GOYA'S GHOSTS will have the first of its three Spanish premieres on Tuesday evening. The screening will take place at the Palacio de la Música in Madrid at 9 pm. In a recent phone interview, director Milos Forman indicated he was feeling a bit nervous about how his film about the Spanish painter will go over in the great master's homeland. He admits, "I'm afraid I might disappoint the Spanish people." However, he did say that no matter how the movie does at the box office or how it is received by critics and whether they think the film is credible and realistic, the camaraderie and "lovely ambience" of its making leave it marked in his own mind as "the best professional experience of my career." He adds, "I never in my life worked with more pleasant, well-disposed and enthusiastic people."

At the Kodak web site, there's a feature called "The Intrigue of Goya's Ghosts" in which cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe gives his thoughts about the film - "Serenity, sensitivity and truth came to mind when I first considered the film's visual creation... I took special care with portraits of the characters which I hope will bring to mind the masterpieces of the great Spanish painters... It was an immense pleasure to work with Milos who shared his greatness of heart and sense of humour with the whole crew... The making of 'Goya's Ghosts' was an unforgettable experience for me and one in which we enjoyed a great shared understanding. It was the one film in which I was a cinematographer in the broadest sense of the word." The small photo to the right shows Aguirresarobe  seting up an over-the-shoulder insert shot with Stellan.

The Exberliner, Berlin's monthly magazine (in English), had a review of the film in its latest issue. - "The director of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' and 'Amadeus' has produced another quite old-fashioned film which is a grand spectacle, admirably acted, but ultimately a little tired. The dramatic story twists and turns really say nothing more than what comes up, must come down, and none of the characters' fates are really involving." They were obviously not bubbling over with enthusiasum, but hopefully we'll read better reviews in the weeks ahead.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Stellan's eldest son, Alexander, made some news last weekend in the fashion world, no less. He was a guest at a palatial Bel-Air mansion on Friday evening where designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren held a party. Apparently the Dutch duo have collaborated with Sweden's hip retail emporium, H&M, for an exclusive collection. He was among several celebrities including Carmen Electra, Chloe Sevigny, Izabella Scorupco, Johnny Lee Miller, Lara Flynn Boyle and Mia Maestro. What a handsome guy!


button_box.gif (205 bytes)There is still no word on a US release date for GOYA'S GHOSTS. A few reviews have surfaced on some German cinema sites and they are positive. However, there appears to be some disappointment that the film isn't purely a biopic on the life of Goya. If you've read the storyline, you'll understand that the drama centers on the Spanish Inquisition involving one of its cunning members, Brother Lorenzo (Bardem) and the character of Ines (Portman), Goya's muse who is accused of heresy. Apparently some critics would have preferred fact over fiction with the artist as the central figure in the story. The Scottish Daily News recently announced the film stating it starred "Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard, who starred in the original European version of INSOMNIA, as Goya." That's so refreshing! Journalists in the US repeatedly use GOOD WILL HUNTING and I wish more audiences were aware of his excellent work in the 1997 Norwegian thriller.


button_box.gif (205 bytes)Here's a great link to producer Saul Zaentz's web site featuring the entire history of the GOYA'S GHOSTS production from how the idea was conceived to casting to film locations. Many thanks to Sharon Smithline for this good information! So how did Stellan get this role? Director Milos Forman decided that the actor playing Goya should be unrecognizable. Zaentz relates how he and the director were on a plane watching EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING when Forman turned to him and said, "There’s our Goya." Zaentz knew Stellan since he had produced AN UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING and he responded, "Skarsgård is the kind of actor you remember not as Stellan Skarsgård, but as the character he plays in each particular film. He’s a marvelous actor."

