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Renate Reinsve on ‘The Worst Person in the World’ and New Fame

In October, Ms. Reinsve’s newfound fame and her ambivalence toward it were palpable at a party that followed the screening of “The Worst Person in the World” at the Viennale, Vienna’s international film festival. Guests tentatively approached Ms. Reinsve — at the hotel bar, in the bathroom — to compliment her performance, as well as the gold Dior suit she was wearing.

Ms. Reinsve was friendly and chatty, but as the night went on, she was drawn to the mix of salsa, pop and reggaeton playing in the ballroom. Eventually, with the help of a friend, she swapped her black heels for hotel slippers and hit the dance floor, from which she emerged an hour or so later, her blazer in one hand, skin glazed in a light sheen of sweat and hair tousled.

Ms. Reinsve grew up in Solbergelva, a village in Norway that she described as more of “a road between two places.” She called her upbringing “complicated.”

“I didn’t have a good time growing up,” she said. Acting at a local theater became her solace.

At 16, Ms. Reinsve stopped going to school and left her home. She wanted to run away to Costa Rica or another warm country but could only afford a ticket to Edinburgh. There, she had enough money for one week in a hostel.

She tried to find work, but no one would hire her. Eventually, the owner of the hostel took pity. “He asked, ‘Have you ever poured a beer before?’” Ms. Reinsve said. “‘No.’ ‘But you worked in a bar?’ ‘No.’ ‘OK, but you’re over 18?’ ‘No.’ He rolled his eyes and said, ‘Fine, you’re hired.’”

Ms. Reinsve said she always felt very different from other people in her family, and that from an early age, she started asking a variation of the kinds of questions that she still wrestles with today. “Like, ‘How do people relate to each other and why?’” she said. “It kind of started happening because of my complicated relationship to some people in my life.”

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