Would you describe yourself as an aesthete?
Why are you laughing?
Doesn’t it sound vain to say yes?
No, not at all! It just means you appreciate beautiful things ...
Yes, OK then: I would.
What form does that take?
I love the beauty of simple things. Those are the aesthetics I appreciate and seek out: in nature, in the furnishings I choose and in my clothing. I like things to be more spartan than baroque.
What form does simplicity take in your home? Minimalist white?
No, there are always colours – Anglo-Saxon colours.
Greys, beiges ... The colours you see in homes in the UK and America. But I don’t leave it at that: the lounge in my last apartment was painted completely black.
Oh, that’s bold!
It was great! I like it dark.
What about clothes? You’re always well dressed in every photo, whatever the occasion
(Laughs.) A great suit is a great suit and a great shoe is a great shoe. There are no two ways about it. I don’t wear suits very often though ...
You don’t need to in your line of work ...
That’s true, but sometimes even in my profession you wish certain people had to wear a black suit ... (laughs). Whenever I’m travelling and working, I just take ten T-shirts and two pairs of jeans with me.
Clarity and simplicity again, then?
Exactly! I only take coloured T-shirts with me too so they can all be washed together. Simplicity can mean efficiency too.
Does it matter to you where things come from?
Absolutely! I look at what working conditions are like, for example. Not just when I choose clothes: I prefer to fly with airlines that are good employers and avoid others. I don’t eat meat – not because I don’t like the taste, but because I can’t ignore the way animals are kept ... That’s one of the biggest problems in our society: our ignorance!
You said earlier that you also appreciate the simplicity of nature. What does that simple nature look like? What kind of place would it be?
Oh, that place really does exist: my aunt bought a rustic little hut in Ticino back in the 50s. No electricity, just a well for water and no telephone, of course. It’s a 40-minute walk just to get there. And when you go home, you have to leave exactly the same amount of firewood as it was there when you arrived. It’s very spartan and quiet there – the most beautiful place I know.
Do you still go there to escape sometimes?
Yes, once a year. More often if I can. Perhaps it’s the necessary counterpoint to the rest of my life: lots of flying, lots of travelling, lots of people.
You always play totally different roles in very different genres – from a Bond baddie to a TV detective. What attracts you to this variety and to your roles?
Firstly, I love the freedom. Searching for freedom is what drives me. I spent a long time at the theatre and had a permanent contract at the Schauspielhaus Hannover for three plays. It was fantastic, but I felt constricted, which is why I traded in that security. I was 33 at the time and I wanted to reacquaint myself with my profession – get to know film as a genre. At first, the diversity came about because of the roles I was offered. Nowadays, I actively seek it.
Which roles can we see you in this year?
The independent art-house film Lost Ones will hit the screens this year.
What’s it about?
Abuse within a family – both psychological and physical. The father mistreats his daughters.
Is it about incest?
Yes ... I play the father ...
That’s heavy going!
Yes, very heavy going! The second film that’s coming out is totally different: In Kidnapping Stella, two men – one young and one a bit older – try to kidnap a woman, but it goes wrong ...
That sounds ...
... abstruse? Yes!
No, definitely not! A psychological thriller. Max von der Groeben and I kidnap Jella Hase. Unlike Lost Ones, it’s a commercial film. I don’t just like switching between genres and roles: I also enjoy different production types. I’ve just come back from America, where I filmed an international Netflix production – more of a feature film with a director who had previously only made documentaries. At the moment, I’m filming a 90-minute production for the German TV network ARD in Barcelona, where I play a detective ...
Is it the challenge that appeals to you then?
Definitely. I just enjoy it: the constantly changing formats, conditions and budgets. There were debuts for all the films too: the first full-length film, the first commercial film, the first feature film ... That was exciting: not knowing where the journey would take you but having shared coordinates; prioritising the project over everything else and devoting yourself to it ...
So would you say experimenting appeals to you as well?