News from the Locarno Festival

Interview with Josef Hader

Piazza Grande


Josef Hader, tonight you will be back on the Piazza Grande, where in 2000 the festival showed Der Überfall, which won you the Leopard for Best Male Actor together with Roland Düringer and Joachim Bissmeier. What do you remember of that experience?

I have wonderful memories of the evening screening, the best of my life. On the one hand of course because of the Piazza Grande, on the other because our Austrian tragicomedy was subtitled in English in such an unbelievably laconic way, and this made it twice as fun than the original version. The Austrians use at least five sentences to make a joke, while in English it’s enough to use three... After that lovely experience, the award was a nice bonus.


Was it helpful, in order to step into the shoes of Stefan Zweig, that you had studied German literature for a period?

I actually stopped studying German literature because it seemed like a very harsh method to understand why men are stuck in a room writing... Of course, German studies is a very necessary discipline... for Germanists. I think that in order to study literature, as well as to play a historical character, the essential thing is intuition.


And how was it to step into the shoes of a superstar like Zweig?

Of course ours is a projection: no one knows how Zweig was really like. It’s good that there are short films of him, so we know how he moved and spoke. Without them, I would not have been able to play this character. But Maria has given me such confidence that I decided to impersonate this man with his many nuances, but shattered on the inside.


And did the fact that Maria Schrader is an actress help in the approach to the work?

Maria knows very well that the roles are developed before shooting, so she took several weeks to meet in Berlin and talk about the character with me. During filming, then, she was strictly an author who knew very well what she wanted.


You are best known as a cabaret performer and for your comic roles; how was it to play a tragic figure like Zweig?

Since the first reading of the script, I noticed that the figure of Zweig had tragicomic aspects. This has strengthened my convinction in ​​making this film. It was something really new for me and it was quite hard to play someone who lived in another time, speaking a language that is different from that of today.


One of the central themes of the film is the relationship between art and politics, and the question: should art be political? As an artist, what do you think about this?

I believe that an artist should not be more actively political than other citizens. I think that democracy as we know it survives thanks to the fact that citizens take an active position, and an artist, in my opinion, should be responsible as much as the others.


Sara Groisman

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