JULY - AUGUST 2008:

8.26.08:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Stellan will be showing up this fall in three episodes of HBO's ENTOURAGE. The popular comedy series takes a look at the day-to-day life of Vince Chase, a hot young actor in modern-day Hollywood, and his entourage. The series draws on the experiences of industry insiders to illustrate both the heady excesses of today's celebrity lifestyle, as well as the difficulty of finding love and success in the fast track of show biz. Stellan agreed to a guest appearance when there was a gap in his LA shooting schedule for ANGELS & DEMONS. He described this experience as "damn fun" but found it a very different tempo than he's used to. The cast includes Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Jeremy Piven, Debi Mazar and Rex Lee. Our Swedish star will be playing the role of a lunatic director. The show returns to HBO on September 7, but at this time I  have no info on when Stellan's episodes will be aired.

There's another Skarsgård hitting television screens these days as well. Eldest son Alexander has a star-making role in HBO's "Generation Kill", a fact-based, seven-part miniseries, which has been running all summer. The photos below were taken at the LA premiere in early July. This has been the biggest project in this country for the blond, 6 foot-4 performer, who has frequently been voted the sexiest man in Sweden. Like father, like son! Alexander can next be seen as a suave 1000-year-old Viking vampire in Alan Ball's upcoming HBO series, "True Blood", which debuts September 7. In a recent interview with Sweden's Cafe magazine, Alexander shared some of his thoughts on the end of his parent's marriage. He admits that living with parents who are not happy with one another can be more painful than a divorce. Since the marriage has been an unhappy one for years, he says his mother and father can now be better at being friends rather than spouses. He is also quick to point out that though his father has a high reputation in the film industry, that fact has opened no doors for him. He has always been certain about creating his own career and making his own mistakes.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)On Wednesday, September 3, UK viewers will have the chance to see GOD ON TRIAL on BBC2. Check out an interview with Stellan that was included in the press package. He plays an interesting character in the intense Holocaust drama - a sophisticated professor named Baumgarten, who was brought up believing he was German unaware that his father was Jewish. It happens that Stellan was familiar with several cast members. He previously worked with Eddie Marsan in Beowulf & Grendel, Dominic Cooper in Mamma Mia! and Stephen Dillane in King Arthur.

Executive Producer Mark Redhead comments on the Hat Trick production - "With the attacks of September 11 and the Iraq war, religion is now centre-stage in a way that has not occurred before in my lifetime; extraordinary atrocities are being committed in the name of God, while natural calamities and man-made disasters claim thousands of lives every year. 'God On Trial' is set in an extreme situation, but it wrestles with the great questions we all ask ourselves: how can there be so much suffering in the world, and what kind of God could let such things happen? It attempts to look at some of the most perplexing metaphysical issues, but it is also a drama about what keeps the human spirit alive even when faced with the worst suffering and impending death."

Due to overwhelming demand, Universal Pictures announced that it will release a special sing-along edition of its worldwide smash hit MAMMA MIA! in select theaters nationwide, starting Friday, August 29, for a limited time. Click here to find a theater near you! The sing-along version was released in the UK last week and can be seen in Australia beginning September 5. The movie phenomenon has earned more than $320 million at the worldwide box office. The Sing-Along Edition will feature the lyrics to every musical number on the screen. Since its release in early July, Mamma Mia! has been breaking records across the world as the biggest opening of a musical in history. It has already become the fastest movie musical to reach $100 million at the U.S. box office and is now the highest grossing film of 2008 in the U.K., Austria, Greece, Hungary, Norway and Sweden. Within the next two weeks, it will become the most successful film Universal has ever released in the U.K. The film still has more than 35 territories in which to open. The music of the film has proved as much a draw as the film itself and brought resurgence to the world’s favorite ABBA songs. Currently, the Mamma Mia! soundtrack is the No. 1 album on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart. It is also the No. 1 album overall in Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Finland and Hungary.

