JANUARY-MARCH 2008:

03.30.08:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)This month the in-flight magazine of Sterling Airlines ran an interview with Stellan. Sterling Airlines is an  Icelandic owned low-fare airline, based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Our Swede claims, “I am at my happiest and most comfortable when I am making films. In fact, when things are going well on a movie set, it feels like I’m in heaven.” I wonder how many of us could say that about our jobs! Yes, Stellan is a lucky man who manages to make a living having a helluva good time. And we also find out how he rates his cooking skills. He says, "I’m a good chef, yes. I cook everything from all over the world. I’m very fond of Italian cuisine, but also French dishes with a lot of stock that can stand and bubble away for days." So what about the catering on shoots? Well, yes, he gets upset when the catering is bad. He admits that when he filmed ABERDEEN he didn't care what they paid him as long as the food was good!

Yes, if you click on the ABERDEEN link above, you will be taken to the new film page for this superb 2000 family drama directed by Hans Petter Moland. The film reunites Stellan with Moland, who directed him in the equally compelling ZERO KELVIN in which Stellan played a Greenland fur-trapper, a brutal, caustic man enduring a terrible secret. It also reunites him with Charlotte Rampling, memorably teamed in the extraordinary "Signs and Wonders."  Stellan has often cited his performance as Tomas Heller as being one of his favorite, adding that the character will always be like an "old, dear friend." If you haven't yet seen this extraordinary film, rent it soon!

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Here are a couple new posters from MAMMA MIA!

Riddled with humour and emotion, the film bids to strike the same tone as its stage-bred progenitor, a deliriously happy, feel-good ride that ensures those that have witnessed its musical delights leave the auditorium in a state of giddy elation. For American cinemagoers, the opening date is July 18th. Did you know there are more productions of the play being staged around the world than any other musical? Over 30 million tickets have been sold worldwide, the show grossing over $2 billion at the international box office. Obviously, any film will struggle to generate quite the same return, but none would refute the fact that there is a ready-made market for the film. While filming last year, Stellan admitted, “I’ve never done anything like this before. Now I’ve been dancing for four days! I’ve probably moved more than I did in the last four years put together. It’s hard work, like boxing, and with the exception of us few old timers, everybody else is 20 years old and professional. Still, it is very good fun and working with Lloyd (film's director) has been great. She’s very aware of getting into the frame what she wants in the frame and she has a fantastic coolness. She doesn’t raise her voice or anything. She’s not stressed, she just walks around and she finds out what she wants and she goes in and she just says the most necessary words, and as a theatre director she is, of course, very good with actors. I just hope they go with Colin’s idea for an Abba detox once we’re through. I’m going to be singing this for months!”

02.25.08:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)WAZ opened on Friday in UK theatres, therefore prompting several interviews with Stellan. There's an audio interview done by Jason Solomons at Guardian News and one by Simon Mayo at BBC's Radio 5 Live. There's also an interview with Time Out and a lengthy one done with Den of Geek's Martin Anderson. The film will open in Spain on Friday and in Swedish theatres on April 18. In this photo of Stellan taken last week, you'll note that his hair is cut rather short. That's because he just finished shooting the BBC television film, GOD ON TRIAL In one of his interviews, he comments that an upcoming project may include an American independent film. He also comments on MAMMA MIA! indicating that his singing in the film is confined to singing just parts of songs, namely Our Last Summer, Voulez-Vous and Take a Chance on Me.

Last month Stellan was in Glasgow, Scotland, filming BBC's GOD ON TRIAL, which should air in late 2008. In the 90-minute TV drama, written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, the charge is that God has broken his covenant with his chosen people to protect and care for them. The trial takes place in a camp blockhouse over the course of one day around a selection of those prisoners who are going to be taken to the gas chamber. In a bid to minimise the likely controversy, the producers took soundings from Daniel Cohen-Sherbok, the US-based leading theologian for the Holocaust, as well as other leading rabbis, and came away reassured that it was an interesting examination of an important issue. It is expected to air in late 2008.

02.14.08:

Stellan is among the cast of METROPIA, Sweden’s first animated feature film for adults. The $32 million kronor ($5 million) production is directed by Tarek Saleh and has been in development for four years. The story is set  in a not-so-distant, terrifying Europe. The world is running out of oil and the net of undergrounds has been connected, creating a gigantic web underneath Europe. The film will combine animation and live action and will be released sometime next year. Stellan will do the voice of Ralph. Other voices will be provided by Vincent Gallo, Juliette Lewis, Udo Kier, Sofia Helin and Stellan's eldest son, Alexander.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Here's a photo taken in 1983 of a very young Stellan with famed Swedish director Ingmar Bergman.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)With the release of WAZ in the UK next week, The Times recently featured an interview with Stellan regarding his latest screen projects.

01.15.08:

Last month Stellan appeared on a new Swedish talk show called "Närbild" which means "Close-up". The weekly show premiered at the end of October and on December 28th Stellan was a guest with host Fredrik Sahlin. You can view the program at this link at Sveriges Television though you won't understand a word he says unless you know Swedish! What a shame.... But you will see some clips from his 1982 Den Enfaldige mördaren for which he won Best Actor at the Berlin International Film Festival, receiving the Silver Berlin Bear as well as receiving Sweden's Oscar, a Guldbagge. Clips are also shown from Täcknamn Coq Rouge, Breaking the Waves and Pirates of the Caribbean.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)But I do have a video of Stellan speaking in English! It has come to my attention that he had promoted Goya's Ghosts with an appearance at the Film Festival Maastricht (FFM) in Holland on March 25 of last year. The film opened the festival with an introduction by both Town Mayor Gerd Leers and Stellan. Just click on the photos below to access the video, which includes an interview and footage at the festival.

