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Swede success    
Interview by Lawrence Chua, The Advocate    (09.11.99)

Young Euro sensation Rebecca Liljeberg may be straight, but she says she still doesn't knows why the girls-in-love comedy Show Me Love is a hit. Show Me Love, the simple, infectious story of two teenage girls who fall for each other in a small town, is no Titanic-scale love story. No icebergs or infernos stand between its two main characters, young Agnes and her wild crush, the luscious blond Elin. But in its native Sweden the film nearly toppled that DiCaprio juggernaut at the box office. Much of the credit goes to Rebecca Liljeberg, the 18-year-old whose poised performance as underdog Agnes has made her a sensation back home. Now that the movie is breaking in the United States, Liljeberg's star quotient is bound to shoot higher.

On a stormy afternoon in New York, though, Liljeberg has bigger problems at hand. Sitting in a hotel suite, she coolly picks through the substantial remains of her salad-bar lunch. "Too much sesame oil," she complains and pushes away the plastic container. Love director Lukas Moodysson, sitting nearby, chastises Liljeberg. "Last night we went to a Chinese restaurant, and she left over so much," he says. Liljeberg frowns. "There was so much, and everything tasted the same," she protests. "It's a bit like Hollywood film. It tastes good the first bite, but you get bored after a while."

Liljeberg has her own ideas about why Love has satiated young audiences. "It was necessary to see a movie with people you can recognize from your own life and that has a happy end," she says, twisting a rubber band around her smooth hands. "That's a bit hard to see in Scream." The oldest of four kids raised by her mom in Stockholm (her parents divorced when she was a toddler), Liljeberg fell into acting when she was tapped for a Swedish children's TV series at age 9. Show Me Love marks her first feature, and although she is open to making more movies, she plans to enter college when she finishes high school in a year and a half. "My goal right now is to become a doctor," she says.

Her approach to acting would make Hitchcock kiss her on the head. "It's nothing that I think about," she says. "I just read the script and do what it says there. It isn't any more complicated than that." Moodysson says she is easy to direct. "Rebecca is quite intuitive and spontaneous," he adds. Liljeberg's disarming straightforwardness extends to believing she must see herself in the characters she plays. "I don't mean it has to be just like you," she clarifies. "It can be just some tiny thing. It was a lot of things with Agnes. She feels in some ways the way I felt when I was 14 or 15, when you're trying to find yourself. She's very sad. She made the decision to be herself, but it's not easy."

Back home, teens approach Liljeberg for her autograph, but she still works two jobs to make ends meet. She sells lottery tickets at an amusement park during the summer ("They walk in front of my booth and stare and talk about me as if I don't hear them," she sighs, "and they take pictures"), and she puts in time as an assistant to disabled children. "It feels like you do something for real when you do that," she says. "Sometimes it just doesn't feel important, the movies. You ask for a cup of tea and have people at your beck and call to bring it to you. It feels good to help others."

Like all things, Liljeberg says her sexuality isn't complicated. "People ask me if I'm gay, and I'm not," Liljeberg says. "That's very simple." She is pleased with the way Show Me Love has been able to cross the confines of identity in Sweden and wonders if it can do the same here. "it would have been sad if it was considered only a gay movie," she says. "Not because gay movies are bad, but they frighten some people. This way more people come to see it. It's about much more." She shrugs her shoulders. "Love is always love."

COPYRIGHT 1999 Liberation Publications, Inc.