Of course, Stellan was delighted to be approached for the part. He describes his role as Goya - "I’m physically different from Goya. But, of course, it’s not Goya as he was in real life that we’re depicting. This is fiction film. Let me tell you, I spent an incredible amount of time researching Goya himself. Actually all of us involved in the film immersed themselves in the essence of who and what Goya was, and how he worked and lived. We went so far in this direction that for some of those scenes in the studio we followed his formula for etchings and probably could have produced some. We know the formulas he used for color and the paints he particularly liked. We were even able to re-create the sketchbooks he used. He carried them with him wherever he went, something he learned about in Italy and brought home with him."

The verisimilitude of the setting and the atmosphere on set helped Stellan to embody Goya as a living, breathing human being. Stellan adds, "But understanding his soul from inside, the soul of the character that Milos Forman and Jean Claude Carriere have created, is the goal. I work from seeing him as they created him. The character as written is very interesting because he has compassion towards everything he paints. Yet he’s someone who stands apart as some artists must do. He certainly doesn’t want to get in the way of the powers of the Inquisition and he certainly respects his young muse Ines, though in some way he’s obviously in love with her. Whenever he paints angels in a church or whenever he needs the face of a lovely young woman in a painting, it’s her face he uses. She’s constantly alive in his mind."

Bardem stands in awe of his Swedish co-star - "To see how Stellan, this man from the north of Europe, creates this character who is the soul of Spain is something of a miracle. To work with Stellan is to slide on silk. You have an amazing actor there." Forman joins in the praise. "Subtlety, subtlety is the key. It’s a danger to make artistic geniuses like Goya bigger than life, different from ordinary people in the manner, in the way they live. Stellan is so subtle. I believe every word he says, every gesture he makes." And what does Stellan think of his director? "He is, of course, a fantastic director but he is so funny. Between takes, we don’t sit around talking shop but just chat and laugh because he makes such fun of himself. It makes a great atmosphere, an intensely creative atmosphere somehow."


button_box.gif (205 bytes)Stellan has informed me that he will be going to Spain in November to attend all three premieres for GOYA'S GHOSTS. Yes, three! Madrid on 11/7, Zaragoza on 11/8 and Valencia on 11/9. He adds, "It will be interesting to learn how the Spanish cope with having their national icon portrayed by a Swede. Of course, I do not pretend to show how or who Goya was. It’s just a suggestion of what he might have been like, and subordinate to the needs of the film." I think we are all quite anxious to have this portrait revealed and soon!


button_box.gif (205 bytes)There's a much improved trailer now featured at a German cinema site  for GOYA'S GHOSTS. However, it's dreadfully dubbed in German, so if you want to hear Stellan's wonderful voice, head over to youtube.com for an English version.


Last Saturday evening  the New Yorker Festival featured Milos Forman in a discussion with David Denby. According to Sharon Smithline who attended the event, Forman showed a few clips from some of his films and then showed the trailer for GOYA'S GHOSTS. It's apparently longer than the Spanish version now online, and in English. Forman admitted that the film has been having difficulty obtaining a US distributor but he is hopeful that the film will open in January. He mentioned the lack of a happy ending as presenting an obstacle in making money at the box office, but that's strange coming from a man who gave us Amadeus.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)I have a great find - an interview from 1968 when Stellan was only 16 years old! I purchased it a few months ago at Tradera Auctions and finally gave it over to our friend, Robin Solsjö Höglund,  for his translation. It comes from Bild magazine that featured Stellan when he starred in the Swedish TV mini-series called BOMBI BITT OCH JAG. Fristiof Nilsson Piraten had authored stories about an adventuresome boy named Bombi Bitt, akin to Huckleberry Finn. When Stellan showed interest in auditioning for the role, his brother Kettil made sure his sibling's acting career got launched. The series was highly popular and Stellan became a teenage star in his country. Looking back on this young stardom, Stellan says, "I enjoyed it and had a lot of fun. Fortunately, my parents were very sane people, so very early on, I realized the shallowness of fame and the frightening gap between the public image of you and who you really are." Of course, we know that in some ways Stellan hasn't changed much - he's still a rascal.