He walks in on flip-flops. We agreed to meet at a terrace in the center of Edam. Tons of tourists check out the old houses. Michiel’s family has a cottage in the neighborhood. He is staying here for a few days. He left for the USA 5 years ago, to work. It seems to work out fine. Huisman, born in Amstelveen, was featured next to Brad Pitt in World War Z. More prominent roles are in post-production, with costars as Reese Witherspoon and Harrison Ford.
You can hear him speak Dutch with an american accent, which was created by speech therapists. Michiel was asked by Chanel to follow in Brad Pitt’s footsteps, to promote the latest fragrance of Chanel. The commercial was recently shot and Michiel is featured in the ad next to topmodel Gisele Bündchen. The shooting for season 5 of Game Of Thrones starts soon. Huisman plays the role of Daario Naharis. ‘A lot of shots take place in Europe’, says Huisman, ‘ We use our home in Holland as our basis’. Michiel uses ‘we’, he means his wife Tara Elders and their daughter Hazel. ‘Home is where Tara and Hazel are’. Michiel travels all around the globe for his projects: L.A., Toronto, Nashville and Croatia.
You sold your house in Holland five years ago. You moved to the States. Wasn’t that scary?
Sure! But that’s life. You can’t make a big step without taking a risk. we decided to make the jump, so we sold our house. It was a gamble, but we had to do it. I was stuck in my career.
What do you mean by that?
I had the feeling I wasn’t going anywhere with my career. There were tons of great stories, but no reality. I wanted to grow: make bigger projects. I thought to myself: If I don’t do it now, then I will be the same as now in 20 years. I lived a great life. I just wanted to know if there could be more.
Did you had the feeling that there could be more out there for you?
There is nothing wrong with having that idea.
I know a lot of actors who are convinced they will make it in the States. That’s not really my thing to say.
How do you get started there in the big States?
I got lucky. We spend some time there years before we went. I got the feeling it could work for me when we were there for a few months. It gave me the feeling there could be work for me. When we decided to go, I got the part in Treme. The show was never a big success, but it was a start for me in that world. The show was very much appreciated by people who could open doors for me. Treme had 4 seasons, which gave me almost three and a half years to build a name for myself.
What time did you gave yourself when you arrived? two years?
Yes, one role in two years. That happend very fast. Tara and I had a lot of talks in those times. We’re doing it! When Treme ended, I already had a new role.
Are you still doing Dutch projects?
Not really. Unless if a director gives me a role that is typical Dutch and unique that I want to play it. Thankfully there are a lot of great movies made in Holland. You should check out Matterhorn, it’s really great.
What makes that film a good Dutch movie?
There is lot about the Dutch culture in it. It’s the opposite from American films. The stolid culture. Act normal and not too crazy. That is so me. Never say never whether I will return to Dutch movies, but I am working on my international career now.
I think it’s dull to say my focus in on America. I want to focus on good projects and let the world be my stage.
Can you get used to the American culture?
I have a feeling I can combine them perfectly. I enjoy the state of mind where success is appreciated and stimulated like in the States. There it’s something positive, something you can be proud of. In the meantime, I am Dutch, which means you shouldn’t take everything too serious and keep your feet on the ground. You get the feeling in Los Angeles that you can take on the whole world within two weeks. After those two weeks you think: hmm, not much has happend.
What culture do you like more? The Holland or American?
The American! Everyone is so positive. If anyone recognizes you here, they’ll come up to you and say something positive. In Holland, they stare and say nothing.
You had a role in World War Z with Brad Pitt. What was that like?
I had a few scenes with Brad, which was very exciting. I was nervous. I wanted to do well.
Was it intimidating?
No, not really. I had the change to work with people I admire the last couple of years. That’s a bit weird, there you are, talking with an actor you know from movie, movie posters and filmtrailers. They haven’t come this far by thinking about themselves. They achieved this much because they make everyone around them shine. You have to make the scene and your costars shine to shine yourself. That’s very generous.
Is there are hierarchy between the bigger and smaller stars?
I think there is. You take in your own position in the food chain. But I am allowed to do a suggestion in a scene. That’s a bit impetuous when you’re standing in front of a great director. But that’s my job as an actor in a small role. You have to bring a character to life in only four scenes. So if you think your suggestion is a good idea, you have to speak up. if it doesn’t work or the director dismisses it, then it’s your job to make it work even so.
10 minutes with Brad Pitt in World War Z. How long did it take to film that piece?
Wow! That’s a long time. You probably got to know most people very well.
yes, of course, but it wasn’t my place to socialize. You keep a professional distance.
Did you realize what you were doing on the set of World War Z? That you were working on a huge project?
Sure, but Game of Thrones is a huge project too.
You had a spectacular first scene in the series. You come in and stab a horse and then your opponent.
All with almost 800 spectators. It was one of the first scenes I did for Game Of Thrones. The scene lasted for not longer than a minute, but it took us more than a week to shoot. Taking down a horse and chopping a head off lasted for 20 seconds.
