The recent box office film, Confessions of a Shopaholic, features a surprising amount ofFinnish content and includes a Finnish actor in a supporting role. Tuomas Hiltunen’s charm and exotic Finnish voice even inspired the film crew to add more comedy related to Finland to the film.
Confessions of a Shopaholictells the story of Rebecca Bloomwood, played by Australian-raised actress Isla Fisher, a recent college graduate attempting to juggle the worlds of journalism and fashion. She has a great appreciation for fashion and her dream is to work for Elite fashion magazine. Instead she lands a job as a columnist at a boring financial magazine. She is a hopeless shopaholic whose meager salary doesn’t begin to cover the bills created by her shopping addiction.
Finnish themes are intertwined throughout the movie. In her job interview, Rebecca claims to be fluent in Finnish. And when attempting to hide from debt collectors some of her most outlandish excuses involve being on vacation in Finland ("because no one checks up on Finland"). In an encounter with a Nokia marketing executive, the role played by Hiltunen, she desperately tries to cover her nonexistent Finnish skills by playing offended and even gives him a violent slap across the face.
In an interview, Hiltunen said that the Finnish connections in the movie were mere consequence. At his casting call, the script actually called for some kind of Swedish influenced gibberish. Instead of reciting the given lines, Hiltunen was asked to say something in Finnish, which eventually helped him land the role. Still, the details of Hiltunen's character were very much up in the air when he flew to Miami for shooting. There were four outfits and no script waiting for him at the hotel. Hiltunen has given writing credit for his lines in the movie to the wife of Pekka Rantala, Senior Vice President for Marketing at Nokia. Mr. Rantala visited the set with his wife and after a conversation suggested that Hiltunen would in essence be playing him. Mrs. Rantala offered her suggestions for the lines, which eventually ended up in the film’s final version.
Hiltunen thoroughly enjoyed working on the big film production. "Improvising and rehearsing in front of the camera was so much fun. You do numerous versions of the same scene and eventually you have no idea which one they will use,” he said. “It's like jumping from the airplane without a parachute." Hiltunen also displayed his professionalism and tough Finnish character when filming the “slapping” scene. After 50 takes of the scene with a real slap, Hiltunen received a big round of applause from the entire crew.
Actor Tuomas Hiltunen has resided in New York for over 8 years. He is a Fulbright and Columbia University alumni working on various theater productions. He also does voiceovers and commercials. According to him, it's not easy to make a living in New York as an actor. Surviving the current market turmoil requires good connections and plenty of creativity. When asked what his dream role would be, Hiltunen said he would like to play the bad guy in a James Bond movie. His imagined character would be a deceivably sympathetic Finn that would later turn out to be the nastiest criminal in Bond movie history.