OCTOBER 2005 NEWS

10.27.05:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)I've posted another great interview with Stellan that appeared in a 1998 issue of Sweden's Cafe magazine. It's quite lengthy and full of interesting tidbits. I especially love the "cow" story that his son Alexander relates. A huge thank you goes to Robin Solsjö Höglund for his dedication and time that he put into translating this long article.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)I've also added a dozen new photos to the Image II Gallery. Look for them in the last two rows.

10.26.05:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)I found a few more reviews of BEOWULF AND GRENDEL -

Twitch.net:
"Filmed on location in Iceland you've got to be pretty daft to screw up filming such gorgeous landscape. Iceland is breathtakingly beautiful and hostile at the same time... The production design was impressive as well though I did find the prostetic body suits on Grendal and his father a wee bit hoaky and obvious. Liberties were also taken with the dialogue in the movie. For obvious reasons old English just wouldn't be cricket since no one would understand what is being said... It is hard to say you want more action out of the film when it is bound by such revered text. But the sequences themselves are done well... The movie itself though stands as pretty common fare... All in all it was a pretty standard film that will likely infuriate devotees to the poem and give the rest of us who know nothing of it only a muddy interpretation of it. Kind of like watching a made for tv Shakesperean movie and then expecting to pass your English test the next day. "

Toronto Star:
"Instead of being a cheesy Viking epic, it is hilarious and poignant, despite more beheadings in it than Braveheart. The dialogue is hysterical."

Terminal City:
"Making the most of what was obviously a small budget, this could have been an interesting humanitarian interpretation of the Beowulf legend but for one thing: Sarah Polley. In a movie where we come to accept everyone as accented (not all the same accent, but we forgive that), Polley’s Ontario tones jar us out of the story every time she appears. The rest of the movie is good (Gerard Butler is excellent as Beowulf) and her acting isn’t bad, but it’s unfortunate that one bout of miscasting had to send this film so far wrong."

The Can Magazine:
"This is an impressive film from the start as it opens onto the raw and unforgiving landscapes of Iceland itself. But there's also a stark beauty in those landscapes that rivets the viewer's attention and keeps it firmly locked in place through the duration of the tale."

Straight.com:
"Okay, so parts of this production look like a Monty Python parody, and the actors’ accents are all over the northern map. The legendary warrior of the piece (Gerard Butler) sure has a lot of qualms for an Iron Age Anglo-Saxon. Still, there’s no denying that Sturla Gunnarsson’s full-bodied adaptation of this hoary epic is splendidly entertaining—not that this is the most sympathetic representation of the monster of the title since John Gardner wrote Grendel 40 years ago. Stellan Skarsgård steals the acting honours, and Sarah Polley has never looked so sexy."

Yes, that's Stellan with Natalie Portman at a football/soccer match between Real Madrid and Valencia at Santiago Barnabeu Stadium in Madrid last Sunday. Looks like he brought his laptop to perhaps catch up on some work. If you click on the photo, you'll bring up a set of pics from newscom.com. I heard from Stellan on Friday. He reports that he's still having his usual fun on the set of Goya's Ghosts, and in another week he'll be returning to the Bahamas to do more pirating if Hurricane Wilma hasn't taken the set! A few months ago some lucky folks had the chance to visit the POTC sets for DEAD MAN'S CHEST in LA and were able to view one of the decks on Davey Jones’ ship, The Flying Dutchman. Covered in coral growths, wet sand and rust, the deck looked like it had been on the ocean floor for decades. It smelled of wet wood and decay, but nonetheless was very detailed and convincingly old. Leaving the set, they all had a chance to see Stellan  in full costume as Bootstrap Bill Turner. Eric Williamson reports that  Bootstrap appeared to be wearing a large trench coat with pieces of coral sticking out of it and his face was extremely pale. He says that the detail was exquisite. There were also some set pictures on a board  that showed Stellan peering over Orlando Bloom's shoulder. Jeff Otto describes seeing Stellan in full pirate get-up complete with red eyes and barnacles coming out of his back. And lastly,  Andrew Weil  reports that Stellan was wearing pirate regalia, yet he didn't look like any worldly pirate seen in the first film. He looked as if a barnacle was growing off his shoulder and his face looked to be dripping off. He says the makeup was incredible to see. Here's our only photo of Stellan thus far. Guess he's ready for some trick or treating!

