MAY 2005 NEWS

5.26.05:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Though none of Stellan's films were screened at the Cannes Film Festival this month, the Skarsgård name was still present. Eldest son Alexander is one of the stars of The Last Drop, a WW II heist film set in Holland. Directed by Colin Teague, the UK Carnaby film also stars Billy Zane and Michael Madsen. On May 16th, the film was screened for the first time to potential distributors at the festival. I think Alexander looks terrific in his role as a  German Lieutenant! The film's official web site notes that the charismatic actor was voted Sweden's sexiest man three times. Like father, like son....

button_box.gif (205 bytes)I had assumed DOMINION would play for at least two weeks in NYC but, alas, today is the last day and I missed it!!! Such disappointment... Argh... Apparently, NYC, LA, Chicago and San Francisco only had one-week engagements while Houston, Dallas, San Diego and Sacramento have at least a second week. As of May 24th, it had only grossed $170,000 from 110 theaters. Well, at least the Dutch will be able to see it at  the Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival on June 14th, and then it will open a month later in Belgium on July 20th. The US should see a DVD release very soon. On the Tomatometer, the film is now at 25%. However, I have found many more positive reviews that are not included at Rottentomatoes.com, such as this one - Film critic Scott Tobias (The A.V. Club): "In a way, Dominion is as much a Last Temptation sequel as an Exorcist prequel: Skarsgård, in a quietly mesmerizing performance, grapples with guilt and resentment on the bumpy road to salvation, and the movie turns on a similar scene in which his destiny is re-imagined. It may not have been what the producers had in mind, but they asked for a Paul Schrader movie, and that's exactly what he delivered."

I  found the insights made by Pablo Vargas of The Spinning Image were especially fair and interesting. Here are some excerpts:

"Although a much better film, it is still an uneven work that flirts with greatness but misses the mark in accomplishing what a horror film should accomplish. Schrader's film is cerebral, elegant and stately where the other one was music-video pushy and idiotic. But when you pull out the demon drag out of both films, they fail as horror films on some very basic level. Harlin's film lacked the necessary atmosphere and genuinely scary scenes and felt like an action movie without any thrills... Schrader’s film is a slow-paced, character driven, creepy and psychological mood piece that is full of atmosphere but hardly shocking or really scary..." It "plays out much like a modern tragedy. This is illustrated in a very powerful WW II opening sequence.." which "was hacked apart and sprinkled throughout the entire Harlin version severely hindering the building of suspense and the real meaning of this incident. In this version, it establishes the reasoning behind Merrin’s conflicted psychology and faith; something completely lacking in Harlin's movie..."

"The biggest difference plot wise in this version and an obvious improvement is in the handling of the possession story. Cheche an outcast amongst his own people, is horribly deformed. The transformation from harmless boy to fully possessed is heartbreaking... There are other major improvements in this version. The performances couldn’t be more different. The characters in Dominion are fully fleshed out and meaningful to the storyline. Stellan Skarsgård is more affecting and more persuasive with this incarnation of Merrin. He plays him as a man tormented by inner demons, struggling with his faith as opposed to the Swashbuckler hero with a crucifix as in Harlin's version. Father Francis, as played by Gabriel Mann, comes across as a much more engaging character. An optimistic priest, deeply compassionate, spiritual and caring, and a sharp contrast to Skarsgård's troubled and brooding Merrin... The film was beautifully shot by Vittorio Storaro, employing a dramatic sense of landscape and mood, and the production design is also impressive. The visual effects are a mixed bag and the music by Angelo Badalamenti, Trevor Rabin and a heavy-metal band called Dog Fashion Disco is effective most of the time

Film critic Todd Gilchrist refers to Stellan as an accomplished actor who has become a reliable Hollywood villain in recent years. [indeed!] He goes on to say, "Intriguingly for auteur theorists, Skarsgård gives two distinctly different interpretations of Merrin between the Harlin and Schrader versions, though one is hard-pressed to determine which - if either - is ultimately stronger. Here, Merrin is a contemplative presence amidst the picture’s pea soup posturing, and grounds the proceedings in something that resembles reality, whereas in Harlin’s version, he was a doubtful warrior reluctantly returning to the fray." Sci-fi.com points out, "It's especially fascinating to see how an accomplished actor like Skarsgård, who stars in both movies, can deliver a nuanced performance in Schrader's movie, then puff up the same character to fulfill the mechanical requirements of Harlin's gorefest. " And Hollywoodbitchslap.com cites Stellan as giving a "strong, stirring performance " noting that "While he was excellent in Harlin’s film–allowing us to genuinely see and feel the torment of the character without lapsing into histrionics–his work here seems even better, perhaps because it fits in more comfortably with the more serious and thoughtful proceedings supplied by Schrader. " More reviews on Stellan's performance can be found on the Dominion film page.

