AUGUST 2004 NEWS

8.30.04:

kingarthur2a.jpg (21761 bytes)Box Office News - KING ARTHUR:
For a Jerry Bruckheimer film that has struggled to around $51 million in the U.S., King Arthur is proving to be a far more valiant performer overseas... The knights' tale commanded the top spot in Germany... "It's a good, historical action film that may have gotten lost in the U.S. but may draw more interest here," said one German booker. In Spain, one exhib noted, "It's had a good marketing campaign, and it makes sense that it should attract more audiences in Europe than in the U.S." King Arthur has minted $95 million in 32 territories through Aug. 24 and over the weekend will rank as the 16th title to surpass $100 million abroad this year. With Greece, Brazil, Italy and China ahead, the adventure has a shot at reaching $150 million.

exorcisticon.gif (2265 bytes)Box Office News - EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING:
After ten days the film has grossed almost $31 million. That at least pays for Paul Schrader's version! Over the weekend ticket sales were higher for new openers, Hero and The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, but both failed to make as much as the opening weekend for Exorcist. With weekend openers Suspect Zero and Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 only making about $3 million each, Exorcist topped them at the box office with $6.7 million.

8.27.04:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)A week later EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING continues in 3000 theatres across the country! Be sure to check out all the praise on Stellan's performance by film critics. Interesting to note that King Arthur made $3 million less than Exorcist on its opening weekend.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)The online Swedish publication, Göteborgs-Posten, had a video clip covering Exorcist and its L.A. premiere. In an inteview Stellan talks about the film - "it turned into two different movies, two different genres, with two different temperaments of directors. Now I see it as two movies. I got two paychecks, but, unfortunately, I had to wear the same clothing twice."

button_box.gif (205 bytes)I've posted some of Stellan's comments from the September issue of Interview magainze, in which he interviews Mexican star, Diego Luna. You can also read his interview with Paul Bettany in their December 2003 issue where Stellan observes that "Reality's constantly simplified by politicians, journalists, and in fiction. I think it's our duty to complicate the characters we're playing."

8.23.04 

dollhouse1s.jpg (17961 bytes)According to the Norwegian publication, Verdens Gang (8/19/04), Kate Winslet's desire not to disrupt her oldest child's schooling has forced Norwegian director Liv Ullmann to delay the production start of her film, A DOLL'S HOUSE. Shooting was to begin in January but has now been pushed to June 2005. There was a denial that the production would be cancelled as some reports have suggested. However, no final contracts have been signed pending a finalized budget. Ms. Ullmann said Kate (who plays the main character Nora) made a polite request, and "since other members of the cast could reschedule, we agreed to the postponement". Kate and Stellan (playing the role of Dr. Rank) will be joined by John Cusack. The production is slated to be filmed on location in the west coast city of Alesund. The photo shows Ms.Ullmann with producers Tomas Backstrom and Petter Borgli.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Betty Jo Tucker of Reel Talk Reviews wrote a wonderful review highlighting Stellan's role as Father Merrin - here are some excerpts:

Some priests perform exorcisms by choice; others have exorcisms thrust upon them. Such is the lot of Father Lankester Merrin, an intriguing character moviegoers first discovered over thirty years ago in The Exorcist, one of filmdom’s most popular horror movies. Fans who’ve been wondering how this courageous priest became an exorcism specialist finally have their answers in Exorcist: The Beginning, a prequel starring Stellan Skarsgård in the role originally played by Max von Sydow. This prequel gives Skarsgård a chance to deliver a moving performance as a disenchanted man of the cloth who must go through fire and brimstone before regaining his faith... Director Renny Harlin brought on board to infuse the film with more action and thrills than presented in Paul Schrader’s version of the prequel, manages to create a hint of Indiana Jones-like atmosphere in several sequences showing archeologist Merrin (who, in 1949, says he’s no longer a priest) searching for a particular artifact in a buried African church. Surprisingly, the flashbacks depicting why Merrin lost his faith come across as the most frightening part of this horror movie... 

Although the movie belongs to Skarsgård, cast members Izabella Scorupco, James D’Arcy and Remy Sweeney are more than satisfactory in their supporting roles... As I watched Skarsgård play a man struggling with his Catholic faith, I became more involved with that aspect of this film than with its special effects and horror elements. Here’s an actor who knows how to show compassion for others while expecting none for himself, who can express determination despite impossible odds, and who makes us believe the changes his character goes through as he deals with evil  - whether in the form of his own cynicism, the behavior of others, or demonic possession. Because of Skarsgård, I forgot about The Exorcist and concentrated on his mesmerizing interpretation of Lankester Merrin. It’s truly one of the year’s most haunting performances.        

button_box.gif (205 bytes)The IMDB is no longer listing Stellan in the GOAL! soccer trilogy (info in the 8/18 update below) so I assume he has dropped out of this production, although I can't confirm this. In the July 17th edition of Sweden's Helsingborgs Dagblad, the article describes how Stellan is enjoying an interval of rest in his homeland before leaving for the USA in August, not only to attend the Exorcist premiere, but to also work on a short film by British director Benjamin Ross [Torte Bluma, a not-for-profit short about the Holocaust set in the Treblinka concentration camp, was shot in NYC August 1-14].

