On My 25 Years in Lars von Trier’s World

Siobhan Fallon Hogan on her ongoing collaboration with the Danish auteur, including his company Zentropa producing her latest movie, Rushed.

I have worked as an actress for more than 30 years, in movies like Men in Black and Forrest Gump, and TV shows such as Saturday Night Live and Seinfeld. People who know me for my comedy work may not realize, however, that I have acted in three Lars von Trier films over the past 20 years: Dancer in the Dark, Dogville and The House That Jack Built.

I first gained entry into Lars’ world when casting director Avy Kaufman saw me play Phoebe in As You Like It (opposite Elizabeth McGovern’s Rosalind) in Shakespeare in the Park in New York. She took a chance on me and called me in for the very serious role of Brenda the prison guard in Dancer in the Dark, starring Björk, which ended up winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. I had two young kids at the time and my four-year-old, Bernadette, had an ear infection that kept me up all night before the audition. I was so exhausted that I was able to cry on command and got the role!

Siobhan Fallom Hogan and Björk in Dancer in the Dark.

When I arrived in Denmark, Lars invited me to his home to discuss my role. I had been fascinated with prison guards since my father, who was a lawyer in Upstate New York, had defended a prison guard from Auburn Correctional Facility who’d had a nervous breakdown after working in the high-security prison. I’d thought a lot about how hard it would be to work in a prison and pondered why someone would choose a job working with such dangerous people. My character Brenda ends up loving her prisoner, and I wondered what it would be like to go from terrified to compassionate.

Lars’ writing for women is superb and he has a fantastic sense of humor, so we immediately hit it off. On set, he lets the camera roll and brings out the best performances from every actor. He runs his set like a play, where the crew members are just as important as the actors. I learned so much from working with Lars, producer Vibeke Windeløv, and Lars’ producing partner Peter Aalbæk Jensen, namely that passion for the story is much more important than money or fame.

Siobhan Fallon Hogan in Dogville. (Photo by Rolf Konow, courtesy Zentropa Productions.)

A few years after Dancer in the Dark, Lars cast me in his next feature, Dogville. Working on that film was magical. We started shooting four months after 9/11. I had a three-month-old, a three-year-old and a six-year-old and Vibeke Windeløv used to hold my baby so I could eat breakfast. We all lived in a big inn in Sweden. I became great friends with Lauren Bacall, who was brilliantly funny. Stellan Skarsgård and Paul Bettany were hilarious, and the legendary Ben Gazzara was also part of our amazing cast. Everyone was still in shock from 9/11 and sat around a huge table every night, drinking. Because of my kids, I could only go up to “the table” once a week – it was honestly fantastic, with all the different personalities from all over the world. While Lars was shooting, Ben, Lauren and I were on set and were supposed to be improvising dialogue, but instead were like sixth graders in a school play, talking about anything but the dialogue. One time, we were laughing so hard over some ridiculous story that we were whispering to one another that we must have ruined the shot … Can you imagine?! We had to be separated, like kids. Lars, of course, just laughed.

Siobhan Fallom Hogan and Matt Dillon in The House That Jack Built.

Every time I ever left one of Lars’ sets, I knew I would be back again; I have this weird sixth sense – they call it “Irish Fay.” When I returned to do The House That Jack Built, it was my third time working with Lars. I adored my part, playing one of the women that Matt Dillon’s character murders, and loved reuniting with the crew, especially Peter Aalbæk Jensen. A year later, I went to Cannes for the premiere of The House That Jack Built; walking down the red carpet with Lars on my right and Matt on my left was like a dream. Lars got a seven-minute standing ovation before and after the film. He had not been to Cannes in several years and it was a beautiful welcome back from the audience. It was extremely moving and I was so happy for Lars, because he is a genius and a beautiful person and I truly adore him.

Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Lars von Trier and actress Sofie Gråbøl at the Cannes premiere of The House That Jack Built. (Photo courtesy Siobhan Fallon Hogan.)

Three years ago, I wrote Rushed, a thriller that tells the story of a mom in Upstate New York who goes toe to toe with a frat boy after her son is involved in a hazing incident. The inspiration for the story came from my own experience lying in bed, worried sick about my kids when they were off at college. When they didn’t answer their cell phones late at night, my mind used to go to the worst places imaginable. Because of my long working relationship with Lars, naturally, I sent the script for Rushed to a few producer friends at Lars’ production company, Zentropa. They read the script, loved it and were all in to co-produce. I was thrilled!

I then called every friend I loved to work with and started to cast the film. Robert Patrick, who I have acted opposite a number of times over the years, read the script and agreed to play my husband. I had also worked with Jake Weary from Animal Kingdom and my dear friend Peri Gilpin, who signed on to be in the film too. Avy Kaufman, the casting director who first cast me in Dancer in the Dark, cast the rest of the roles. My kids are in the film too!

The people in my town of Rumson, New Jersey, were beyond generous and housed crew members for free. I brought on Vibeke Muasya from Denmark to direct, who was suggested to me by Vibeke Windeløv, and she did a brilliant job! Our editor was Sabine Emiliani, who previously cut March of the Penguins and a movie I did with Johnny Depp, The Professor. Matthias Schubert, a brilliant cinematographer who I had worked with on a horror movie called The Shed, joined us too.

Siobhan Fallon Hogan and Robert Patrick in Rushed.

I’d learned from working with Lars to treat the crew and cast equally and for us all to be united by a common goal. There are no divas, no above-the-line or below-the-line on Lars’ sets. I treated people the way I would want to be treated and we all had a fabulous time. I followed the Zentropa way.

When I was set to return to Copenhagen for the sound edit, Peter Aalbaek Jensen said, “Siobhan, you will stay on my houseboat when you are here for the edit. My 23-year-old daughter will be there too.” I said, “OK, Peter, I love that – but I may baptize her when I come in some night!” (He knows I am a crazy Catholic.) He said, “Let me know how that goes.” Sadly, because of the pandemic, I ended up doing the sound remotely with the brilliant Kristian Eidnes Andersen and Thomas Jaeger.

Since finishing Rushed, I have written another film, Shelter in Solitude, which follows a faith-filled wannabe country singer and her unconventional relationship, and most of the crew from Rushed is coming back to make it. (Robert Patrick will play my brother this time!) We will start filming at the end of September in Upstate New York, in Syracuse and in my hometown of Cazenovia.

Rushed opened in theaters across the USA and in Europe on August 27, and can be streamed on all the major digital platforms. (I am a technical disaster, so I wouldn’t know how to download a film if you paid me! I love watching films old-style in a theater.) With this film, I took all I’ve learned over the course of my career, put pen to the page, raised money, hired friends and now Rushed is out in the world – it is a miracle! I am so grateful, especially to Lars for all the opportunities and showing me how to run a set where story always overrides ego!

Siobhan Fallon Hogan is the writer, producer and star of Rushed, which was coproduced by Lars von Trier’s Zentropa Films and Emerald Caz Productions, the company founded by Fallon Hogan and Peter Hogan in 2019. The actress has been in threevon Trier films since 2000, including the Palme d’ Or winner Dancer in the Dark, Dogville and The House that Jack Built. The actress has been in several blockbusters over the years including Men in Black, Forrest Gump, Holes, New in Town, Going in Style, Charlotte’s Web and Funny Games. Her televisions credits include Saturday Night Live, Seinfeld, Billions, Wayward Pines, 30 Rock, Law & Order and Love Life. Fallon Hogan and Peter Hogan have been married for 29 years and have three children: Bernadette, 26, a political reporter for the New York Post, Peter, 22, an actor and music producer, and Sinead, an actress and sophomore at Virginia Tech.