Last month when the film opened, Stellan made several funny comments. First off, he called co-stars Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan "lousy singers" adding they're "almost as bad as I am." We're told his children were looking forward to seeing the film and "not only for good reasons." He admits, "They want to see this pretentious father pulled down from the pedestal and put into high heels, finally."  Surprisingly, he reveals a secret about ABBA - "When they were most popular in the '70s, I was very busy being cool, so I had to listen to a lot of experimental jazz. It took years before I could admit that I was actually listening to ABBA." And naturally Stellan has to include comments regarding sex and gender. He says he found a  definite difference when the opposite sex is in charge. ""The energy on set becomes nicer, more civilized - there are no little boys who have to compare sizes." And what about working with so many women? "Because you’re working with a female producer, a female director, a female writer, everybody in power was a woman, except Bjorn and Benny. (laugh). But the fantastic thing is that nobody has to show that he’s got a bigger d*ck (except us). We stuffed our spandex (laugh). Here are a few new photos from the London premiere:

When the Broadway cast of the hit musical discovered who would have the leads in the film version, Pearce Bunting, who plays Bill Austin, said he was excited about the choice of Stellan as Bill Anderson. "I love Stellan Skarsgård. He's got one of those unbelievable voices, and just this kind of gruff, but really endearing, sweet but edgy manners." For a fun featurette on the UK premiere at the Odeon Cinema last month, check out this Irish site. 

button_box.gif (205 bytes)TV4 in Sweden has been airing an interview with Stellan this month on "Malou Face". Malou von Sivers is the hostess of a popular Swedish talk show in which she quizzes famous people about their public and private lives. From the video clips, it appears that she interviews her guests from a kitchen where she prepares an omelet for Stellan. He discusses his role in Mamma Mia!, as well as what it was like growing up with five siblings and liberal parents. He also stresses the fact on several occasions that actors are actually ordinary people who happen to have jobs that make them famous. I'm providing a couple links to the video clips released from the show (remember they're in Swedish). The first video begins with a very young Stellan and I'm afraid I don't know the name of the film. It continues with scenes from other films and his arrival for the show. The second video shows him settled in Malou's kitchen making chit-chat with the hostess. Click here for some caps from the videos.

ARN - THE KINGDOM AT ROAD'S END, the second feature film based on Jan Guillou's novels, opened in Sweden, Norway and Finland on August 22. The premiere was held in Skara for the chance to advertise the old city and the old landscape Västergötland. In attendance was ARN director Peter Flinth, author Jan Guillou and lead star Joakim Nätterqvist. Audiences got to see Arn Magnusson come home to bring peace to his country and marry his beloved Cecelia. Though his screen time is limited, Stellan continues his role as Arn's uncle, Birger Brosa. Eva Svendenius, head of Theatrical Distribution for SF Film Sweden, believes the "second film is perhaps better because you get directly into the plot and there is more action and more love." An international version of the film - a compilation of the two feature films released in the Nordic countries - will be available to world distributors in early September. The first film broke box office records in Sweden with over 1.1 million admissions. Over 170,000 cinema tickets were sold in Norway, 140,000 in Denmark and 25,000 in Finland. Variety reports that the second part of the Swedish epic had a good start at the local box office the first weekend notching up a respectable $1.6 million. The two films had an estimated budget of $33 million, the most expensive Scandinavian film project to date.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Blast from the Past:

Here's an old family photo dated 1988 of Stellan with his wife My and their three oldest sons - Alexander, age 12, Gustaf, age 8, and Sam, age 6. Bill was born two years later followed by their only daughter, Eija, in 1992 and Valter in 1995.

8.03.08:

I've been on an extended summer holiday and thus, the lack of recent updates, much needed this month when the feel-good summer blockbuster MAMMA MIA! arrived in theaters.  The film has now reached a successful 17-day tally of $87 million with.worldwide total about to soar past $200 million this weekend. Whew! A willingness to completely embrace pure campiness is what makes this film so exhilarating. Mucho praise goes to the cast who trip the light fantastic singing the iconic ABBA songbook and, amazingly pulling it off with a sunny sincerity. What a filmic fun escape!  The glittering, lycra-clad curtain call finale is ultimately refreshing - think of the end scene in "There Will Be Blood" when a man gets bludgeoned to death with a ten-pen bowling pin! Yes, there's no blood here, no CGI special effects or car chases, no serious filmmaking or deep intellectual thoughts. This huge-heart of a movie will indeed make money, money, money, and despite some cranky film critics, there's not an audience anywhere that can resist smiling through this big-screen songfest.

