APRIL 2005 NEWS

4.29.05:

I had posted some info from this Expressen article about two weeks ago, but now I have the printed newspaper page. Pirates of the Caribbean II co-star Orlando Bloom thinks our Swedish thesp is pretty "cool" and says, "I have always liked Stellan and I hope we'll have time to get to know one another a little better." It's actually a recent photo of Orlando taken on location in St. Vincent. In his last update this week, Stellan says he's now in Sweden but will be leaving for Dominica in May "to continue my barnacled life as Bootstrap Bill. And yes, I wear bootstraps...and barnacles..."  You know 'Barnacle Billy's' happens to be the name of a restaurant in Southern Maine where we vacation. Funny... Stellan goes on, "I actually ate barnacles for the first time in my life in Madrid last weekend. They were delicious! So were the baby eels. I spent four days just eating to get familiar with the Spanish cuisine. Of course did some Goya, Velazquez and El Greco and saw Guernica for the first time as well."  Those first three names sound like food, don't they, but you realize he's speaking of artists, and then Guernica (I had to look it up) is Picasso's famous mural painted for the 1937 World's Fair. Why does his life remind me of the song from the musical Annie - "It's the hard-knock life....?" NOT!

As some of you know, the voice in the Ramlösa's natural mineral water commercials belongs to Stellan, though you may not always recognize it. In the present ad now being shown on Swedish television, he uses the local dialect so he sounds quite different.  He  says he used to live very close to Helsingborg where the water comes from and enjoys the water himself. He was particular about his contract with Ramlösa making sure that they are never  allowed to identify him in their commercial nor use his name as a representative for their product. If you'd like to watch the ad, click here (mpeg file).

 

Stellan's son Alexander in a scene from NBC's "Revelations"

 

"H&M Live from Central Park"
Fashion Show - NYC - April 20, 2005

Two new Swedish translators, Robin Solsjö Höglund and Camilla Hultén, have volunteered their time and expertise to translate some of the many Swedish articles and interviews that I've recently acquired, so many thanks go to their  generosity. The first addition is an interview during the filming of Ronin dated January 2, 1998.  Stellan discusses his recent films, living in France, cooking and the death of his father. Interesting that he mentions a lead role that he lost to Jeremy Irons when the financiers of the 1997 romantic drama, Chinese Box, preferred Irons over director Wayne Wang's choice. I didn't particularly care for the film, but I always enjoy watching Chinese superstar, Gong Li (aka Li Gong), who you'll see in the upcoming Memoirs of a Geisha. (Great book!). She and Stellan would have made a  more intriguing pair of lovers.

Also newly added is the completed film page for Hip Hip Hurra!, the 1987 film about the Skagen colony of artists in Denmark at the end of the 19th century. Stellan brilliantly plays artist Soren Krøyer, a performance of enchantment, passion and madness. If you haven't been able to find the video and would like to see it, email me for info. It's in Danish with English subtitles. The film won several awards - Grand Special Jury Prize and Golden Osella for Best Cinematography at the Venice Film Festival and a Swedish Guldbagge for Kjell Grede for Best Director and for Lene Brøndum (who plays Lille) for Best Actress. Supplementing the film page is a related article from Vecko Revyn dated August 19, 1986. As customary, Stellan took his family with him on location and rented a house, claiming that "it's great to come home and have a good Danish beer and light a cigarette."

More updates from Paul Schrader at the Bloody News Forum. He says, "There won't be time for a Dominion website or trailer, but there will be TV spots and the press ad will feature the Ebert quote. Press screenings start next week. I'll be going to NY, LA and Dallas." When I asked Stellan about his reaction to Father Merrin Part I, he replied, "I just saw Schrader's Exorcist and liked it. It’s a very different film in a different genre. More psychology and less scares. I'm glad it’s getting out and I am happy for Paul, who gets to show the world that he wasn’t taken off the project because he had made a bad film, just not the film Morgan Creek wanted. I hope people see it." Well, we know Stellan fans will certainly see it either in theatres (too bad they're so limited) or ultimately on DVD.

Stellan quote on his first time on stage:
"I played a heap of snow in a school play. I was under a sheet, and crawled out when spring came. I often say I’ll never reach the same artistic level again."

