Pekka Strang, the Finnish actor-director who stars in the upcoming Dome Karukoski-helmed film Tom of Finland, wishes he could have met the title character of the biopic, whose real name was Touko Laaksonen.

PEKKA STRANG TALKS TOM OF FINLAND

Laaksonen was an iconic artist who depicted erotic gay art. His subversive style was not accepted during his lifetime, but has been embraced since his death in 1991. “He fought for his country, and after the war was over, his country didn’t fight for his rights,” Strang says of the man he portrays in an exclusive in video with uInterview. “That’s probably one thing that bothered him for the rest of his life. I know that just before he died he wanted to get recognition in Finland and he never got it. If there would be any way to just get him back for one day, I would love to take him around and show him that people really admire and respect him today.”

The Tom of Finland Foundation, a nonprofit, was started in 1984 by Tom and Durk Dehner as a way to protect the legacy of Tom’s erotic art, and it soon became a safe haven for all erotic art. Today, the foundation educates the public to gain a more understanding and healthy society. Strang met up with Dehner to learn as much as he could about Tom to prepare for the role. “I just started to collect everything I could get on him… I met up with his friends and flew down to L.A. to the Tom of Finland Foundation, sat down with [Vice President S.R.] Sharp and [President] Durk Dehner of the foundation and had a really nice conversation,” the actor says. “I was nervous meeting of course, meeting for the first time, but when we sat down with Durk in Tom’s room sitting on Tom’s bed, that gave me a lot of confidence to move on because of course when you’re portraying a real human being you have to be sort of cautious, then again when you get down to shooting, it’s the same work you do on any movie so in the end its about research and intuition.”

On the hardest scene in the movie to film, Strang said one jumped out at him. “When I got the script, there was one scene that scared me. It’s in the beginning of the movie when 40 naked men run out on the ice and jump into cold water, and I hate cold water. And I was really f–king scared of that scene. I won’t tell how it ended up but we did the scene, and everything else felt like a Sunday drive… We always have to react to every situation, to every scene in the way that the scene invites you to, so I wasn’t scared, I was enjoying actually, it sounds cliché and it is cliché but it’s still true, I was enjoying every day of working.”

Strang believes the biggest take away from the film is that celebrities are just people, like everyone else. “All the idols and icons of the world, when they close their doors at home, they’re just normal human beings, and that was the thing we were trying to find,” he explained. “You have to realize that when people are talking about the person that meant a lot to them, they are always talking about the good things.”

Tom of Finland was a strong man who never gave in to the intolerance around him. Strang thinks that Laaksonen’s experiences in World War II must have had something to do with his fearless nature. “I have no idea where the courage came from. The war probably had a great impact on him,” the actor said. “If you’re young, in your 20s, and you’re sent to the war and you get to see people dying, you probably get sort of a perspective on life that we who haven’t gone through that don’t have, that life can end at any moment, so you better just live it and not be afraid.”