When Lars Ulrich walks onstage, it’s usually as the drummer in the legendary heavy-metal band Metallica. But recently, he stepped onto a movie soundstage for a different type of role — a supporting part in the biopic Hemingway & Gellhorn, airing now on HBO. The pay-cable production features Ulrich as Joris Ivins, a Dutch documentary filmmaker who covered the Spanish Civil War with macho writer Ernest Hemingway (played by Clive Owen) and fearless war correspondent Martha Gellhorn (Nicole Kidman). After driving his kids home from school in Marin County, near San Francisco, the head-banging musician talked with American Way about his dramatic turn, his upcoming plans with Metallica and his offstage hobbies.
Metallica rocker Lars Ulrich trades drumsticks for a Dutch accent in his new film.
American Way: How did you get the part in Hemingway & Gellhorn?
Lars Ulrich: San Francisco is a very creative community, and all the actors, musicians and artists who live here travel in the same circles. I’ve known [the film’s director] Phil Kaufman for a long time, and a year ago he called me out of the blue to say he was making a new movie in San Francisco and he wanted me to play a part in it. He offered me the role without having to do a reading or screen test or anything, which is pretty unusual. He was also passionate about doing the entire film in the Bay Area, and I’m always up for anything championing this place.
AW: Did you study with an acting teacher or do any other prep work?
LU: No acting lessons, but I did spend quite a bit of time with a dialect coach and learned how to speak with a Dutch accent. I also researched Ivins and found all this footage he shot, as well as a 45-minute radio interview he did in English during the mid-1960s, which was fascinating.
AW: Nicole Kidman is married to musician Keith Urban. How did you and she hit it off?
LU: She’s fantastic and really, really easygoing. She didn’t show up with an entourage or any security people — she just waltzed in by herself with her bag slung over her shoulder, totally cool. People have a tendency to associate her with A-list Hollywood extravaganzas, but she’s also made these eccentric, independent movies with directors like Lars von Trier. She’s daring and has an adventuresome spirit.