4.23.05:

I've posted an article from Entertainment Weekly that's all about the bizarre resurrection of the Exorcist prequel with the new Dominion title. Director Paul Schrader reports that Morgan Creek has agreed to Warner's plans for press screening and promotion. But I would imagine that might be limited to the specific cities screening it. He thinks the poster is pretty good and you'll see it soon. Warner Bros. is waiting to see if Morgan Creek will agree to putting an Ebert quote on it. He thinks that without some explanatory quote, it's just confusing. In answer to whether the film could have been better with more post-production money, Schrader doesn't think so. He says, "No film is everything it could have been; it's the nature of the process." I wonder what Renny Harlin is thinking these days.

4.22.05:

UK's Empire Online talked with actor Bill Nighy, who'll be playing Davy Jones in the two POTC sequels. Jokingly referring to himself and Stellan as the "new boys", he confirmed that his Jones will be very much the villain. Nighy claims he's a "very, very, very bad man", who will make people suffer in all new ways. He admits he has a boat and a really evil crew as well as a sea monster. Nighy says you'll still be able to recognize him, but he'll get a little help with special effects from Industrial Light & Magic. He ends with, "they're cracking stories, great stories. If you liked the first one, you'll love this." Besides Jack Sparrow (Depp), Will Turner (Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Knightley), returning characters are Jack Davenport as Norrington, Jonathan Pryce as Governor Swann, and the great comic duo, Lee Arenburg as Pintel and Mackenzie Crook as Ragetti.

I came across the book Hollywood Speaks out on Tobacco, which includes quotes from nearly 100 celebrities and provides a sometimes comical and oft-times dramatic look into tobacco addiction. Johnny Depp says he wants to start his own airline called AirSmoke where "smoking would be mandatory." I couldn't help but think of Stellan enthusiastically agreeing since he readily admits to being a chain smoker. The book, released by Grassroots Solutions, Inc., is written by Curtis Mekemsom who hopes to persuade Hollywood to cut out tobacco use in movies geared toward youth. Stellan puffed his way through Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and there is a scene that is split-the-old-gut funny when he wakes up to discover his ward Bubba (Chris Penn) has covered him from head to toe in nicotine patches. In real life, he  seems to enjoy having his photo taken with a cigarette, sometimes dangling out of his mouth as he's doing in the above photo taken back in 1988. And click here for another new photo showing Stellan picking out his vegetables at the outdoor market in Rome while making Exorcist: The Beginning [Correction: It was previously reported as Sweden]. A fan from France was so kind to send me a ton of articles and interviews that appeared in Swedish publications over the past twenty years. The photos were xeroxed without color, but they are an absolutely wonderful addition for Stellan Online. However, I do need more help in translating the pubs. From time to time, I'll announce that I've posted a new article/interview online, and if any Swedish fan wants to do the translation, it will be most appreciated!

There is no time or place that's been set to release Beowulf and Grendel but director Sturla Gunnarsson says having it premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September would hold great appeal for him since that's his hometown.When he was recently asked  why he had chosen to film his saga in Iceland, he replied, "I made the film in Iceland because it is such an otherworldly, primordeal landscape and because the poem itself has its roots in a much older Norse oral tradition that has found its spiritual home in Iceland. As you mentioned, Denmark is flat and wooded, which I found less inspiring for this tale than volcanoes, glaciers, black sands and a brooding North Atlantic. As the audience is being transported to a time and place they know very little about, I chose a poetic, rather than a literal rendering of Daneland."

4.20.05:

Back with Roger Ebert again. Here are more of his comments that were published in Sunday newspapers: Question to Ebert - "I noticed that you did not review the prequel The Exorcist: The Beginning that came out last year. Do you have something against the movies that continue the story of the original Exorcist?" Ebert responds, "It was not previewed for critics, and I never caught up with it. I have, however, just seen Paul Schrader's original The Exorcist: The Prequel, which was shelved by the studio, reportedly because it was 'too serious.' Renny Harlin was hired to make a version that replaced three of the four leads, spent $50 million on top of  Schrader's $30 million, and scored only 11 percent on the Tomatometer.The Schrader version is a very good film, strong and true. It is intelligent about spiritual matters, sensitive to the complexities of its characters, and does something risky and daring in this time of jaded horror movies: It takes evil seriously."

