JULY/AUGUST 2007 NEWS:

8.29.07:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Here are a few more photos of Stellan taken in Edinburgh last week, and you can click here for the BBC video coverage of the WAZ premiere, which includes an interview with Stellan, director Tom Shankland and writer Clive Bradley. Stellan compares his role in this film to the cop he played in INSOMNIA - "The character is like a pressure cooker with a lid on that's very tight and a lot of stuff is going on. It's quite interesting to play those kind of characters. I have a lot of fun when I do my dark stuff." He said filming, which took place in both Belfast and New York, was hard work with 12-hour days and that Shankland pressed his performance further than where he would have gone with it. Variety describes it as "a mightily impressive feature debut by Brit TV helmer Tom Shankland that should put him on Tinseltown's Rolodexes."

The BBC reports "The script is inspired by the thinkings of a man who so despaired of mankind's inhumanity that he killed himself. And it's got a title which is part of an algebraic equation and most people will mispronounce. In many ways the odds are stacked against Tom Shankland's first movie, but WAZ (the title is actually pronounced W-Delta-Z) is in fact an excellent thriller with more intelligence, atmosphere and brio than many movies in the genre. The film will be released in UK cinemas early in 2008.

The film was also screened this past week at the UK's FrightFest. One blogger wrote, "The best film of the day was WAZ. Dark, disturbing and emotionally affecting. This had much in common with "Se7en", but it was much more than just a cheap knock-off. Melissa George was great as the young cop, but it was Stellan Skarsgård and Selma Blair who walk off with the acting honours. Skarsgård has never been better (and that’s saying something) and Blair gives the performance of her life."

8.21.07:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Click here for photos taken last night at the Edinburgh Int'l Film Festival.

8.20.07:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Since Stellan has been in London all summer filming MAMMA MIA!, he had the chance to attend the UK premiere of "The Bourne Ultimatum" (terrific film!) starring Matt Damon, who he co-starred with in GOOD WILL HUNTING. The premiere took place last Wednesday, August 15th, at The Odeon in Leicester Square with an after party at Shoreditch House. Also in attendance were Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, Prince, Neve Campbell, Stephen Fry, Paddy Considine and Paul Greengrass. Click here for photos from that evening.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Stellan is presently attending the Edinburgh International Film Festival where his latest flick, WAZ, will be screened tonight and tomorrow. At 5 pm today he will be a guest at the festival's "In Person". The caption reads - "From arthouse to action, Stellan Skarsgård has done it all. We take a look at the Swede's incredibly diverse career." The psychological thriller marks the feature film debut of director Tom Shankland, who is unequivocal in his praise of the actor: "Stellan has been an acting hero of mine ever since I saw him BREAKING THE WAVES. He has a way of conveying thoughts, secrets, feelings, by doing very little. He is a perfect screen actor."

Laura Smith reports from the festival on the film:

It’s an atmospheric, cerebral horror, a blend of "Se7en" and "Pi" that manages to be both genuinely disturbing and at times incredibly moving. Screenwriter Clive Bradley came across the algebraic equation – W delta Z or W∆Z – formulated by American population geneticist George R. Price which supposedly disproves the idea of natural altruism.

“I thought placing his theory in a heightened emotional context would provide a compelling basis for a thought-provoking thriller,” says Bradley.

From that initial premise came the story of cynical, unorthodox Detective Eddie Argo (played by Stellan), well-worn by years of gangland brutality, and his rookie partner Helen O’Mara (Melissa George), who find themselves entangled in the horrific murders of a notorious local gang – forcing Argo to revisit a case he would rather forget. The result is, as producer James Richardson comments, “a classic '70s hardboiled thriller flipped into smart 21st century scare territory”. Shankland cannily avoids any Hollywood gloss. Instead fluid, hand-held camerawork gives the film a raw, stripped-down edge, crackling with real darkness.

As the director observes, “behind the violence and sexy plot twists there is a really smart investigation into human nature. I was really excited by the way that Clive had smuggled a moving, twisted love story into a dark and dirty horror-thriller.”

Skarsgård was the filmmakers’ first choice for the role of the enigmatic detective, and there are definite echoes of his mesmerising portrayal of the Oslo cop's vertiginous descent in INSOMNIA.

“I was looking for something in complete contrast to the big blockbusters I had been spending more time on,” says the actor “and I found the WAZ script captivating and deliciously dark.”

“Making this film would have been unthinkable without Stellan,” admits Shankland, “He is an actor’s actor and the rest of the cast loved working with him. Melissa’s alternative title for the movie was Skarsky and Bitch.”

It's a riveting performance from a consistently superb actor who brings all his brooding intensity to a complex, challenging role.

