No ‘Hollywood game’ for Matthias Schoenaerts, says Telegraph


Flemish actor Matthias Schoenaerts’ latest movie – spy blockbuster Red Sparrow – is reason enough for international journalists to pepper him with questions

Russian bad boy

Flemish actor Matthias Schoenaerts’ new movie Red Sparrow, starring Jennifer Lawrence as the quintessential sexy Russian spy, opened in cinemas this week. London’s The Telegraph has published a long interview with Schoenaerts’, reffering to him – as other media have – as “the Belgium Brando”.

In Red Sparrow, Schoenaerts (pictured) plays Lawrence’s malevolent uncle, convicing her to undergo a rigorous training to become an elite “sparrow” for the Russian secret service. As the Telegraph notes, a dully traditional spy blockbuster isn’t Schoenaerts’ usual kind of movie.

“I feel like people are very meticulous about image and about project,” he told the paper, by way of explanation, “and they sit downwith their managers and have five-hour meetings. That would drive me nuts. Everything becomes anticipation, and where’s the freedom in that? You’re just putting a corset around yourself.”

Schoenaerts rise to fame has indeed been as eclectic as it has been meteoric. Starting out in Flemish films and TV series in the 2000s, he got his big break playing Jacky Vamarsenille – a violent, hormone-addicted farmer – in Rundskop (Bullhead). It was nominated for an academy award in 2012.

Schoenaerts went on to play the lead in Alain van Versch’s Rust and Bone, and his international career was sealed. From the British war drama Suite Francaise to Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd to the Italian A Bigger Splash, the meaty roles just keep coming in.

He is easily the most successful Flemish actor of all time in terms of international productions. But he has no intention of relocating from his home in Antwerp. Actors, he continued, “try to do everything that answers that perception they want to create. It’s a horrible life, and I don’t want to be like that. That’s why you see so many sad actors. I want to be free.”

Photo: Kurt Desplenter/BELGA