Icelandic composer, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, is doing the film score for Beowulf and Grendel. If you're interested, you can hear samples of his music at Smekkleysa.net and you can learn more about his previous film work at Touchmusic.org.uk. I have great hopes for magnificent photography punctuated by a very powerful and haunting soundtrack!

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Stellan quote on money:
"I've always had a very thoughtless attitude towards money. If I get a jolly good fee, I think: 'Funny, now I can invite some more of my friends to dinner!'"

5.21.05:

It's too early to tell, but on the Tomatometer, DOMINION is presently at 26% with Renny Harlin's EXORCIST prequel at 11%.  Not much improvement. Most film critics say Schrader's version is too cerebral, often boring and features cheesy CGI effects and often silly dialogue. Not good... The film is playing in only three states - New York, Texas and California. With these disappointing reviews, I doubt it will open elsewhere, but rather go quickly to DVD land. You have to remember, though, there are still very reputable folks out there who have praised the film with glowing words, beginning with Roger Ebert with his recommendation printed on the poster. Check out the Dominion page for more reviews. Three Loews theatres in New York City are showing it, and since they're only a couple hours away, guess who's going to the Big Apple next week?!! Here's a TV spot showing a preview of the film.[You can also view it at the film's official web site.]

5.19.05:

Director Paul Schrader is shown here in his NY office yesterday in front of the Dominion poster. He describes his ordeal - “There’s nothing good about being fired, and vilified, and worked over with a tar brush. So that my feeling now is not so much revenge or vindication as it is relief. If you’ve made an expensive film ($35 million) that has been thrown away and described as so badly made that it can’t be released, you can convince no one — not your wife, not your best friend — that it was any good. So the assumption is that it was just a piece of crap. And then you have to spend the rest of your life trying to explain that maybe it was good, as people look at you with their disbelieving eyes and imagine you in all sorts of denial. So instead of being like poor Orson Welles trying to explain how The Magnificent Ambersons really was supposed to be ... I can put this behind me. This millstone is off my neck.” And his wife, best friend and everyone else can see for themselves. [Read full MSNBC article]

The official movie web site for DOMINION is now up and running. If you want to view a short clip from the film, follow this link. AP movie reviewer Christy Lemire called both movies “needless” but allowed: “You have to give Schrader credit, though, for being more interested in Merrin’s interior journey than in loud, cheap gimmicks."

5.17.05:

Apologies for my error in not posting the NEW City of Ghosts film page with the added comments from Stellan!

5.14.05:

Here are three more movie stills from Dominion, with thanks to Justin from Bloodynews.com.

Some comments from director Paul Schrader published in The Hollywood Reporter (5/6/05):

"The (Dominion) DVD will be distributed by Warner Home Video, but the content will be controlled by Morgan Creek. I know someone is working on a documentary about this situation. I know AMC (cable network) wants to do a documentary about it. I know Farber in London wants to print a book about it. So eventually it will all come out. It may not come out on the DVD that's put together by Morgan Creek, however. I did a commentary and I restricted myself to the film itself. The  fascinating thing is Vittorio Storaro shot both films. They look totally different. Some of the same scenes look different. Stellan Skarsgård gives two different performances. It is just endlessly fascinating when you think that a premise is kind of set in stone and then you see it move through channeled visions and come out so differently. You know, they do this in film school, only they give you a budget of $500. Nobody does it in film studios with a budget of $35 million."

WB Morgan Creek Press has released a couple of publicity articles regarding film production of Dominion. You may have read some of the material when the film was being made back in 2002. Production Notes I covers the shoot locations and cinematography and Production Notes 2 focuses on the director and cast. Schrader says, "What interests me about this story is that it is ultimately an introspective journey having to do with Merrin's soul. Stellan has the kind of stature and complexity that this character needs. He can very believably portray a man who's going through this great struggle." The opportunity to work with Schrader was a draw for Stellan, as was the script. "I've always been a fan of Paul's and I found the story very interesting because, particularly for a big budget American movie, it had a lot of character to it." Stellan remembers seeing the 1973 original film. "The scariest thing to me in The Exorcist was the sound in the attic. Spinning heads is not my cup of tea really, but the sound in the attic, when the threat was hidden and everything was left to your imagination - that's when it's scary."

I've added a Johnny O'kej interview from 1995. It's been edited  because it was such a crazy interview with Johnny pretending to direct Stellan in between questions. That was all omitted for clarity. Anyway, I'm sure you'll be entertained by some of Stellan's  reminiscences  about his childhood and teenage years.

5.10.05:

In a recent interview promoting his present film, Kingdom of Heaven, Orlando Bloom talked about his co-star in the sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean. "Stellan, he is amazing. He is a brilliant actor, but also an incredibly generous person, who always shares his experiences and always looks at the film as a whole and not only at himself, " he says. "I just started my career. I have a lot to learn from colleagues like Stellan."

