|Filmink Interview - Going for
the Grand Slam in Borg vs. McEnroe
November 14, 2017
The veteran Swedish actor
chimes in on his role as Lennart Bergelin, Bjorn Borg's devoted tennis
coach, in "Borg vs. McEnroe".
Did you know Bjorn Borg at the time the film is set?
I didnít know him, I met him years later for the first time. At that
time he was living in Monaco, because of tax reasons, which didnít go
down well in Sweden.
We like to build our heroes up so tall and then enjoy pulling them
down. Is that what happened to Borg?
I donít think he needed any help, but the problem is that he was the
biggest sports hero in Sweden ever Ė he still is. He didnít have the
tools to handle that kind of fame, no one did because there wasnít an
industry to do that. He quit school when he was 16 and his whole life
was just tennis. He didnít know anything about anything else, meaning
that youíre not really fit for this life.
Was the role exciting for you because you were able to play a
It was nice to play in Swedish, but that wasnít the reason. I read the
script and got interested, because Iím not interested in sports films,
per se. I was interested because this was dealing with richer human
material than they usually do, which caught my interest. I met with the
director [ Janus Metz Pedersen] and he started talking about what he
wanted to do, and what he wanted to express with the film, and all of
that to me was interesting. I saw that he had the strength and
persistency to actually do something interesting. Thatís why I took the
role. I have done one Swedish film in 20 years.
Have you ever been tempted to move to Los Angeles, or are you happy
enough being in Sweden and London?
[Laughs] Iím so happy being in Sweden. Sweden is a
brilliant country, the most emancipated country in the world. Even when
Iím in England I feel like Iím in a sexy old fashioned place, the
attitude towards children is much different than Sweden. The European
thing with the welfare state and taxes, I love it. It has been
undermined now severely because of a couple decades of new liberalism
and we are paying for it more and more. Sweden is still probably the
best place in the world to live, especially if youíre like me and have
eight children: good healthcare, good childcare, free schools and
Did Borg give the film his blessing at all?
Yeah, I met him at the premiere, and he was so happy. He was very happy
Has he become a humble person, or is he still the Borg that we
He has always been a humble person, very Scandinavian in that sense.
After Borg quit at the age of 26, he was a guy that had no puberty, he
had no life, it had only been tennis, didnít finish school, never read a
book. 26 years old, world famous millionaire, all the vultures descend
You got into your career at a very young age too Ė is this all that
you have ever done?
When I was 16, I was extremely famous like a rock star in Sweden. But I
had a very big and funny family that made it clear to me very early on,
that I shouldn't be led on to believe who they think I am. So the
difference between my person and the public figure that I was, I have
been constantly trying to undermine the gap between the two. Itís still
like that, I love my work, but itís not my life. The best job I have
done in my life is raising eight children. They are good together, they
have fun together, and itís the best thing Iíve done. That means I am
not vulnerable to the hazards of fame.
Your character, Lennart Bergelin, is deceased, but you spoke to his
wife. Was there anything interesting that she told you?
I didnít speak to her until one week before the opening. I rang her up
and apologized, because I was playing her husband, but not her husband.
She is 90 years old, a very funny woman. When you play someone that has
lived, reality has to take a step back because itís fiction that youíre
doing. Even if you do a documentary, itís still fiction in a way, itís
subjective, just depends on the angle. What I do is to mainly serve the
film. There are two things that you need to be careful of when you do
these films. Firstly, donít hurt anybody. Secondly, donít rewrite the
facts of history.
How can you avoid hurting someone when they havenít exactly been the
best person in their life?
In this film, we have several people who are still alive. The portrait
of Borg isnít overly flattering, but Borg was very happy anyway. It
tells a very distinct part of Borgís life, and thereís a level of truth
Whatís your own tennis game like?
My tennis gameÖ in Our Kind of Traitor, the John le Carre film, I had
two tennis games that I had to play in the script. So, I started
training, and I trained for months, but when we started I still couldnít
hit the ball. My tennis is really bad. Iím not good at any sports. Chess
Didnít this all sort of raise a generation of kids that wanted to be
Oh it did. After Borg there were some really good Swedish tennis
players. They dominated tennis for years; all the kids started playing
tennis. Itís failed now.
Were you like that?
No Iím hopeless. It scares the shit out of me, seeing a ball coming