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Interesting: When Stellan was asked about his favorite co-star, he named Holly Hunter. They have previously starred together in two other films - Harlan County War and Time Code. And Stellan is often likened to William Hurt. In a June 4, 1998 article, the Montreal Mirror predicted  that "Skarsgård was fast becoming a William Hurt-type hunk around international casting circles."

button_box.gif (205 bytes)EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING debuted as the No. 1 weekend movie with $18.2 million. Obviously, the film had solid appeal for horror fans, who typically turn out in droves on opening weekend. Box-office tracker Paul Dergarabedian reports that "there's just this built-in audience base that loves this genre." The opening was better than expected according to Dan Fellman, distribution president at Warner Bros. Pictures handling the release on behalf of Morgan Creek Productions. How long the film stays in theatres is another matter. By the way, check out more pics from the premiere.

exorcistad.jpg (20892 bytes)During an interview at Wednesday night's premiere, Stellan was asked if he thought the Exorcist production has been cursed. He replied, "I don't believe in curses." (Finally, a sane person!) and then went on to say, "I think it's visually a very strong movie and hopefully a scary movie." The 1973 version inspired us by showing heroic priests facing ultimate evil armed only with faith, and The Beginning gets that right too. By now you've probably heard or read that the film has been unmercifully flogged by critics, some disgruntled enough to bushwhack the film by revealing every scenario including the climax! Is there some exemption that comes with horror genre films that makes reviewers think they should disclose every nugget of surprise for the cinema audience???

Bla, bla, bla...
Not to mention that this film has been mounted extravagantly is a blatant omission from any reviewer, regardless of whether they panned the script, the satanic hyenas, the upside-down crosses, blah, blah, blah. Stellan's reputation surely rises above all this blather, and I salute every film critic who mentioned his performance with due praise. David Germain, AP writer whose Exorcist review is picked up by hundreds of newspapers across the country - shame on you! Stefano Ortolani’s set designs are evocative and the great Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro's (Last Tango in Paris, Apocalypse Now) imagery is moody and atmospheric with shades of  some of his previous films, namely, The Sheltering Sky (a favorite of mine). Personally, I would have preferred a more complex portrait of Merrin's inner struggle with his relationship to God and his acceptance of evil in the world. Evil is always a particularly fascinating subject for me, not evil manifested by scary images, but more frighteningly in ordinary, unpossessed humans. (Why does Scott Peterson come to mind?) The flashbacks to the Holocaust were probably the most powerful scenes of the film, reminiscent of Spielberg's Schindler's List. Perhaps Paul Schrader's version will be more satisfying in the genre of psychological thriller. Anyone who has written Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, and also written and directed Affliction, is a person with worthy credentials! Guess we'll all have to wait until the DVD comes out.

8.20.04:  EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING OPENS TODAY!

From ALL MOVIE  GUIDE...

"Renowned for giving measured characterizations that draw their strength from a delicate complexity, Skarsgård is one of those rare actors who is able to do strong work regardless of the quality of the material he is in, displaying the sort of quiet fortitude that allows him to survive even the worst screen fiascoes."

button_box.gif (205 bytes)At the Exorcist premiere on Wednesday evening, Stellan answered a few questions regarding the two versions of the film. "The first one we did was more of a psychological thriller, basically about a man in crisis. For the Renny Harlin movie... I changed the performance. I even changed the makeup actually. You have to adapt to the material and the kind of film you're doing. I think I went much darker in the Schrader version." Me thinks I would prefer the darker Stellan. Click here to read another brief interview regarding the two versions. There were no advanced copies sent out so reviews will slowly trickle in this weekend. Now excuse me while I head for the nearest movie theatre...

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Question of the Day: Has Max Von Sydow and Stellan ever appeared in a film together? Answer here.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Trivia: Actress Izabella Scorupco has previously acted with Stellan's oldest son, Alexander, in the 2000 film Dykaren.

8.19.04:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)The creation of Stellan Skarsgård Online continues, but I have to admit it's been slower than expected with all the news flowing in resulting from two blockbusters hitting theatres this summer. It's been a bit overwhelming... The "press" and "images" sections are beginning to expand - check them out now and then. There is great satisfaction realizing how much the world respects and honors this gifted Swedish "skådespelare".

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Tomorrow EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING will take possession of the big screen! Last evening the film's premiere was held at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. Paparazzi cameras clicked away taking several poses of Stellan, co-star Izabella Scorupco, director Renny Harlin & his girlfriend Martina. The only television coverage I saw was on Extra with Harlin saying a few words about the film, and then a brief shot of Stellan standing alone among the photographers. Court TV's Hollywood Heat did a ten-minute segment on the film, which showed some production video of Stellan on location, as well as several movie scenes of him never shown before.

