NEWS: MAY 2020

05.29.20:

Last month I added the HAMLET page under Swedish television productions. Since then I have come across some publicity photos of Stellan as Hamlet that were taken in March of 1984. You can see a strong resemblance to his oldest son Alex in the first photo.

05.28.20:

Older cinephiles may remember the 1981 Louis Malle cult movie "My Dinner with André", an American comedy drama. It's always been one of my favorite indie films. The screenplay was written by theater director André Gregory and playwright/actor Wallace Shawn, who play fictionalized versions of themselves sharing a conversation at Café des Artistes in Manhattan. The film's dialogue covers topics such as experimental theatre, the nature of theatre, and the nature of life, and contrasts Wally's modest humanism with Andre's spiritual experiences. As one reviewer put it, "It's quintessential arthouse filmmaking, a dash experimental, and a dash intellectual."  On June 19, 1991, a Swedish radio version was broadcast with Stellan and Börje Ahlstedt. I'm assuming Stellan plays the Wally role since he's on the left side but I have no verification of this.

I thought this was an especially good painting of Stellan -

05.23.20:

I recently posted the "Bombi Bitt och jag" TV page but then I discovered this photo of 15-year-old Stellan with his mother taken on April 27, 1967. The photo was used in the news media to announce the new TV series, which was about to start filming the following month. Stellan was one of 29 finalists. The man in the photo is unidentified. Maybe his father?

Does anybody remember Renny Harlin, who helmed the successful action hits - "Die Hard 2" and "Cliffhanger"? Thirty years ago he was slated to be the "next big thing" but a few box office failures torpedoed his career and tarnished his reputation as Hollywood's next wunderkind. Stellan worked with the Finnish director twice. The 1999 sci-fi action thriller "Deep Blue Sea" received mixed reviews but managed a 60% rating at Rotten Tomatoes but in 2004 "Exorcist: The Beginning" fared worse with only a 10% rating. With his career on a continual downward spiral, Harlin eventually moved to China in 2014 where he presently directs films.

Today I've added the DEEP BLUE SEA film page. I dislike the film intensely. It's about a team of scientists working in a sea-based research station who experiment with enhancing the brains of sharks in an attempt to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease. These sci-fi movies continually use the same team make-up. Bring in a beautiful, gutsy, and preferably sexy female for the team's leader and then make sure you include an African-American, this time rapper L.L. Cool J. Sun Sentinel's Todd Anthony asked, "Can the adrenaline rush of bloody, vividly staged shark attacks offset an idiotic, derivative plot? Hey, can a rapper make it as an action star?" Opening in July 1999 the filmmakers anticipated it would be the summer blockbuster hit. Certainly, it reflects major ambition on the part of Warner Bros. to cash in on the popularity of "Jaws," still a source of Hollywood inspiration 25 years later.

In August 1998 Stellan headed to Fox Studios Baja in Rosarito, Mexico. When asked about his role as researcher Dr. Jim Whitlock, he joked, "I’ve always been interested in food, so it's fabulous to be able to play it for once. [food for sharks!] It's fun to be working with Renny. He’ll throw a line at me in Swedish every now and then, which is hysterical, because he has this terrible Finnish accent. He told me that there would be real sharks in the movie, which there are, but the sharks they created are incredible and they’re better paid than I am…I should have been a shark. But it's great to be in such a big show; it attracted the boy in me." He did admit that he was "incredibly well paid for so little work".

Stellan is gone before the film's halfway mark. His last horrific scene is described by film critic Tim Brayton - "'Deep Blue Sea' feels like it's constantly daring us to take it seriously, relentlessly increasing the monumental stupidity of the characters and the absurd convolutions of the sharks' behavior. So it's not too much that the sharks will pull a man being airlifted out by a medevac helicopter to drag the copter into the water. What about if they then throw that same man into a huge glass wall to break it and flood the research center control room? And what if he's still, somehow, not dead when this happens? That is the kind of over-the-top, sugar-addled enthusiasm with which 'Deep Blue Sea' piles on incidents."

I was somewhat flabbergasted when the esteemed film critic Roger Ebert wrote, "The movie is a skillful thriller directed by Renny Harlin, who made 'Die Hard 2' and 'Cutthroat Island,' and here assembles a neat package of terror, sharks and special effects. That isn't as easy as it sounds. After slogging through the predictability of countless would-be action thrillers, I admired the sheer professionalism of this one, which doesn't transcend its genre, but at least honors it."