In a July 20th article in the NY Daily News, it's noted that the breakout man-candy of the film is actually Stellan. Apparently, all the ladies on set were going wild for him. The on-set spy claimed, "You wouldn't expect it, but he is really sexy and everyone was all swoony for him. He was just so charming."Tell us something we don't know! Even Meryl Streep had to admit, "Ah, Stellan...he's one of my favorite human beings in the whole world."

The following excerpt comes from an Indie London interview with Stellan:

Question:  You’ve said that you normally only dance when drunk…
Answer: Actually, I don’t remember! Yes, only late at night and amongst friends. And it really hurts dancing sober. Your entire body says: “No, this is not right!” But it was terrifying. I realised very soon that we were in this type of boot camp with platforms for what felt like weeks and weeks and weeks doing just one song, Voulez-Vous. There are some absolutely bizarre steps to that. I realised that I was never going to be able to do it. But then I thought that if the shot is framed so they can see my feet, they can’t see my face so they won’t know it’s me! And if they’re close enough to see my face, then they couldn’t see my feet. So, I either acted like I was doing the steps with my head [motions concentration] or with my feet [sticks his tongue out and looks clueless].

Question: But did you feel a sense of having to look after Phyllida given that this was her first feature film?
Answer: Not really. The technicality of being a film director is pretty simple. You can do a two-week course about how to place a camera, especially if you have experienced people around you in the shape of cinematographers and everybody else. The hard thing is to make sure that you know what you want to have, and to make sure you get it. And she knew exactly what the tone of the film had to be because she’s tried it out on stages all around the world. So, if you had a suggestion for her, she’d either say: “No, that’s not a Mamma Mia thing, or yes, that’s a Mamma Mia thing.” She delegated a lot but she always took care of the artistic decisions herself. And she also kept calm for months with this huge production.

In a USA Today interview, Stellan's character Bill is described as "a man with an enormous appetite for life, women, drink and fun" Couldn't be closer to the truth for the man himself! Julie Walters had this to say about her "Take a Chance on Me" romantic duet with our Swede - "We never stood still while shooting that song. It was everywhere - on a table, the roof, in water. It took five days." Here's USA's Q&A with Stellan.

•Previous music experience. "I was supposed to have a singing part in 'Dancer in the Dark', but I only had one day in a little role."

•Why he signed on for a musical: "It was so far from anything I had done before, that I had to do it. Normally I am a very measured actor. I knew I had to let go in a different way. Once we were done with most of the singing and dancing in London and came to Greece, it was almost like a vacation. The girls were carrying it. We were the bimbos."

•On why he flashed his behind: "We decided I should be cooking on the boat. I thought I should have an apron on. The director (Phyllida Lloyd) did not know I would be naked under there and have those butt tattoos. So when the camera rolled, I turned around right in front of it. The cameraman jumped and screamed, while Phyllida keeled over laughing."

•About those costumes: "It was very clever of the women behind this production that they take maybe the No. 1 action hero in the world, the No. 1 heaving-bosom hero and an independent weird film hero and put them in high heels."

•Favorite ABBA song: "It varies. I've liked for a while 'Lay All Your Love on Me'. There's something funky-weird about it."

•Next: Shooting 'Angels & Demons' with "Mamma Mia!" executive producer Tom Hanks. Also, "I did a comedy with Amanda called 'Boogie Woogie', about the art scene in London. She is my mistress, so I hope she wasn't my daughter in this."