10.17.05:

BEOWULF AND GRENDEL recently screened in Korea at the Pusan International Film Festival, which director Sturla Gunnarsson attended. The poster to the left is the first official poster we've seen. I can't say that I like it much after viewing all the more creative banners that fans made in the recent contest sponsored by the official web site and gerardbutler.net. The film has now been shown at four film festivals and will have a general release in Canada in March 2006, but at the present time the filmmakers appear to be struggling with obtaining a US distributor. The following are excerpts from reviews, the first two from film critics and the rest from film festival audiences.

Reelfilm.com
"Based on the famed epic poem, Beowulf & Grendel tells the astonishingly dull and hopelessly irrelevant story of a legendary warrior named Beowulf (Gerard Butler) who must hunt down and kill a murderous troll before it does any more damage. With a storyline that involves sea monsters, larger-than-life heroes, and quirky fortune tellers, it seems clear that Beowulf & Grendel has been geared specifically to appeal to children - although the presence of some awfully scary moments towards the end would seem to refute that idea. The result is a movie that's not entirely appropriate for kids but way too silly for adults, while Gunnarsson's bland directorial choices ensure that even fans of the source material will be left scratching their heads. The performances are competent, at least, although a large portion of the dialogue is virtually impossible to follow thanks to Gunnarsson's ill-conceived vision (it's either flowery to such an extent that it doesn't make any sense or it's drowned out by some seriously heavy accents)." * out of ****

Variety Magazine:
"Director Sturla Gunnarsson seems aware of the savagery intrinsic to the story, but is unable to mine it deeply, proving too genteel in the end to make a genuinely creepy or disturbing film. He is not, however, averse to injecting it with humor, as when the Danish king admits he's heard of Christ but wonders if Jesus ever had to deal with a troll - or when, in an optimistic moment, the monarch proposes a toast "to the end of gloom!

Butler cuts a somewhat more commanding figure here than he did as the woeful Phantom of the Opera, while Skarsgård oozes remorse and boozy breath as the distinctly unregal king. In the company of the male actors' assorted North Sea burrs, Sarah Polley's flat North American accent sticks out oddly in her representation as a raven-haired, sexually open-minded witch willing to welcome to her lair both the troll and the man who would kill him.

Stark, barren Icelandic locations stand front and center in Jan Kiesser's muscular widescreen compositions. Rugged costumes are convincing, and score goes part of the way to providing an epic spirit."

Audience reactions:
"Historical purists will probably take issue with the portrayal of the story and with the dialogue. However, judged on its own merits, Beowulf and Grendel is a fine film. The film looks epic, thanks to the on-location filming in Iceland. Butler is suitably heroic, and Sigurdsson does well with a role that has essentially no dialogue... Screenwriter Andrew Rai Berzins makes use of slightly more contemporary language in the script, but without any ill effect."

"Skarsgard is amazing as King Hrothgar, a man self-destructing as he helplessly watches Grendel killing his people, consumed with hiding the fact that the catalyst was his own reckless action. Words like "walks on water" come to mind when describing Skarsgard's work...With Berzins' thoughtful and humorous script reflecting the real camaraderie of the talented cast, and Gunnarsson's direction reflecting his obvious love both for the story and for Iceland, we get a moving and beautiful film."

"Upon seeing it the first time - I felt the film was a bit slow and there seemed to be a lot of going here and there with little conflict or purpose. The accents were a bit hard to understand, but with the second viewing, the accents were easier to understand and the story seemed to flow much better....Stellan Skarsgård (Hrothgar) was genius in his role as the conscience-stricken, battle weary King of the Danes and Gerard Butler was very much the noble, heroic yet human, Beowulf."

"The film was beautiful to behold ~ breathtaking scenery of Iceland set alongside a moving and powerful score. The entire cast delivered strong performances. Gerard Butler was a magnificent Beowulf ... emoting the torment of his soul with tender subtlety yet never compromising the intrinsic brutality and strength vital to his character."

"It is visually stunning, beautifully written, and the performances by the wonderful cast were extraordinary."

"Breath-taking scenery, strong performances and an unexpected message come together in Sturla Gunnarsson's Beowulf & Grendel... The tone of the original oral tradition is maintained by Berzins' strict adherence to Anglo-Saxon and Norse root words and an ongoing thread of bawdy humor against a relentless musical score rife with tribal drums. The comic relief serves, as in Shakespeare's tragedies, to lighten and make palatable the raw impact of some harsh realities revealed."

"I enjoyed the film but there were several problems with it. The first was that many of the non-English speaking actors, which is most of the cast, do not speak clearly enough, meaning that the viewer can only understand about every third line of the movie. I was not the only who had this problem. Secondly, the idea of turning the story sideways by making Grendel the sympathetic character is interesting, but I found that it detracted from Beowulf's development as a hero and he was portrayed in a heroic light. Third the language use in the film varied between chorus like story telling and modern day words and phrases."

button_box.gif (205 bytes)The DOMINION DVD will be released today in the UK, but here in the states we'll have to wait another week. In the meantime, here are more scenes from the film. I've lightened them up a bit since most were quite dark.