05.21.20:

This photo has Stellan in an unusual pose and in unusual clothing. I have no info or dates on it but I do know it was taken by Norwegian-French photographer Charlotte Sverdrup. I would guess it was taken on location for one of Hans Petter Moland's films since Ms. Sverdrup is based in Oslo.

If there's one thing I can't stand is misinformation. I found this photo on Instagram with a bunch of hashtags regarding "Chernobyl". Correction - It was taken on location while filming "The Painted Bird.". Because the photo is in color rather than in black and white, it probably caused the confusion. Nice pic, eh?

05.20.20:

This is one of the best sketches I've come across - not signed so I can't give credit.

Trivia - A photo from Norwegian's Dagbladet newspaper dated February 17, 2015. It comes with a short article about "Cinderella".

Apparently, Stellan was too busy filming the BBC "River" series in London that he wasn't available when it came time to dub the Swedish version. I'm sure Stellan fans in his homeland were disappointed that it wasn't his voice. Bengt Järnblad, who had previously dubbed films such as "Toy Story 3" and "Happy Feet", was given the task of dubbing Stellan, who said he was quite impressed with Bengt. On a personal note, I remember when Pedro Almodovar's 1993 film "Kika" was released starring Peter Coyote, who had originally spoken his Spanish lines but ultimately, he was dubbed and it was a weird experience watching him without that rich voice of his.

Besides "Cinderella", Stellan co-starred with Lily James in the "Mamma Mia" sequel and these two photos were taken on July 16, 2018 at the film's London premiere. You have to wonder what Stellan is thinking.

An interesting collage that I discovered though I don't know what happened to the rest of it. It certainly wouldn't have been my choice of photos.

05.19.20:

It was in 1933 when Waldemar Hammenhög's novel PETTERSSON & BENDEL (1931) was first adapted for the big screen. It was directed by Per-Axel Branner and Swedish audiences reacted to it as an entertaining story of two chums responding to bad times in their own ways. Because of its anti-Semitism, the film played throughout Germany to popular acclaim because Bendel was viewed as one of the strongest negative portraits of a Jew outside Third Reich cinema. A sequel was made in 1945 but it was a box-office flop in Sweden. Finally in 1983, Hans Alfredson directed another version titled P&B, described as a fable loosely based on the novel and not a remake of the original 1933 film. Though it updates the action to the 1980s, in some ways it is closer in spirit to Hammenhög's narrative than was the 1933 film in that both protagonists are psychologically nuanced and neither is portrayed as either a paragon of virtue or a reprehensible cad.

Alfredson's Bendel is not Jewish at all but rather an immigrant from Yugoslavia. However, like the Bendel of the novel and 1933 film, he is set apart by his appearance. Actor Allan Edwall wears a wig, false eyebrows and dark contact lenses to assume the look of a "svartskalle" (blackskull), the contemporary derogatory term for immigrant. Stellan plays the tall, good-looking Pettersson and the charming pair engage in all kinds of swindlery and con-artistry. One of the film critics noted that one of the difficulties with this film is that it swings from restrained comic interludes to tragic events, and back while hewing to a predictable plot.

You may recall that Stellan's breakthrough in film came just the year before with P&B's director Alfredson's Den enfaldige mordaren (The Simple-Minded Murderer). Stellan's performance was instantly recognized both domestically and internationally and earned him a Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. The first three photos are from Denmark's Kosmorama web site regarding the film. I thought the last photo was a rather interesting drawing.

During this time of Stellan's recognition in the cinema world, this photo was taken  of Stellan with Gustaf, who was probably almost two years old.

05.14.20:

As many of you know, young Stellan was a teenage idol, thanks to his lead role in BOMBI BITT OCH JAG, a highly popular Swedish mini-TV series. It was filmed in black and white in the province of Skåne from May to August 1967 and was based on the popular stories of Fritiof Nilsson Piraten, who also narrated the series. The stories were published in 1932 and quickly became very popular. They were inspired by Mark Twain and Bombi Bitt is definitely a Swedish Huckleberry Finn. The series began airing on January 27, 1968 and was originally televised in four episodes. In 1936 the first feature film about Bombi Bitt premiered. Whereas Stellan was 16 playing a 14-year-old, in the 1936 film, it's interesting that Bombi Bitt was actually played by 27-year-old Sture Lagerwall.

bombibitt7s.jpg (23288 bytes)


Stellan paper dolls!