German audiences found the film to be a well-made thriller but quite dark. In fact, one viwer commented that the first minutes of WAZ actually makes "Se7en" look like a Disney film. The film opens in NYC with the discovery of the tortured body of a gang boss's pregnant girlfriend. She is the victim of a revenge-driven psycho (played by Selma Blair) who's obsessed with Richard Dawkins' theories about the selfish gene. She's come up with a brutal test to see whether her targets are willing to sacrifice themselves to save a loved one. This film is definitely not for the squeamish with some of its torture scenes. (By the way, Shankland insists that Stellan is probably the only actor who has a nudity clause in his contract that he appear naked in all his films!)

7.27.07:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Although several worldwide distributors have picked up Tom Shankland's detective thriller WAZ for video release, it is now being reported that the film will travel the film festival circuit in the upcoming weeks. It is presently being screened at Germany's Fantasy FilmFest, and then on August 20th and 21st, it will be shown at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, which Stellan is expected to attend. On August 26th, the film will be featured at FrightFest, the UK's premiere fantasy and horror film festival.

In October the film will also be screened in Spain at the Sitges International Festival of Catalonia, Europe's oldest and biggest fantasy festival. As previously reported, the Weinsteins picked up the North American home video rights under the Genius Products label during a last-minute deal at Cannes. Mike Runagall, Head of Pathe Pictures International who are handling worldwide sales, called the film a "must for fans of pure unmitigated modern horror, which promises to terrify audiences everywhere in 2007." The following film description is being used - "Designed as film noir taken to extremes thanks to startlingly grisly horror twists, WAZ is based around a mathematical equation formulated by population geneticist George R. Price disproving altruism and selflessness exists. Trying to overturn his theory, a deranged serial killer constructs worst-case scenarios where victims are given the choice to die painfully or kill the ones they love. Stellan Skarsgård and Melissa George put in stunning turns as cops caught up in a sleazy rash of slaughter connecting to dark past secrets in director Tom Shankland’s SAW by way of SE7EN. Shot raw documentary style (by PUSHER trilogy genius Morten Soborg) with gruesome special effects (by THE DESCENT's Paul Hyett). Also featuring a haunting Selma Blair, all the tense thriller buttons get pushed to the bone-chilling edge in this shock to the system. It will stay with you long after the poignant climax and the murderer’s identity is revealed."

GOYA'S GHOSTS opened in select venues in the USA this month, certainly not in my neck of the woods. In the words of Monty Python, "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition", but audiences surely expected better from renowned director Milos Forman. Profound and captivating are not words that come to mind. On the positive side, reviewers praise this historic epic as a beautifully photographed art tour, and the film does affect an air of credibility and stateliness through its meticulous production design and Javier Aguirresarobe's marvelous cinematography. However, it appears to be one of those frustrating films that you can neither love nor hate. The overwhelming consensus is that it's resolutely mediocre, presenting absolutely no magic on the screen. Words that describe its flaws include "misfire", "dull" and "ludicrous". Of course, "miscasting" is a major issue which relates specifically to Natalie Portman as well as Stellan. That criticism is sadly universal. (And who thought of casting Randy Quaid as the Spanish King! This isn't a Mel Brooks film). Anyway, the caliber of Stellan's acting is not at stake here; merely, the way in which he was directed to play the role. Elizabeth Weitzman of the NY Daily News clarifies this point with "While Skarsgård is a gifted actor who typically has no trouble mining darkness, he plays Goya as a genial, wide-eyed innocent - a confusing choice that is strikingly at odds with the artist's work."  Strangely, the portrayal lacks the torment that one would expect from a painter known for his graphic and troubling depictions of war. Last week director Milos Forman appeared on the Charlie Rose Show promoting his film, but the less-than-stellar reviews were not discussed. For an interview with Stellan regarding the film, read, "A Tall Swede Steps Up to the Role of a Little Spaniard." He promises that his next film, MAMMA MIA!, now in production in London, will be less intense, adding "You'll laugh your head off." Here's a London photo shoot taken on June 29th.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Here are a few more photos related to the ARN film production:

And a couple of Stellan's son Gustaf, who also stars in the film:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Last month Stellan took the unusual step of refuting claims that he is a terrific husband and wonderful father. He responded to a glowing portrait of himself in Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet by penning an open letter to daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter, in which he speaks openly about his failed marriage. Stellan wrote, "A tabloid newspaper has tried in a couple articles to build me up as some sort of ideal husband and dream father - a nuclear family icon." But the actor assured readers that the quotes used in the articles had been culled from old interviews and ripped out of their original context. Stellan did not, as the articles seemed to suggest, wish to project an image of himself as a perfect family father. Far from living a life of marital bliss, he and his wife My had in fact long been living separate lives. He further added that several people at Aftonbladet were aware of their separation. "One can then ask the question as to why the newspaper in question has chosen to put me on a pedestal as a sort of superhuman husband and father. And I am struck by the suspicion that their aim is to intensify the effect of the next story: that I am no longer living with my wife," he wrote. He concludes the letter by stating that he and his wife have remained close friends despite the break-up of their marriage.