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Besides Amanda Seyfried, Stellan also co-starred with "Mamma Mia's" Dominic Cooper in the upcoming BBC TV drama, GOD ON TRIAL. Liverpool writer Frank Cottrell Boyce explains how the project began - “The producer, Mark Redhead, has always wanted to make this story and has been pitching it to television commissioning editors for 20 years. He asked me to write it and I thought, I can do that. There are no facts about the story, just a rumour that it happened. Nobody knew or had imagined what the trial would be or was like. There is no evidence. It was all up to me and I confess it was a brilliant assignment." Filmed in a currently unfashionable stagey-style with big set-piece speeches, it is scheduled to be broadcast in September.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Now this next piece of news comes direct from the horse's mouth, so it's not simply hearsay. Stellan is engaged to Megan Everett! During an interview with Paul Byrne for Ireland's Evening Herald, he says, "I shot two films there (Ireland), but I go back every now and then because my fiancée used to live there, and she's got a lot of friends there. I've even been to an Irish wedding. I'm a Swede, I'm strong enough." 

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Filming for ANGELS & DEMONS, began in early June in Rome, but has since relocated to Los Angeles. The original book by Dan Brown so infuriated the Catholic Church that the Vatican banned director Ron Howard from filming there. Set designers are now painstakingly recreating a scale model of the Vatican with Howard hoping that audiences will not be able to spot the real from the fake. They have also used the former Royal Palace at Caserta near Naples as a double for the Vatican interior.  The sequel includes a hired assassin, a handful of kidnapped cardinals, the Swiss Guard, and the reluctant hero, Robert Langdon, played once more by Tom Hanks. Stellan plays Richter, the commander of the Swiss Guard. In a recent interview, co-star Ewan McGregor told reporters he will be playing the Camerlengo, the Pope's right-hand man, who takes charge of the Vatican after the Pope dies. Here are some photos from the LA film production:

7.01.08:

Promotional appearances for MAMMA MIA! began last weekend when cast members and original Abba members gathered at the Lagonissi Grand Resort, about 25 miles south of Athens, Greece. On June 28th a press conference and photo call was held. Everyone then hopped a plane to London for last night's UK world premiere. Leicester Square was transformed into a grove to resemble the location of the film adaptation of the smash hit musical. The red carpet was rolled out through a lemon grove, as close an approximation of a Greek island idyll as is possible in London. There was a fake, white-painted church made of wood, real lemon trees had been planted around it in sacks of earth, and fake pink bougain-villea climbed over trellis arches, all to reflect the setting of the film. The crowd also waved Swedish flags to the Abba music that played continually. [Note the lucky fan who gets close up with our Swede] The US premiere will take place at the Ziegfield Theatre in NYC on Wednesday, July 16th followed by its general theatrical release on July 18th. Click here for photos taken in Greece and London.

It appears that Stellan arrived sans Megan Everett for the UK premiere, but the couple was later seen at the after party at The Room by the River. Stellan told the press, "This film is very much about embarrassment. It’s about surviving embarrassment in your life... It was horrifying but that's why I did it. I've never danced, I've never sung, it was a real challenge but a lot of fun.” What did he think about Brosnan's vocal range? "I was too preoccupied with my own singing. We were all pretty scared." And who's vocal talents impressed him the most? 'I think 'The Winner Take It All' with Meryl Streep singing - I think that's my favorite one."

The soundtrack will be released on CD on July 8th with the following tracks:

Honey Honey
Money, Money, Money
Mamma Mia
Dancing Queen
Our Last Summer
Lay All Your Love On Me
Super Trouper
Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!
The Name Of The Game
Voulez-Vous
S.O.S.
Does Your Mother Know
Slipping Through My Fingers
The Winner Takes It All
When All Is Said And Done
Take A Chance On Me
I Have A Dream
Thank You For The Music

Here are some new photos of Stellan in his role as Bill Anderson:

Great review from The Hollywood Reporter:

No matter how many blockbusters there are, Universal Pictures' screen version of the global hit stage musical "Mamma Mia!" is the most fun to be had at the movies this or any other recent summer. Teenage boys may be glued to the latest action adventure, but the rest of the family will be having a rollicking good time and dancing in the aisles to Swedish pop group ABBA's irresistible songs. It's a delightful piece of filmmaking with a marvelous cast topped by Meryl Streep in one of her smartest and most entertaining performances ever.

The Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus songs have memorably sturdy lyrics that the filmmakers weave with great skill into their story. All of the players perform with gusto including Skarsgård, ex-007 Brosnan and noted Mr. Darcy Firth who, far from embarrassing themselves, sing well and deserve high praise for being such good sports.