Apparently, the Benelux release will come after the Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival, which runs from June 9-15th. I'm not sure that means the film will be screened there. The festival's program has not yet been posted. Schrader was also recently quoted as saying that he was very keen on Gabriel Mann's  character (Father Francis) and performance. "The story needed a good whiff of purity and naivite to counterbalance Merrin's pessimism and he was the right actor to provide it." In regard to the theatrical release of Exorcist in the US, Schrader says that "Warner Bros. hopes that' major markets' will create the attention and reviews needed to promote the DVD, while the secondary markets will determine whether the film should go wider. These cities - Sacramento, San Diego, Houston and Dallas- were chosen (I believe) because they have been historically receptive to this type of film." He continues,  "It's my impression there will be a quick turnaround on the DVD, possibly as little as 4-6 weeks after theatrical. This, of course, is contingent on how well the film performs theatrically. Morgan Creek will most likely just issue an unadorned DVD with full and wide screen options and save the extras for a subsequent DVD, possibly in conjunction with the Harlin DVD."

4.15.05:

Movie critic Roger Ebert saw a preview of the DVD version of Schrader's Exorcist Prequel and gave the following glowing mini-review. "A milestone in movie history. Same premise, same hero, same leading actor, two directors, two completely different visions. Not a 'director's cut' but a different director and a different film. Schrader's Exorcist Prequel is not a conventional horror film, but does something risky and daring: It takes evil seriously. There really are dark Satanic forces in the Schrader version, which takes a character forever scarred by the Holocaust and asks if he can ever again believe in the power of God. The movie is drenched in atmosphere and dread, boldly confronting the possibility that Satan is active in the world. Instead of cheap thrills, Schrader gives us a frightening vision of a good priest (Stellan Skarsgård who fears goodness may not be enough. After Schrader delivered this version, the studio apparently found it too complex and intelligent, although those, of course, were not the words they used, and not scary enough. Well, it seems scary to me... Schrader, whose screenplays for Taxi Driver and The Last Temptation of Christ and directorial achievements like Hardcore and The Comfort of Strangers reveal a deep obsession with the war between good and evil, was the right director, and this is a film that works. Those who have seen the earlier version, may find the two films instructive as an illustration of the gulf between a personal vision and a multiplex product."

Schrader indicates that the initial premiere in LA, NY, SF and CHI will be one or two theatres with more in Sacramento, San Diego, Dallas and Houston. The total theatre count will be approximately 100. It could expand (or not) from there depending on the results. The first four cities will be supported by print advertising, the second four by TV. He also comments on the film format. The DVD will be in the proper Univision 1:2 ratio, but in the theatrical release, some footage on all four sides will be missing. Schrader claims he had no say about the title and that Dominion is actually the title used for the project years ago. He believes were it not for DVD, his film would have been "lost".

4.14.05:

According to Bloodynews.com, Warner Bros. has finally decided to release Schrader's EXORCIST version. The film will receive a limited release in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago on May 20th. Expect a wider release in San Diego, Sacramento, Houston and Dallas. Rumor has it that the title will be Dominion: The Prequel to the Exorcist, but that's not official yet. Guess I'm off to NYC! Hip, hip, hurrah! By the way, I'll be posting that film page very soon! It's the romantic drama about a group of famous and talented Scandinavian painters who gather at Skagen, Denmark's remote, northernmost cape, at the end of the 19th century.

4.13.05:

It's true that Geoffrey Rush will be back with his monkey for Pirates 2 and 3 in what he calls "a small part." It got me thinking about Stellan's "small part" as Bootstrap (or is it Bootstraps?), and I came up with my own thoughts on their roles. Captain Barbossa was last seen lying dead in a cave, so he will most likely appear only in flashbacks. Since Bootstrap was probably under the curse before they chained him to a cannon and sent him to the bottom of the ocean, he remained alive; that is until the curse was broken and then he would have immediately drowned. Make sense?  So I'm speculating that Bootstrap will also be seen in flashbacks with Barbossa, and the subtitle, Dead Man's Chest, could refer to either of them. If this is true, then Stellan won't be on screen with present-day characters played by Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom. But this is pure speculation. It's funny that in Roger Ebert's review, he wrote, "Although the ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel, the movie feels like it already includes the sequel." Obviously the filmmakers aren't concerned about how the two sequels will sustain entertainment long after audiences have savored the freshness and originality of the characters and story.