Issued in conjunction with the
TV mini-series
 

bombibitt5s.jpg (22721 bytes)

Bombi Bitt is described as a free spirit, who more or less follows his own rules, and also know the rules of the game when it matters. His pal Eli lives a relatively orderly life with his parents while Bombi Bitt takes care of himself. He does have a mother, but she is not interested in him and he doesn't know his father. Eli is forbidden to hang out with this rascal so all their antics and adventures must be done in secret. In the photos below, Bombi Bitt sports a pipe but does he actually smoke it?

The next photo comes from a 13-year-old fan who had the opportunity to get Stellan's  autograph when a book signing was held in Malmö in 1968. Check out the new TV page for more information and a link to one of Stellan's first interviews for Bild magazine in which he explains how he managed to get this role. It was said that Stellan only had to put on the scarecrow hat, let his hair grow a bit, and paint on a swarm of freckles - and he was Bombi Bitt. He already had the "darned-it look."

You can view the four episodes at Dailymotion.com.

05.06.20:

Another film page added! Though Stellan's role in MY SON THE FANATIC went rather unnoticed and didn't earn him any particular attention, the film was quite successful. It was screened in the Directors Fortnight at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival and the London Film Festival and was distributed in the United States by leading independent film company Miramax. It opened in two movie houses in New York and two in Los Angeles in 1999 before expanding its run to more than 20 cities around the country. Written by Hanif Kureishi, whose witty screenplay for "My Beautiful Launderette" was nominated for an Oscar in 1987 and directed by Udayan Prasad, the film also received three nominations by the British Independent Film Awards in 1998 and a Best Foreign Film nomination by the Independent Spirit Awards the following year.

This collaborative comedy by Kureishi and Prasad is an unconventional love story about a Pakistani taxi driver and a prostitute. Set in the north of England, the backdrop to the story is the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the growing tensions within a community that borders on the city's red light district at one end and the mosque at the other. Veteran Indian actor Om Puri plays taxi driver Parvez, American actress Rachel Griffiths ("Hilary and Jackie") plays the local prostitute Bettina, and British-Indian actor Akbar Kurtha is Puri's son, whose embrace of Islam creates mayhem in the family. Our Swede portrays a hedonistic German businessman named Schitz who comes to the UK for the acquisition of a piece of deserted land in order to build a shopping center on it. He hires Parvez as his driver to take him around town. He embodies the world of capitalism, has a taste for cocaine and call girls, drinks heavily, and at one point tries to organize an orgy  to impress some local business colleagues.  Now you know why he's called Schitz!

The film won praise for its study of displaced immigrants, racial issues and appeal of fundamentalism for the young. In New York, the four major dailies gave the film enthusiastic thumbs up. The Daily News and New York Post each gave the film three stars out of four; Newsday gave three-and-a-half stars. And USA Today, offering another solid review, gave it three stars. Om Puri's performance was singled out by every reviewer, with Daily News asserting, "This is a wrenching, absolutely honest performance, the best we may see on an American screen this year." And Janet Maslin of the NY Times wrote, "At its center is a fine, irascible performance by Om Puri, the prominent Indian actor who is on his way to being much more visible to international audiences."

Back in 2011, Stellan was asked if he needed to find something relatable or likable in the characters he plays. He replied, "Yes, but not likable, necessarily, but recognizable. I want them to be complex in the sense that everything that is on the surface is not all there is. There always has to be contradictions within them. There has to be a certain amount of irrationality to make them humans, but I'd like the audience to understand them as human beings. It's like that wonderful film, Der Untergang (Downfall) with Bruno Ganz when he played Hitler in the bunker. Some people got upset that he was portrayed as a human being. I think it's a moral obligation to portray him as a human being because if you don't look at those people who massacre people as humans, then we're not aware of what we have inside ourselves and then we can't protect ourselves against it."

05.04.20:

Polish journalist Tomasz-Marcin Wrona of TVN24 spoke with Stellan recently after HOPE's premiere in Poland was canceled due to the pandemic. In the film Stellan plays a husband whose wife has been told she has terminal cancer. This role was perfect for him because he had his own personal experience. He tells TVN24, "My ex-wife had a cancer diagnosis. In these situations, your first reaction is that you don't know what you can do. And nothing can be done! You can do all the practical tasks: prepare food for the children, clean the apartment, etc. but there is no way to really be able to share the experience of a person with cancer, or a person who has heard that there is no rescue for her. You feel helpless and lost." (Polish poster below)

Stellan was also asked how he looked at the world during this pandemic. He responded, "This is an extraordinary and extreme situation. Weaknesses of our societies have surfaced. We spent decades refinancing risky operations and society remained underfunded. Of course, when this situation ends, there will be profound political changes."