An oldie but goodie... I've posted a December 1988 article from Vecko Revyn magazine in which Stellan boasts “I use foul language as long as people are shocked.” Ten years later he continued his naughty ways. When he accepted his award for Best European Achievement in International Cinema, he cracked a joke about how every award recipient had masturbated their statuette. So I guess we can expect more from him in the future. I think we forgive him because he's Swedish and has a heart of gold.

The film page for City of Ghosts has now been completed. There are many scenes I especially love in this Matt Dillion film, such as the ambiance of the seedy hotel and the bar managed by French expatriate Emile, played with such panache by Gerard Depardieu. The local eccentrics, Casablanca fans and pick-pocket monkey all add flavor. And Cambodia could almost be called another character in the film with its crumbling interiors and its once-grand architecture now in shambles. Jim Denault's moody cinematography and Tyler Bates' score add more drama to the cast of interesting characters. Though I found the storyline sometimes difficult to follow, I took great delight in the duplicitous Kaspar. What a wonderful role for Stellan - full of shady nuances. I recently asked him about his experience in Cambodia and his comments are included on the film page. As usual, he took his family along with him and lived in a house in Kampot by the sea. He shares how his children were a bit frightened by all the attention they received from being uniquely blond. And naturally since Sweden has no poverty, the living conditions of  their new friends was also unsettling to them.

5.07.05:

On May 4 Schrader unveiled his Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist at a press screening in LA, saying that he wasn't sure it would be released right up until last week, "but it's too late now. I think the horse is officially out of the barn. Schrader told a small audience of invited journalists, "I didn't think I'd ever see this day. It's sort of amazing." Schrader said that Dominion, from a script by William Wisher and Caleb Carr, is pretty much the movie he set out to make, with a "few corners cut" in post-production. "Those things are minor, compared to the fact that the film exists," Schrader added. "I think it is now committed to film history."

Don't you just love this poster? I mean, besides the fact it features Stellan! It's a clever way to sharply differentiate this version from Renny Harlin's. You see a man bringing the cross to his lips about to kiss the figure of Christ. Knowing the story from the original Exorcist, it brings the film's focus immediately to the word FAITH. This is the story of Father Merrin's spiritual journey as he struggles to regain his faith and embrace his gift of the Catholic priesthood. When you bring up the larger image of the poster, you'll see it has a quote from film critic Roger Ebert [though it's not easy to read with the particular font they chose]. Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Else compared the two prequels and noted "Stellan Skarsgård delivers a tenderer, more expressive performance in the Schrader version. His acting actually left me feeling emotional allegiance and admiration for a Catholic priest character, which I frankly haven't gotten from any theatre-viewed film since...well, William Friedkin's The Exorcist ."

5.03.05:

I must preface this recent excerpt from UK's The Evening Standard by saying some of it is correct. Yes, he auditioned for the stage role. Stellan wrote me this morning saying, "I haven’t been approached to play in the production and the role is not fun enough to motivate a move to London. So I think it will still be some time before I’m back on stage, but I did the reading to taste it again and I did like it." Here's the 4/29 article - FROM DOGVILLE TO THE DONMAR WAREHOUSE by Tom Teodorczuk- "Stellan Skarsgård is set to follow in the footsteps of his Dogville co-stars Nicole Kidman and Paul Bettany to the London stage. Skarsgård will portray a Los Angeles restaurant owner to the stars in Garden of the Black Martini, a new play co-written by Allan Scott, who helped script Nic Roeg's Don't Look Now. 'Stellan performed a read-through at the Donmar Warehouse last week along with Jonathan Pryce,' I'm told. 'He hopes to do the play after filming the sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean.'" Heck, I was ready to book my flight! I thought perhaps it was true since he had hinted at a possible great role in a fall project.

In a recent interview, Orlando Bloom, starring in the POTC sequel, described his character's father, Bootstrap Bill Turner - "Well, you should see what he looks like, having come from the bottom of the ocean. He looks like Stellan Skarsgård, but with a few fantastic make-up modifications. He's got some peculiar mussels and growths coming out of him."  Definitely not going to be a handsome, but then what could you expect from a guy who was sent down to Davy Jones' Locker.

Here's an excerpt from yesterday's NY Times on the release of Schrader's Exorcist:  "It wasn't really a script," Mr. Skarsgård said of the rewrite, by telephone from his home in Stockholm, "but just a bunch of ideas about how to make the film scarier, basically by throwing in unmotivated scares in every second scene. I didn't like it and I didn't want to do it. But then Renny Harlin came on, who I've worked with before on the Deep Blue Sea, and who is a friend. In many ways, he's the opposite of Paul Schrader, so it was hard to imagine him working with Paul Schrader's material. But gradually Renny turned it into another movie, and got Morgan Creek to reshoot the entire film - or rather, make an entirely different film."