Swedish publication Expressen had an article yesterday regarding Pirates of the Caribbean- Orlando Bloom, 28, gets a Swedish father! Orlando thinks Stellan is pretty "cool" and says, "I have always liked Stellan and I hope we'll have time to get to know one another a little better." He also explains that the role of Keith Richards as Jack Sparrow's (Depp) father is uncertain at this time, but possibly he'll show up in the third film. Actually Stellan already has a 28-year-old son, Alexander. Read on....

Tonight NBC's supernatural six-part miniseries, Revelations, premieres and you'll have the chance to see Stellan's eldest son, Alexander, in episodes two, four and six. Natascha McElhone and Bill Pullman star as Sister Josepha Montifiore and Dr. Richard Massey, who investigate signs that the end of world is nearing as predicted in the Bible's Book of Revelation. Despite their differing beliefs, the two work together, hoping to delay the inevitable. Writer/creator/producer David Seltzer believes it's time for a drama that challenges viewers to think about spiritual matters. Seltzer, who wrote The Omen,   says the series will fill The West Wing's time slot through the spring, and if it does well,Revelations could return as a regular series.

Later this month Stellan will be one of the guests participating in a panel discussion of actors at Sweden's cultural center, Drömfabriken. He will be joined by actors Mikael Persbrandt, Frida Hallgren and Andreas Wilson and together they will share their experiences from both theatre and film, working with directors such as Lars Von Trier, David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman, Kay Pollack and Paul Schrader. The annual event is sponsored by the Swedish Institute of Film and runs from April 28-30.

I was finally able to obtain Variety's full review of Schrader's version of Exorcist. Here's an excerpt  about the actors and their characters - "Performances are good to excellent. As Merrin, Skarsgård is in much better, more soulful form here than in the Harlin version, and some of the supporting players who worked on both films get a chance to show off real chops with better material. That's particularly the case with Wadham, Kamerling and Ralph Brown as a racist sergeant-major. Mann shines as a more neurotic Father Francis than D'Arcy in Harlin's version. On the distaff side, Bellar has a smaller but more complex part than Izabella Scorupco did in the Harlin movie, and makes more of it." The photo to the left is yet another one from the film's premiere in LA back in August. And I've come across another interview at the film's red carpet premiere.

4.04.05:

I've posted an interview from the November 2004 UK issue of Vogue magazine, in which you'll find a heap of good cheer and flattery for our Swedish thespian. Example - "Skarsgård has a warm, almost bear-like demeanor... He radiates such enthusiasm that everything he says is robust, enveloping, gutsy and spoken with a slight Scandinavian lilt. He readily voices frank and unpredictable opinions, and he's quick to growl-like laughter. Even when he's at his most agitated, you have the sense that he might put a hand firmly on your shoulder and invite you for a few beers and a slap-up meal."

Stellan fans are naturally eager to see Paul Schrader's Exorcist.  And the reason I regularly post news on this ongoing saga is because I'm generating as much publicity as possible for a theatrical release in the US in the next two months. In the meantime, Paul keeps us posted and has recently given some interesting tidbits online in the past week. Take, for instance, this last shot of his film, which reveals his hommage to John Ford's 1956 classic western, The Searchers. It shows Father Merrin framed by a doorway walking into a dust storm, a rosary dangling from his hand. Paul admits there's this "Western running beneath the surface of my Exorcist: a hardscrabble frontier town, part military base, part trading post, colonials and native tribesmen, man against the wilderness, not to mention the John Ford imagery and compositions (including the final shot). In that sense Merrin is Shane (played by Alan Ladd in 1953), a man who's run from his former life to begin anew. But then the bad guy shows up. He tries to deny, then avoid confrontation but finally comes the point when he must either put his guns on or run away again..."

Paul further discusses the challenge the producers have in coming up with a name for his film. He says, "the most accurate title would be 'Father Merrin's Journey' but that's not commercial. Warner Bros. is going back and forth on title ideas. The trick is to find something that not only establishes the film as a separate entity but also acknowledges its connection to the Renny Harlin film." And lastly, a little trivia about the demon's voice. It's actually the voice of Paul's wife. When he had to complete the film, there was no money for additional re-voicing, so he processed her voice in different ways, and though you won't find her name in the credits, she happens to be actress Mary Beth Hurt.