And how has the coronavirus affected him? He replies, "Projects in which I was involved have been suspended. All my sons who are actors have also lost their jobs, although it has its pleasant consequences because we are all together. We spend this time together. Sure, we're in a privileged position. There are billions of people who do not have access to proper medical care."

What does Stellan think of the theory that the pandemic is a divine punishment? He laughs and says, "It's really fucking stupid. But quite seriously, such statements are very dangerous. And not just because of the stupidity of people who preach such opinions. They are dangerous because shared in this way they draw attention away from scientific information toward metaphysical fantasies. This means that instead of focusing on fighting it, there will always be those who blame others for this situation."

2019 premieres for sons Bill and Gustaf: The first three photos were taken at the "It: Chapter Two" premiere in Stockholm on September 5th.  Stellan poses with his son Ossian and ex-wife My. The child in the mauve sweatshirt is not identified. Son Valter was also in attendance and Bill is shown with Anita Morberg, mother of his 18-month old daughter. The last photo shows Valter with his mother and his girlfriend Jade Classon at the premiere of "438 Days" at the Rigoletto Cinema in Stockholm on August 26th.

05.02.20:

Frank Herbert's epic sci-fi DUNE is slated for a December 18th  release. However, with the Covid-19 crisis at hand, one can only guess whether its opening will be pushed forward to sometime in 2021. A handful of the cast members are recognizable - Timothée Chalamet, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardeem, Oscar Isaac and Charlotte Rampling. There have been many conversations regarding Stellan's role as Baron Harkonnen, an extravagant character of Machiavellian means. Director Denis Villeneuve commented recently in a Vanity Fair interview that he selected a different approach to this legendary villain. He said, "As much as I deeply love the book, I felt that the baron was flirting very often with caricature. And I tried to bring him a bit more dimension. That’s why I brought in Stellan. Stellan has something in the eyes. You feel that there’s someone thinking, thinking, thinking - that has tension and is calculating inside, deep in the eyes. I can testify, it can be quite frightening."

Past portrayals have ranged from Ian McNiece’s mildly theatric schemer in the Sci-Fi Channel’s "Dune" miniseries to Kenneth McMillan’s over-the-top portrayal in David Lynch’s 1984 theatrical version. As photos have slowly appeared online,  new looks for "Dune" characters have emerged but so far the Baron has not been seen. Noting Villeneuve's comments that the Baron's description will lean harder on Stellan's handsome and imposing features rather than letting the character be a massive figure of ugly lechery, we will eagerly await that first look. In the meantime, here are a few shots from the film as well as some interesting "fan art" posters.

 

News from Slashfilm.com:
Stellan Skarsgård is already playing the villain in one space opera — why not add another? Variety broke the news that Stellan and Kyle Soller are set to star opposite Diego Luna in the Disney+ Cassian Andor TV series. Both are in final negotiations for their roles in the yet-untitled "Star Wars" spin-off series. There’s no information yet on who either of them are playing. But considering Skarsgård’s penchant for playing cold, intimidating villains, and the Star Wars franchise’s tendency to cast accented European character actors as villains, it’s likely that the Swedish actor will play an agent of the Empire. The series takes place before the events of "Rogue One" in the early days of the Rebellion against the Empire. The Cassian Andor series was originally supposed to start shooting but it’s unclear if the industry-wide shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic will alter plans.

05.01.20:

The Skarsgård acting family appeared in the December 2019/January 2020 issue of Scandinavian Traveler.

The film I'LL FIND YOU, originally titled "Music, War and Love" underwent a long troublesome production time, which included a two-year lawsuit for director Martha Coolidge. Filming begin in the fall of 2015 and editing began in the summer of 2016. However, due to financial problems, post-production ceased in November and did not begin again until March 2018. The film was finally ready in February 2019 and last summer it was chosen as the closing film at the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily in July.  That same month it also opened the Transatlantic Film Festival in Lodz, Poland, where it was primarily shot. I cannot locate any reviews though it was screened at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival in February and was the opening film at the Boca Raton Jewish Film Festival in early March. I don't believe there's a theatrical future for this film but perhaps it will show up someday at one of the streaming web sites, such as Netflix. Stellan has a unique role this time as an opera singer. Yes, he was dubbed! Here's the latest poster, two new movie stills and a production photo.

 

   

 

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