In his interview Stellan remarks that he feels like one of the most privileged actors in the world because he can go between doing small and complicated independent films, sometimes films that no on will ever see but where the material is very rich, to doing "big, fluffy souffles". He continues, "There's a lot of weird, psychological reaons why you become an actor. One of the reasons that I probably like to get into a role is so that I can do things that I, Stellan Skarsgärd, would never have the courage to do. And maybe I want to be loved... I don't know..." You do make us love you, Stellan! Here are some photos from that Dutch visit that appeared in the Maastricht newspaper last year:

01.09.08:

This is the updated film schedule for ARN according to SF's (Svensk Filmindustri) Head of Production, Johan Mardell: "We will release the second feature film in Scandinavia in August 2008. Parallel to that, we'll have an international version of ARN. What we're doing now is editing the feature number two as well as the international version which is a compilation of ARN one and two. We didn't want to go with two feature films internationally because the story is not that well known outside Scandinavia. The international version will be two and a half hours long. It should be available August/September 2008." According to the UK's Herald, most of the film was actually shot in Scotland because there are so few surviving medieval buildings in Sweden.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Back in September while Stellan was filming MAMMA MIA! in Greece, he was invited to give a two-hour talk on acting at the Academy of Cinema (AOC) in Athens. This academy is an international English-speaking film/video school based at the Karamanos Studi and each year the AOC holds professional workshops. A three-page feature artice on the workshop appeared in the leading Greek Sunday papers. Check out the gallery for photos taken in Greece in September.

Recently Phyllida Lloyd was asked about her experience in directing the film. Did she have sleepless nights during the 10 weeks of filming at Pinewood followed by a further five weeks on location on the Greek island of Skopelos? She replies, "I got through it by taking up sleeping pills, intravenous caffeine and a certain amount of vodka. To put it in theatre terms, the whole process was like trying to open a show when you haven't finished the technical rehearsal, you've never had a full run-through of the play, everyone's having a nervous breakdown and the audience are waiting to come in. And it's like that every day. It's ulcer-inducing."

Is Phyllida happy with what she has captured on film, as she begins editing? She answers, "There are no excuses for me now. We've got the most fantastic performances, an incredible score, a wonderful screenplay and beautiful photography. The big question is whether I can put it all together." I'm betting that with a $65 million budget and the clout of Universal Pictures behind it, this  movie will become the feel-good hit this summer.

Stellan had joked that his biggest concern was Daniel Craig, the new, ruggedly macho 007 agent, brandishing a gun, might cross paths with Pierce wearing spandex pants from the musical's1970s inspired numbers. Stellan is always funny. But what about his dancing skills? Well, Anthony Van Laast, who choreographed the original stage production, had the same responsibility in the movie version and had the the very challenging task of teaching ah-one, ah-two to Pierce, Colin and Stellan, guys not known for their terpsichorean skills. Before filming began in London, Anthony admitted, "We have challenges with Stellan," deadpanning to laughter. "I am sure that by the time we film, he'll be absolutely fine. My assistant is working very hard with him at the moment. The thing about 'Mamma Mia!' is that a lot of the movement comes from people as they are. It's not a musical where everyone does the same moves. So if Stellan moves in a certain way, I have to incorporate that. There's no point trying to impose on something he can't do - that's a polite way of saying it."

So, we'll have to wait a few more months before we can decide for ourselves on the singing and dancing talents of our favorite Swede. As I mentioned before, the international trailer features Stellan in so many more scenes - and includes one hilarious one in which he's twirling around like a fool with something over his head and it definitely inspires belly laughing. And anyone who has watched his performance in KISS KISS (BANG BANG) knows he can be a real cut-up.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release GOYA'S GHOSTS on DVD in the US and Canada (Region 1) this February 26th. The only extra will be: a "Behind the Scenes Featurette." The film has a running time of 113 minutes and is rated R for violence, disturbing images, some sexual content and nudity.  Critical concensus is that this is an artistic misfire from Milos Forman, one of cinema's true virtuosos. You'll note that the DVD cover differs from all the previous international copies and if you ask my opinion, the artwork is terrible (and that's not just because our Goya isn't shown!) Were they aiming to make Natalie Portman as unattractive as possible? They use a nice soft photograph of Javier Bardem and then go on to add a cartoon-ish image of Natalie. And trying to capture sales by pointing out that Forman was the producer of the "The English Patient" is a bit cunning.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)So, what will Stellan be doing this year? Well, according to Swedish sources, he was going to be part of the Guldbagge jury this month for their annual film awards. He is now being replaced by Pernilla August as he is taking on a new project in England. Hat Trick Productions is making a drama for the BBC2 based on the true-life attempt by Auschwitz inmates to put God on trial. GOD ON TRIAL will be set over a single day in which the concentration camp prisoners test their faith by putting God in the dock for turning his back on the Jewish people in their hour of need. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who witnessed the trial, used the story as the basis of his play, "The Trial of God." The 90-minute drama has cast Stellan and Stephan Dillane (co-star from "King Arthur"). Andy de Emmony will direct with a script by Frank Cottrell Boyce, frequent collaborator with Michael Winterbottom. Hat Trick head of drama Mark Redhead, who will executive produce, said he had had the project in mind for more than 20 years, but believed the issues it raises have become more relevant in recent years. "It wrestles with the question that is always asked during wartime: how can there be so much suffering in the world?" he says. "With the attacks of September 11 and the Iraq war, religion is now centre-stage in ways that it simply hadn't been in my lifetime." Hat Trick has employed a rabbi to consult on the script, which Redhead said aimed to raise challenging philosophical issues. It is expected to air at the end of this year.