Trailer Images

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8.18.04:

svt.jpg (11044 bytes)There are two Swedish videos (via Real Player) of Stellan available at the Sveriges Television web site. These are interviews that were used in the promotion of his film King Arthur. The first one features a few of Stellan's scenes from the film, as well as clips from the 1968 TV mini-series, Bombi Bitt och jag, showing the teen-aged Stellan, but remarkedly quite recognizable. There are shorter clips of Deep Blue Sea, Aberdeen and Den Enfaldige mördaren (The Simple-Minded Murder), for which he won the 1982 Silver Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. The second interview also includes the same clip from Den Enfaldige mördaren as well as footage from King Arthur - "Finally, a man worth killing."

interviewmags.jpg (17480 bytes)September's issue of Interview magazine features a piece on Mexican star, Diego Luna. The interview was conducted by none other than Stellan. Not that surprising since he is co-starring with Diego in GOAL!, a trilogy that charts the rise of a young Latino from the barrios of East Los Angeles who goes on to become an international soccer star. In the first movie, he breaks through with British team Newcastle United. In the second, a couple of years later, he gets transferred to Euro champs Real Madrid in Spain. The trilogy climaxes with his going for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Production was stalled when director Michael Winterbottom quit the $100 million franchise in May citing "creative differences". Stellan will star in the first film playing the coach of Newcastle United. [updated - Stellan has dropped out of this production]

8.17.04:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Cinema Review's info on Exorcist had some great production notes in which Ms. Scorupco speaks so kindly of Stellan - "What convinced me to fly to Rome with a four month-old baby was the chance to work with Stellan Skarsgård. I am from Sweden and he’s one of our biggest, most respected actors. It is just the most beautiful gift to be a part of the production where he is and be around him and his energy."

Trivia: Though Stellan is 51 (in real life) when he plays the younger Father Merrin, Max Von Sydow was actually only 44 years old when he played the older Father Merrin.

8.15.04:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)The current issue of horror magazine Fangoria features Stellan on the cover. Evidently, the mag has a slew of dark and gory photos from EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING. Director Paul Schrader's version was intended to be a more subtle, psychological thriller, whereas the final version by Renny Harlin will have satanic creatures, blood-stained walls, possessed children and more.

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button_box.gif (205 bytes)Tonight "The Curse of the Exorcist" was shown on E! True Hollywood Story. There are encore viewings on 8/17 and 8/26. Check your local TV guides for exact times. In the last twenty minutes of this two-hour presentation, the prequel was discussed. Included were interviews with the producers as well as with directors Paul Schrader and Renny Harlin. There was some footage of scenes being shot with Stellan and some footage showing Stellan off-camera. He was never interviewed nor was there any dialogue. He looks terrific either in his priestly garb or safari clothing. The producers indicated they would also release Schrader's version ($30 million), recouping some of their money by distributing it to DVD, cable, network and syndication. Except for some preliminary location shots in North Africa, the premiering version ($60 million) will not include any scenes from the first version. The end result is that Skarsgård fans can look forward to two movies in his role as Father Merrin instead of one! The film debuts in the US on 3000 screens this Friday! Sweden theatre-goers will have to wait until November 5th. Most other countries can expect an October or November premiere. Click here for the extended international trailer.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)For more information on the two versions of this film, read this week's LA Weekly article, "Exorcist: The Beginning, a story of Hollywood possession."

button_box.gif (205 bytes)I agree with some of Larry Carroll's comments (Countingdown.com) during early production - "I like the fact that Liam Neeson has been replaced with Stellan Skarsgård, a fine actor whose ability to throw around intense, world-weary glances is unequalled. Skarsgård is not only physically appropriate to portray a younger Merrin, but he also doesn't carry the same 'star' baggage that Neeson would have had with audiences."

8.11.04:  

powderkeg4a.jpg (16945 bytes)Last month audiences were entertained by KING ARTHUR when Clive Owen and Stellan both stood on the battlefield ready to wage war against one another. Unbeknownst to most audiences, these two actors were on much friendlier terms when they previously co-starred in a brilliant short film called POWDER KEG, one of eight films in "The Hire" series that BMW produced to promote their cars back in 2001. Bruce Bildsten, creative director at Fallon Minneapolis, noted that the primary goal of casting was to find top-notch actors, not necessarily household names. "Stellan is one of those great actors you see in film over the years, whether it be in U.S. or European movies. He looked the part; he felt the part, he delivered the goods."

button_box.gif (205 bytes)In the July 9th issue of Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, Stellan comments on his role in King Arthur as the hairy Saxon chief saying it took half a kilo of glue to keep his wig and beard on!

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Stellan Quote - Acting and God:
"To me, what's fun with acting is inventing people. It's almost as close to being God; you know, creating life like that? (pause)  I've got six kids. That's closer to God."