The Worst Person in the World’s Renate Reinsve was ‘always the black sheep’

When Renate Reinsve won one of the highest honours at Cannes, it was vindication against all who doubted her.

Maybe you haven’t heard of Renate Reinsve yet, but after you see her in The Worst Person in the World, you’ll never forget her name.

The Norwegian actor is the lead of filmmaker Joachim Trier’s unusual rom-com, a coming-of-age story centred on a thirty-something woman whose uncertainly about love, work and family leads her down many paths.

Reinsve’s compassionate performance of a flawed and relatable character gained notice at the Cannes Film Festival in May, where she won the prestigious festival’s Best Actress honour.

The little-known actor was as surprised as anyone else, and she barely had time to process the momentous occasion, as she was thrust into the press room and then straight to Louis Vuitton where she had to return the borrowed jewels she adorned that night.

It took her six months before she could really reflect on what it all meant, especially as she was so close to walking away from all of it before that fateful call from Trier.

“The day before Joachim called me, I actually gave up on acting,” Reinsve told “Because it never really happened [for me]. A lot of productions I was in, they were so concerned about money and selling tickets and I didn’t enjoy it. So, I thought I’d do something else.”

That something else was going to be carpentry, a craft she found a connection with after renovating a house.

“I felt very empowered, but I wasn’t good at it. Everything is crooked and weird in the house I renovated. And I didn’t see so many women doing carpentry, so I wanted to create an environment where girls could do it and also fix things themselves.

“Because we throw away so many things. I just wanted to learn it to make my own stuff. In carpentry, you have this thing and then you have another thing and it goes together and becomes a thing.

“But in acting, it’s maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong. But I won’t know until a year later.”

Until The Worst Person in the World, Reinsve hadn’t scored a meaty, lead role. Her first film role was in Trier’s 2011 film Oslo, August 31, and he wrote the part of Julie in The Worst Person in the World with her in mind after their decade-earlier collaboration.

And she didn’t have the greatest encouragement starting out.

“I had so many acting teachers who told me I could never do it because I only focused on what I thought was fun, and what I really wanted to do,” she shared. “And I was called lazy, and I was even kicked out of high school because I didn’t clean my desk and I didn’t do all the stuff in the Norwegian language classes that I was supposed to.

“And it was the same teacher who was the drama teacher. I only focused on acting so she told me to leave. She said, ‘There’s no point for you to go here’.

“I was always the black sheep. But I’ve stood by only doing things I think is fun and that I enjoy doing. Now, I’m actually having a good time and I can really stand up for every movie I’ve made throughout. I’m proud of that now.

“But I never thought I was going to make it anywhere because so many people told me I didn’t have it in me.”

Of course, that drama teacher is now bragging to the local paper of the town she went to school in that she was “so happy to be part of my journey”. Isn’t that just a kick?

Perhaps it’s because she’s been underestimated and overlooked that Reinsve found she could relate to Julie’s story in The Worst Person in the World, and perhaps that’s what Trier saw in Reinsve that he wrote the role with her in mind.

It’s the fact that Julie is not perfect, that she’s impulsive, indecisive and a little bit self-centred that makes the character so relatable.

“She feels uncomfortable to be in her emotions,” Reinsve explained. “She’s uncomfortable with being herself and she’s trying to pull out of the situation and standing on the outside of it.

“I could really recognise the duality of that particular place to be.

“She was very self-destructive. She would sneak into a party and try to mess things up for herself, like flirting with another guy and just making her own fun. I love that about Julie, and I can relate to that, being self-destructive.

“We grow up a lot later than my grandmother or mother. They had to make their choices earlier.

“This is a coming-of-age story and a very good portrait of the time we live in. It’s a confusing time, there’s so much information from everywhere and you are supposed to brag about yourself but also be invisible.

“You’re supposed to be perfect but not too perfect. It’s inhumane. It’s not possible.

“Julie is struggling with that too – she needs to be perfect and trying to figure out what that is. And in the end, she gives up a little bit and accepts that it’s not possible, that she is sad, lonely and shameful, and that’s OK.”

The Worst Person in the World is in cinemas now

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Originally published as The Worst Person in the World’s Renate Reinsve was ‘always the black sheep’

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