The horse was a stunthorse, I assume?
Yes. I never thought about that, but there are horses who can do that. All those stunts in Western movies, where horses are taking down in no time. They can just fall down on command. They are trained to fall down gracefully.
So we don’t have to feel bad for the horse?
Haha, no. The animals have a good life. They are well taking care of. Everything is prepped before the scene. There is a soft mat with sand under it, so they fall down on a soft background. The person sitting on the horse knows exactly what he is doing. It’s all about the editing. On screen it looks like he falls down in front of me. In real time, there is almost 7 meters between us. It looks like it happens fast, but I have to repeatedly tell myself to slow down. Otherwise you can’t see what I am doing.
Your role is very physical. We saw pics on twitter of you training with a personal trainer.
(laughing) I played a drugaddict for a long time. I had to change the way I looked for Game Of Thrones. A leather armor looks really great, but when it comes off, you have to look good as well. I knew there would be a scene where I had to take my clothes of.
So you trained months for that one particular scene?
You could say that! Before I started Game of Thrones, I hadn’t exercised for a year. It felt good to work out again. I felt strong and my body felt strong by the day. That feeling fit my character. He feels strong as well.
What does your fitness regime look like?
I train 4 to 5 days a week for almost one hour and a half. That doesn’t bother me. I also try to eat healthy. Currently, I am working out a lot because filming starts soon.
You only eat Quinoa?
I eat tons of Quinoa! I think I helped having the Quinoa market rise.
You have two new upcoming films? Wild with Reese Witherspoon and The Age Of Adeline with Harrison Ford. How important are these two movies for you?
I’m not sure. It’s very hard to think about that. I put so much pressure on myself if I think about if they will become successful. I have to say, I am not an A-list Star. I don’t have to live up to these high expectations. So if the films don’t score, it won’t be killing for my career. I am still building a name for myself. If movies are a success, it’s good for my name. If not, than nobody knows. It’s only a waste of my time and hopefully I learned something from it. It’s easy to move on.
Harrison Ford, also a household name!
He plays my father in the movie. The whole cast is great. The main character is played by Blake Lively. The films has a lot of great actors. I get the chance to tell an amazing story with amazing people.
Did Harrison Ford teach you something?
The whole cast taught me stuff.
I can imagine you keep an eye on Mister Ford while playing with him? He’s done so many great things.
Of course, Harrison never gets asked how it felt for him to work with other actors or Michiel Huisman. The Age Of Adeline was a big project for me, a Hollywood project. It was only a small production for Harrison Ford. It had a small budget compared to the other films he did. He gave 200% of him during this project. He blew me away. He kept arguing if he didn’t agree with something. He kept looking for another solution. He wants to nail it, he won’t do it halfway. That inspired me.
You also replaced Brad Pitt in the new Chanel ad!
That is not entirely true. But the focus isn’t on the role I play. I have to do a bit for the press as well. Show my face in another way. It’s a big deal in the fashion world, not so much in the movie industry. All the big magazines look at my Chanel campaign.
Does it bring you extra attention?
In Holland, it does. They knew what I was doing in the States, but it is weird that my face pop ups in fashion magazines. They feel that my career is starting to get serious by that campaign. You don’t have to explain what Chanel does. I am proud of my campaign. It’s very cool!
What did people say when you moved? There goes another one who wants to make it there?
In Holland, there is this mindset: let’s wait until he fails and comes back. It took me some time to let that go. It doesn’t matter what people think of me now. I am flattered by the attention I am getting now. It’s like being recognized by your parents when you do something great. I hope I can set an example for people who wants to move to the States and make it there.
And that it’s okay to make mistakes?
yes! Making mistakes is okay. You can be proud of the things you failed in and learned from. Maybe someone moves to America and fails. Well, at least he lived in American for two years.
Tara had a huge acting career in Holland. Was it her choice to go with you to the States and not work as an actress?
Yes, we knew we would not see much of each other. we made the choice to move when she wasn’t feeling happy with her life as well. She didn’t feel the drive to act and wasn’t happy with her career. It makes her happy to take care of Hazel and have a family life. She values it. I also value it to spend time together. I am not good in not being together.
Was it an option to do it the other way around? She pursuing her dream as an actress in the States and you be the.. uh.. houseman?
Maybe, but it didn’t go that way. I am on my own on a set. The choice to do auditions was a choice we made together. My job is easier than her job. I move to another city to work, but she has to come with me and live the housewife life in a new city. She has to reinvent her life there, while i’m there living the life I already have. She has to home school our daughter while we’re traveling. That’s tough! I am very grateful she makes the sacrifice. I hope she wants to keep it up for a long time. If not, we have to find out what does.
Your upcoming projects, the buzz that is starting when people hear your name..
I can see that! I have projects until December. We are focusing on projects for next year. I hope I can do many beautiful projects next year.