In September 2021, two movies will start in which Jannis Niewohner plays the leading role. We met the actor for an interview and talked to him about his roles and a break in England
Jannis Niewohner is one of the most successful young actors in Germany. Not a year goes by in which the 29-year-old does not bring a new film to the cinema or the libraries of the streaming services. Starting with his role of techno promoter Beat in the Amazon Prime series of the same name, for which he received the Grimme Prize, to his latest films, which will be released in September 2021. In “Confessions of the impostor Felix Krull” embodies the leading role in the film adaptation of the famous novel by Thomas Mann. And in “Je Suis Karl” he plays a right-wing student. We met the successful actor for an interview at the presentation of the new Opel Grandland in Frankfurt and talked to him about stacking up, the right preparation for a role, and his time in England.
Dear Jannis, you will be coming to the cinema with two new films in September. It seems like you never took a break – despite Corona. How did the shooting go?
“Unfortunately we had to interrupt the shooting for the film Felix Krull right at the beginning because Corona came. That was a real shame because we had a good team spirit. We had to take a three-month break before we could continue. We were among the first to be allowed to work again during the pandemic and that was great. Thanks to regular tests, we were able to be creative on set with the entire team. ”
In your latest movie, you play the main role of Felix Krull, a con man from the famous work of Thomas Mann. So a great responsibility. Did you have any doubts as to whether you could live up to the role?
“My uncle was a big fan of Thomas Mann and had given me the book when he was 18 because he probably saw me in the role back then. So the role was close to me. You have to free yourself from the question of whether you can do justice to a role. I already knew that because I had already made two novel adaptations – ‘Narcissus and Goldmund’ by Hermann Hesse and ‘Der Überläufer’ by Siegfried Lenz. The only challenge is to reconcile my own version of the role with the director’s (editor’s note, Detlev Buck directed ‘Confessions of Conqueror Felix Krull’), but that worked out very well in this case. You can never please everyone and if you think about it while you work and try to do everything right, creativity is lost. ”
The character Felix Krull is a con man who cheats his way through life with his acting talent. Have you faked a talent or ability in your career?
“As an actor, you have to do that all the time. A really good impostor doesn’t think to himself at the moment ‘I’m faking it’, but is firmly convinced that he can really do it. I prefer to prepare for the roles so well that I really feel I can. ”
In addition to the film adaptation of Felix Krull’s novel, in “Je Suis Karl” you play a right-wing radical student who, as the leader of a new right-wing movement, tries to recruit young people. A very political and not very easy topic. How do you prepare for a role like this?
“In order to be able to play such a role, it is essential to first understand how the ‘New Right’, which outwardly often appears very humane, modern and even peaceful, ticks. To internalize their mechanisms, I read a lot of books and watched documentaries. In the film, as the leader of this group, I have to give speeches in front of large crowds, I had to learn that first. To do this, I watched speeches by famous people like Barack Obama, Greta Thunberg, or Tom Cruise, who have amazing charisma and manage to give motivational speeches to get people excited about a topic. ”
Another way to prepare for a role was to stay in London for a long time earlier this year. How did that happen?
“The main reason was my role in the international film“ Munich ”, which will be released on Netflix this year. In it, I play a German who is studying at Oxford and for that, I had to learn the British accent. Apart from that, I also used the time in England as a break and lived in a shared apartment with a friend who was also in London. ”
That sounds a bit like a leap into the past, back to student days. How was it?
“I actually felt like I was 19 again. Life in the shared flat, just living into the day without having a plan and just drifting away. During that time, we mainly ate well, went for a lot of walks and finally went to a concert in a very small jazz bar. That was great!”
The films “Confessions of the impostor Felix Krull” and “Je Suis Karl” starring Jannis Niewohner will start in cinemas on September 2 and 16, 2021.