Shooting Star Martijn Lakemeier
19 February 2021
Fast rising young Dutch actor Martijn Lakemeier (the Netherlands' choice for the Berlinale's Shooting Star event in Berlin) has had a busy lockdown, but not for reasons one would expect. He has spent part of it "order-picking in a stock room for an online supermarket."
Such a side job is a long way removed from the glamour of film festivals but, as the 27-year-old actor reflects, "it's reality." The side job gets him out of bed in the morning. If his colleagues at the supermarket realise that he is a Golden Calf-winning actor, then they don't show it. "They're really neutral. That is something that is really Dutch....I wish I could be doing this acting thing non-stop, but it is just not how it works in Holland."
Nonetheless, Lakemeier has now spent almost exactly half his life as an actor. He was fourteen when cast by Martin Koolhoven in the Oscar-shortlisted wartime drama, Winter in Wartime (2008).
The young actor recently shot another war drama, The East by Jim Taihuttu, in which he co-starred with Marwan Kenzari (Aladdin, Instinct and Dutch Shooting Star in 2014). This was shot on location in Indonesia and exposes a shameful part in recent Dutch history. He plays Johan, a young soldier led by the "Turk" (Kenzari) during the Indonesian War of Independence, in which the tactics the Dutch used against the Indonesian freedom fighters were brutal in the extreme.
"For every person in the Indonesian crew, this story was in their blood. It really added something to the energy of the shooting," Lakemeier observes. He also describes the movie as "a big adventure." He had to go to boot camp to be taught by an ex-marine how to handle weapons and behave like a soldier. The schedule was very tight. Taihuttu needed to finish the film and get his cast and crew out of Indonesia before the 2019 elections.
No, Lakemeier didn't know anything about the history behind the movie - nor the war crimes it exposed. "When I started doing my research and read the script for the first time, I realised ‘oh shit, this is something that really happened.'" This was an important "piece of history in the Netherlands" and yet it still isn't widely known. "We have to admit it was wrong for us to be there in the first place, ruling over a piece of land that just isn't ours."
The tone of the film was very different ("more extreme and a lot more violent") to that of his debut. When he was cast in Winter in Wartime, he was still a schoolboy. At the time, he had never even been to Amsterdam. He grew up in Zwijndrecht, a sleepy town in the province of South Holland.
"My world, I guess, was quite small. I just knew that I liked acting so I started doing theatre lessons every Friday afternoon at this huge theatre school in Rotterdam." He had only been going there for a few weeks when he was asked to audition for the film which turned out to be Koolhoven's epic. He won the part and his career quickly took off.
"It wasn't like it [acting] was going on continuously. I did this work for a few months every year," Lakemeier remembers of how he combined acting and school work in those early years. Nonetheless, he has racked up plenty of credits, among them the hugely popular TV series, Holland's Hoop, and films like Ventoux and Adios Amigos. Aged 17, he went to drama school for six months but "then I quit." Instead, he has learned through experience. The supermarket job notwithstanding, he has always been in demand.
Now, Lakemeier is part of the same Berlinale talent showcase which has given exposure to actors like Daniel Craig, Daniel Bruhl and Rachel Weisz early in their careers. Shooting Stars is happening online this year. This means there won't be swanky parties in the Hotel Adlon or the Berlinale Palast, but Lakemeier still sees an upside.
"I am looking forward to it," the actor enthuses. "It's going to be in a virtual world where you can informally meet people in this so-called House of European talent...it should be fun." Without the background noise of parties and press events, he believes it may actually "be a bit easier this year" to have those meaningful meetings which might lead to friendships, collaborations and further career opportunities.
More info on European Film Promotion and Shooting Stars