Nationality: Swedish. Born: Stockholm, 22 March 1955; daughter of the actor/director Stig Olin and the actress Britta Olin. Education: Attended Royal Dramatic Theater School of Sweden. Family: Married 1) the director Lasse Hallström, 1994, daughter: Tora; 2) the actor Orjan Ramberg, son: August. Career: Began dramatic school at 20, and three years later was employed at the Royal Dramatic Theater; 1976—film debut in Ingmar Bergman's Face to Face ; 1984—in Bergman's final directorial project, After the Rehearsal ; 1988—established her alliance with passionate characters whose portrayals will pervade her later repertoire with The Unbearable Lightness of Being . Awards: New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress, for Enemies, a Love Story , 1989. Agent: Martha Luttrell, International Creative Management, 8899 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048, U.S.A.
Ansikte mot Ansikte ( Face to Face ) (Bergman—for TV, originally broadcast in serial form) (as shop assistant)
Picassos aeventyr ( The Adventures of Picasso ) (Danielsson) (as Dolores)
Karleken ( Love )
Fanny och Alexander ( Fanny and Alexander ) (Bergman) (as Rosa)
Efter Repetitionen ( After the Rehearsal ) (Bergman) (as Anna Egerman)
Wallenberg: A Hero's Story (Lamont Johnson—for TV)
Flucht in den Norden ( Escape to the North ) (Engström); Pa Liv Och Dod ( A Matter of Life and Death )
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Kaufman) (as Sabina)
S/Y Glaedjen ( S/Y Joy ) (Du Rees); Enemies, a Love Story (Mazursky) (as Masha)
Havana (Pollack) (as Bobby Duran)
Romeo Is Bleeding (Medak) (as Mona Demarkov); Mr. Jones (Figgis) (as Dr. Libbie Bowen)
The Night and the Moment ( La Nuit et le Moment ) (Tato) (as The Marquise)
Night Falls on Manhattan (Lumet) (as Peggy Lindstrom); The Golden Hour (Hallström)
Polish Wedding (Connelly) (as Jadzia Pzoniak); Hamilton (Zwart) (as Tessie)
Mystery Men (Usher) (as Dr. Annabel Leek); The Ninth Gate (Polanski) (as Liana Telfer)
Interview with Margy Rochlin, in Interview (New York), January 1991.
Interview with David Rensin, in Playboy (Chicago), February 1991.
Interview with Tom Charity, in Time Out (London), 27 April 1994.
Harper's , January 1986.
American Film , November 1989.
Linfield, Susan, "How Swede She Is," in Rolling Stone (New York), 8 March 1990.
"Hot in Havana," in Fame , November 1990.
MacPherson, Malcolm, "The Thinking Man's Beauty," in Premiere (New York), January 1991.
"Swede Success," in Vanity Fair (New York), January 1991.
New York Times , 20 September 1991.
Hedges, Peter, "Driving Miss Olin," in Harper's Bazaar (New York), March 1993.
"What's Wrong with This Picture?" in Los Angeles Times , 24 October 1993.
Hooper, Joseph, "Love to Kill You," in Esquire (New York), December 1993.
* * *
Born to actor parents, Lena Olin, one of Sweden's leading actresses and a member of Ingmar Bergman's famed company, began her career on stage at the Royal Dramatic Theater where she acted in the classical repertoire, including Shakespeare, August Strindberg, and Anton Chekhov. On stage and in film, Olin has taken on classical and modern roles, but usually plays complicated, ambiguous women, such as the heroines of Strindberg and Lars Noren, a contemporary writer, who, like Strindberg, writes about perplexing Swedish women.
Her acting education in Sweden emphasized the minutiae of physical expression, unlike the education of many American actors who are indoctrinated into Method acting and its preoccupation with emotional states. "In school what was important was not how you felt inside, it was how you showed your feelings with your body and the sound of your voice. It was very practical work," she remarked. She admits this work was at times boring and tedious, but it has given her an unusually broad and precise physical vocabulary and the capacity for displaying contradictory feelings at the same time.
According to Jean Baudrillard, seduction is the process of letting oneself die in reality and become reconstituted in illusion, an idea that lends itself perfectly to Olin's screen persona. Her true nature is shy, and she claims to be embarrassed to walk down the street as herself rather than in a character. Yet she plays nude scenes unabashedly because she feels it is someone else who is bare, not her; she holds that "nudity is just another costume." Her seductiveness is the physical manifestation of fantasy, for herself as well as her audience. Sexuality is made visual and the illusion is unmistakably real. But her characters are more complicated than just being sexual, as they also live in worlds plagued by political upheavals such as Prague Spring, the Holocaust, and the Cuban Revolution. Her seductiveness is the product of courage and remarkable skill.
Following her 1976 film debut in a bit role in Bergman's Face to Face , she appeared in two more Bergman films, Fanny and Alexander , where she has only a minor role as a maid, and the ultracomplex After the Rehearsal , in which she portrays the chastising actress daughter of a womanizing director's (Erland Josephson) old lover. She was later playing Cordelia in a production of King Lear , directed by Bergman, when the executive producer of The Unbearable Lightness of Being spotted her. The resultant striking role of the hedonistic Sabina was her American film debut and earned her numerous other film offers. None interested her, however, until Enemies, a Love Story , where she plays Masha, the Russian concentration camp survivor, who uses physical passion to escape horrible memories and the future that awaits her. The portrayal also earned Olin her first Oscar nomination, as Best Supporting Actress.
To date, Olin has yet to match her successes of the late 1980s. Committed to art rather than celebrity, Olin's opportunities in Hollywood have certainly been limited, evidenced by the consecutive failures of Havana , Romeo Is Bleeding , and Mr. Jones . Her outrageous performance as a sexy Mafia hit woman in the second of these three, however, showed that she will simply need to seek out the right roles (and films) to recapture her earlier success.