I don't know about you, but I'm very much looking forward to seeing this film and comparing the two versions. I assume I'll prefer Schrader's since it deals more with Merrin's struggles in his interior life.

The short film TORTE BLUMA, which won the Best of the Festival award at Palm Springs, will now be screened at the13th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival, running October 19-23, 2005. The picture to the left is a new one showing Stellan in the role of  German commandant Franz Stangl. And speaking of film festivals, Stellan has signed up as Patron of the Northern Lights Film Festival, which runs November 17-24 in Newcastle, England. First held in 2003, the NLFF owes its title to not just being set in Newcastle, but because it focuses on films from northern latitudes - Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden, UK and Germany. NLFF reports they are "delighted this year to have been given a true Scandinavian seal of approval by Sweden's most famous acting son, Stellan Skarsgård." He says, "When I was approached to become Patron of the Northern Lights Film Festival, I was hugely flattered. I think what this festival is doing is totally unique in the UK in terms of bringing together all sections of film from education and exhibition to production and even an industry summit. The fact that this festival gives audiences the opportunity to see films that otherwise would only be screened in say, London or Edinburgh, is really exciting. I look forward to the special relationship that I hope to build with Northern Lights - and to seeing some of the fantastic new work from award-winning directors, actors, writers and producers."

button_box.gif (205 bytes)On October 13th, an article was published by Colpisa, a Spanish press agency, which featured an interview with GOYA'S GHOSTS co-star Javier Bardem. He refers to the script by Jean Claude Carriere and Milos Forman as very solid, attractive and intelligent. He says the film has humor, historical background and depicts an accurate portrait of Spanish society at that time. He goes on to say he has thoroughly researched the role but in the end, "my work is more creative than illustrative. I am an actor and I use my imagination."

10.05.05:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)The Spanish newspaper El Norte de Castilla reported that filming for GOYA'S GHOSTS took place in Segovia for seven days, three more days than expected. The photo here taken from yesterday's paper shows the production crew packing up the costume van. The article also speculates that director Milos Forman wants to release the film in "the first months of 2006", but that seems quite implausible to me if they're not wrapping up filming until December. More photos from the shoot - the first one shows Stellan and Javier Bardem - taking a cigarette break? And the second one shows Bardem in a carriage. Muchas gracias to Sharon Smithline and Sarah J. for alerting me to these two photos!

10.03.05:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet carried an article on Friday regarding the possibility of a future project for Stellan. Novelist Jan Guillou wrote a medieval trilogy about a templar knight named Arn Magnusson, born to an aristocratic Swedish family. The film production will be the country's most expensive film with a budget of around $20 million. The lead has not been cast but Guillou states that Stellan is his favorite choice for the role. He says, "It would be fun to do something with Stellan in Swedish, rather than having him be eaten by a fish in a Hollywood movie." [Referring to Deep Blue Sea]. When the newspaper contacted him in Spain while shooting Goya's Ghosts, Stellan responded, "Guillou asked me when he was interviewed in front of an audience by Ulf Elfving at Söderhallarna a year or so ago, when I happened to walk by. But since then, I haven't heard anything." But is he interested? "Sure, if the script and director are great and the schedule works out." Stellan played another Guillou hero - spy Carl Hamilton - in the films - . The photo that accompanied the article was from the Exorcist premiere in NYC in August 2004. My thanks to Robin Solsjö Höglund for the heads up as well as the translation!

This photo, dated Wednesday, September 28, shows Goya's Ghosts director Milos Forman (in the red hat) with his cinematographer, right is one of Goya himself and when you look at the larger image, you can actually see a resemblance to Stellan. And believe it or not, the photos below [courtesy of Justjared.com] are of Natalie Portman looking quite shell shocked.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)This month the DVD of DOMINION will be released. In the US the date is October 25 and in the UK - October 17. Extra material will include an audio commentary with the director, a selection of deleted scenes, and a stills gallery. During the Q&A at the Edinburgh Film Festival, director Paul Schrader revealed that Stellan was asked to think more Harrison Ford for Harlin's version rather than portraying the tortured soul of a priest struggling with his faith  in Schrader's version.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)BEOWULF AND GRENDEL will be screened at the Pusan International Film Festival in Korea on October 9. You can view a new clip of Grendel's scenes at the Korean web site or by downloading it here (courtesy of Gerardbutler.net).