His recent roles include Philippe in romantic adventure film If the Sun Explodes and playing the adorable love interest Timo in Dutch comedy Taal is zeg maar echt mijn ding (Language is kind of my thing) earlier this year. But come June audiences can expect to see Dutch ‘rom-com’ favourite Egbert-Jan Weeber in a very different role: playing Bonifatius, one of the most famous saints in Dutch history, in the medieval epic Redbad. Set to be one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters and also starring Breaking Bad actor Jonathan Banks, we caught up with Weeber to find out more about the must-see movie. Laidback, friendly and extremely honest: Weeber also told us about why he is ready to shake up his image a little bit, and move away from the ‘nice guy’ roles.
With his classic good looks and on-screen charisma, 36-year-old Weeber has been a staple of the Dutch ‘rom-com’ scene for almost two decades now – something which he is keen not to dismiss. For example, in January’s movie adaptation of the book Taal is zeg maar echt mijn ding he played ‘sweet guy’ Timo. “When I started acting I was always the angry young kid, and now I’ve played the love interest in a lot of romantic comedies. I’m not gonna complain,” he laughs. However, in a similar fashion to Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey – famed for his ‘McConaissance’ with the 2013 AIDS drama Dallas Buyers Club – Weeber is ready for a reinvention. “I’m hungry for more edginess!” he grins
Expect to see Weeber everywhere this June, when the eagerly anticipated historical epic Redbad is released in the Netherlands. Weeber portrays the famous church reformer Bonifatius, who was murdered at Dokkum in 754, in the Roel Reiné-directed movie. “It was fun to play a real, historical person,” recalls Weeber of playing the English-born monk and sporting the traditional ‘tonsure’ hairstyle. “I had to be bald for four months! Bald on top with this round haircut.” Perhaps not a style Weeber would opt for in real life, but he loved the transformation. “I love extreme stuff and that’s why I liked being bald for four months. Having another look, that already helps a lot in preparing for a role.”
Described as a historic, action-packed epic about the growth of Christianity and the adventures and ancient stories surrounding Redbad, King of the Frisians, the film was shot in Denmark, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. It also features Dutch actor Gijs Naber in the role of Redbad, Breaking Bad star Jonathan Banks, and Danish actor Søren Malling, known for his roles in The Killing and Borgen.
“It’s quite a big movie,” enthuses Weeber. “It’s a similar topic to the British television series The Last Kingdom. It’s about old Holland when it was like a swamp. We have three big rivers in the middle of Holland and everything in the north of those rivers was called Frisia. There was a tribe of people with a king and they weren’t into Christianity. They had their own beliefs, like what the Celts had before – and the Vikings. They were more connected to nature, instead of rules of fear, you know? But they were attacked from the south, where they had the bible. So really it’s a movie about wars, about religion…There’s quite a political message, that people should be free to believe what they want.”
Step back in time
Redbad is not Weeber’s first time in a historical drama, nor is it his first time collaborating with director Reiné, who has also directed episodes of American TV series such as Black Sails and Inhumans. “I also worked with Reiné on the 2015 movie Michiel de Ruyter,” he points out. Known as Admiral in English, the film – which topped the box office in the Netherlands – told the story of the famous Dutch admiral who was known for his role in the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th century. “Working with Reiné, everything is bigger than what we are used to in Holland,” explains Weeber. “He’s based in Hollywood and he knows how to make big movies, but on a smaller budget. He’s really efficient and very fast – there’s always such a strong energy on set. He’s a warrior!” It is also the historical aspect of working with Reiné that appeals to Weeber. “After all, so many films in Holland are set in the present day,” he adds.
Hungry for more
Weeber would love the opportunity to tackle more period dramas, and is also keen to take on more ‘tough guy’ roles. Watching the BBC crime drama Peaky Blinders, which is set in Birmingham, England, in the aftermath of World War I has been particularly inspiring. “I’ve been binge watching it recently,” smiles the actor. “I love its toughness. I’m really hungry for a little more edginess. To be honest, I’m looking forward to playing more nasty bad guys – not the friendly guy anymore!”
Another role that appeals to Weeber is playing a soldier. Why? “I’ve never played a soldier, and for me a role is also about considering how I would react in a certain situation. How would I feel?” he muses. “I would also like to do more extreme roles, like when you see an actor train or lose loads of weight. Changes like that really transform you into the role, like Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour
“I really like to put on false teeth or a wig, or a prosthetic nose. I always like to transform completely. My dream role is one where viewers won’t even recognise me. Like they will watch it and say ‘oh wow, that was you?’. “In a perfect world, I would do one film or two films a year, and totally be immersed in the characters,” he concludes. We cannot wait to see what Weeber immerses himself in next.
TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER