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Norwegian artist Eirik Sæther plays the male lead as Thomas, a narcissistic artist, in Kristoffer

Borgli’s latest black comedy, “Sick of Myself” (2022). The film premiered at the Cannes Film

Festival and follows a couple in a constant battle for attention as they go to increasingly absurd

lengths to take the spotlight from each other. Sæther works within the mediums of painting,

sculpture and video. His art primarily engages with the tension between high and low culture

and often explores the shifting borders between illusion and reality.


This transcript is an abridged version of the original interview.


"I've always enjoyed walking the thin line between social suicide and doing something interesting—experimenting with the uncomfortable."

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your background?

Eirik Sæther: I'm originally a visual artist and I've been working as an artist for ten years. In my

late career, I started making short movies and doing a lot of performance art where I acted out

socially unacceptable characters in a real environment. I also experimented with Instagram

stories where I would take on these very extreme, outward, narcissistic characters.

How did Kristoffer reach out to you about the role?

Eirik Sæther: We already knew each other but after I made the shorts, he followed my

Instagram stories. I guess he saw a connection between the stories and the short films I had

made. In one of them, I act as a narcissistic father controlling my son, and in the other, a

submissive son being controlled by my father.

Have you experienced something similar to the D2 Magazine photoshoot scene in real life?


Eirik Sæther: Yeah! The photoshoot scene is actually based on a real photoshoot I did for the

same magazine. I wore that same shirt, which I had designed myself and got bullied for it

because I looked so pretentious. I guess I have a pretentious side which I'm a little bit

embarrassed of. Kristoffer loves to drag that out and use it.


I noticed that the themes in your own artwork seem to coincide with the themes explored in the film, especially ones to do with the contention between illusion and reality. Is that a coincidence or do you both share common thematic interests?

Eirik Sæther: We do share similar interests in the way that we blur the borders between reality

and fiction and between self-representation and your own idea of yourself. After we went to

Cannes with the movie, I brought back a bunch of postcards and created paintings out of them. I

projected the postcards as my background, then I painted and blurred different objects on top of

it. It’s meant to represent this idea of Cannes being the ultimate spectacle of glamour. Then you

go there and you feel very little, like nothing.

So you felt a bit out of place at Cannes?

Eirik Sæther: I felt completely out of place. I just became an actor and have never been part of

the industry. For Kristoffer, it felt like a natural stepping stone. He told me he has always looked

to Cannes as the ultimate goal. But for me, I felt more like a tourist into another industry.

Throughout the film, Signe and Thomas go the extra mile to gain public attention. Have you ever done something so extreme to get attention?

Eirik Sæther: I've done a lot of very visible, stupid things which sometimes translates in a funny

way, but other times translates as super pretentious. I've always enjoyed walking the thin line

between social suicide and doing something interesting—experimenting with the uncomfortable.

So tell me about the shoot. What was the atmosphere like on set?

Eirik Sæther: It was an extremely good atmosphere. Everyone worked so hard to fulfill their

ideas within each of their departments. There was a lot of method acting going on as well, at

least from me. I was staying in character and acting out the asshole on set. Of course, it’s all fun

and games but it becomes intense as well.

There was one day on set for example, when we were shooting the scene where I brag about

stealing this bottle of wine. It was me and my best friend’s first day on set together so we were

trying to establish our relationship between takes. We were constantly throwing shit onto

Kristine’s character in order to figure out the dynamic between our characters. She, of course,

enjoys that as a professional actor but at the same time, we had to tone it down.

At the Q&A, you mentioned ‘The King of Comedy’ as a reference for the film. Were there any other films you had to study up for the role?

Eirik Sæther: There were so many. Most of them were film references for different scenes. I

can’t remember the title but there was a film linked to the scene where I walk into the furniture

shop and start throwing lamps at this security guard. That's a paraphrase of another film, which I

can't remember.

Is it ‘The Master’?

Eirik Sæther: Yeah! So you know the scene?


Yes, the scene where he lights someone and tries to take their photo.

Eirik Sæther: That’s the one. But for ‘The King of Comedy’, it’s more of a reference for Signe’s

character because it deals with her two layers of reality and fantasy playing out at the same


You mentioned that your favourite scene to shoot was the nut allergy scene because your co-actor went off script and actually tried to provoke you. How much of the film was improvised?

Eirik Sæther: There was very little improv. The film was written down to almost every word. It

was also a matter of economy because we were shooting in 35 millimetre. Sometimes, if we did 

two takes following the script and had it completely covered, then there would be some improv

during the third take. But usually, Kristoffer would get very anxious if we started to improvise.


Tell me about the dates you went on with your co-actor Kristine to prepare for the role. Whose idea was it?

Eirik Sæther: That was Kristine's working method. Due to Covid, we didn't do any auditions

together and I got the role without her having ever met me. She was quite annoyed that her

onscreen boyfriend was cast without her knowing, but we got along really well from the

beginning. Prior to the start of shooting, we went on these series of dates acting as our

characters. That was super fun because you’re put on the spot each time the other person

would ask a question—you have to come up with a life story from scratch.

I remember going into this performance during the date. There was someone talking in the

booth behind us about a famous Norwegian comedian called Thomas Giertsen who my

character would likely think is really bad. I looked at Kristine, stood up, and started mocking

them for liking Thomas Giertsen but in a way where I pretended that I totally agreed with them.

So through that, we found a way to bond the characters in their love for mocking other people in

order to make themselves feel stronger.

“I had this technique before shooting where I would take a chair, stand on it, and make up the most stupid, random speech to lower the bar and let all the extras know that I'm already a fool.”

Given that this is your first feature, how challenging did you find the process of preparing for the role?

Eirik Sæther: I found it easy to prepare for the scenes where my character is outwardly spoken.

It’s the ones where I have to contain my real emotions which I found the most difficult. I have

hundreds of videos on my phone from rehearsals with Kristoffer where I practise saying sorry for

something. It’s very funny because Kristoffer is just sitting there working on his script and I have

to come up behind his shoulder and say “Kristoffer, I wanna say something...”

After I got the role, I had a panic attack for the first time in my life. I had no idea how big the film

was going to be. Up until that point, everything I did onscreen was something I was completely

in control of. I could cut the footage wherever I wanted and I could even just scrap it if it didn't

go well. So the idea of having exactly three takes to make it and that's what it's going to be was

so frightening to me. I didn't even dare to tell Kristoffer but at the beginning of the research

phase, I had so much anxiety. Each time I read his name in an email, my heart would start

beating really fast.

I went to this psychiatrist for emergencies and I told him about my performance anxiety. He said

to me, “You’re afraid of making a fool out of yourself. So what you need to do is make a fool out

of yourself before the camera starts.” So I had this technique before shooting where I would

take a chair, stand on it, and make up the most stupid, random speech to lower the bar and let

all the extras know that I'm already a fool. That helped me a lot.

Are you working on anything else at the moment?

Eirik Sæther: I'm working as an artist every day, creating paintings, sculptures and videos, but

I'm doing auditions as well—trying to combine the two. In an ideal world, I would like to do both.


“Sick of Myself” was released in UK cinemas on 17th March 2023. Find Erik Sæther on Instagram or on his website.

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