask whether she had any difficulty selling her actors on the premise. Although the film is light in tone, both Ida and Philip have serious baggage to deal with over the course of it. Turned out it wasn’t the drama that made Dyrholm nervous.
“It was actually surprisingly easy,” Bier says. “Trine loved the part when she read it, but she was a little bit scared because she had done more serious parts. But I’ve seen her in the theatre, and I always thought she was extremely good at playing comedy.”
And then there’s the matter of Brosnan’s own relationship to the material. The actor lost his first wife, Cassandra, to ovarian cancer in 1991. She was 43.
“Pierce, you know, he has this whole history,” Bier says, “and I think he wanted to do something about that, but hadn’t found anything which was light enough to make him feel comfortable about doing it.”
I ask Bier if she and Jensen wrote the role with Brosnan in mind.
“Actually, I didn’t know about it,” she says. “I read about Pierce’s history prior to having a telephone conversation with him, and then I told him, ‘Look, you know, if you feel it’s too close, I get it, but I just think that maybe I could make it in a way that the balance would feel right,’ And that’s what he thought.”
And now that she’s wrapping up the promotional cycle for Love Is All You Need, Bier can return to post-production on her next film, Serena, an American period piece that reunites Silver Linings Playbook co-stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.
“It’s going great!” she says. “It’s coming along great, and they’re wonderful. It’s set in a logging camp in 1929; it’s very romantic and very dark. It isn’t finished yet … but sometime during the spring it should be ready.”
Love Is All You Need is available now on Blu-ray disc and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.