NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2006 NEWS:

12.05.06:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)There's a great video to watch at youtube.com called "Stellan Skarsgård Movies Tribune".

11.26.06:

Today I have a little gem, which can be found at youtube.com. Back in 1991 Stellan took part in a music video with Swedish singer Eva Dahlgreen. The song was "Vem tänder stjärnorna" which translates to "Who is setting the stars alight?" It's a beautiful love song and if anyone would like the translated lyrics, I will gladly send them. How grateful we are to have the chance to view this video! Stellan looks wonderful, very youthful. I would like to thank Judith of Germany for sharing this with us. Enjoy!

button_box.gif (205 bytes)There are several short audio clips at the German web site - Arte.tv - that I think you'll find most interesting regarding GOYA'S GHOSTS. They were taken from interviews with the director, producer and the film's three leads. There is also a critique by Nana A.T. Rebhan, who points out why Goya is not the subject of the film and possibly why Stellan was asked to perform it with such reserve. Forman explained, "Goya was most likely a very boring person. We know nothing at all about him, apart from some biographic data. He wrote, for example, no diary. He was a well-known personality, but none of his contemporaries wrote anything about him. He communicated only with his canvas. The only thing he wrote, which we have, are his letters to a childhood friend, but these letters are unbelievably trivial and banal." Thus, the fictional character of Brother Lorenzo was drawn as the film's central figure. Behan admits that even though Javier Bardem embodies this character in a marvelous performance, it's not enough for "Goya's Ghosts" to become an outstanding film. However, she believes the film is worth seeing because of the way it's carefully produced with its historically faithful scenes. She assures all true fans of the director that they will not be disappointed.

Paul Fischer recently interviewed Melissa George, who co-stars with Stellan in the upcoming WAZ. These were her comments about the film - "It was probably one of the greatest acting experiences. I play a rookie cop to Stellan’s character and once again this amazing relationship between Stellan and me unfolds as we’re going after a serial killer. I discover myself throughout this story and it’s about altruism, almost like what happens in nature when a monkey, for example, goes out in front of the wild  to protect three hundred monkeys in their clan and gets killed in order to save their gene pool. So it’s about this story about how far will you go, how much pain will it take before you kill somebody you absolutely love and couldn’t live without. It’s also a serial killer story that is quite genius, really gritty, and we shot it on hand held, which was great."

11.24.06:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)There are some new clips from GOYA'S GHOSTS available at the German web site, Spiegel Online. They each run under a minute and are dubbed in German. Two of the four clips show Stellan - one with Ines (Portman) as he paints her, the second is a confrontation with Brother Lorenzo (Bardem). The third clip shows Lorenzo with Brother Gregorio (Michael Lonsdale) and the last is the scene when Ines is tortured. The following are a few observations by the German film critics. Birgit Glombitza expected to witness another grandiose film from such a distinguished director. Instead she believes Forman failed in recognizing the true rebellious soul of Goya as depicted in his paintings, so the audience is left viewing one of Europe's greatest artists as a very weak, characterless observer. On the other hand, Wolfgang Hübner describes the film as a masterpiece! He believes Stellan is actually a larger man than Goya but admits they have very similar facial characteristics. Leif Kramp calls the film "rich, exciting historical cinema." Sarah Mersch, who gives it two out of five stars, believes the film doesn't function well because there's too much concentration on history. Till Kadritzke praises the beginning of the film, its strong actors, the costumes, which would surely win an Oscar, but ultimately finds the film flawed because of its script. He states, "One leaves the cinema with a strange discontent, which cannot at all be explained easily." He also questions whether expectations are simply too high because it's a Forman film. Jörg Gerle of Film Dienst believes the problem with the film is there is so little interest in Goya and the title should therefore have been "Lorenzo's Ghosts". Hanns-Georg Rodek criticizes the film for the difficulty the viewer incurs struggling to arrive at the proper perspective with all its detours and  pre-supposing historical facts. Though Pia Horlacher has some criticisms with the script and camera work, she refers to the film as a "captivating costume drama."

11.19.06:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)According to London reporter Archie Thomas, GOYA'S GHOSTS "underperformed in its Spanish opening, taking $802,532 at 361 theatres. Exhibs point to audience fatigue with historical dramas as cause for the soft bow. Bookers report that word of mouth is not that positive and are not predicting a long run for 'Ghosts.'" The film will open in Germany on Thursday. I'm hesitant to share reviews on the German-dubbed version because, based on the feedback from Spain, there seems to be a major difference in perception of the film when it's dubbed. This is a valid observation simply from viewing the trailers. Since the film has an international cast, much criticism has been directed at the hodgepodge of accents undermining its authenticity, which was one of the major problems in BEOWULF AND GRENDEL. [By the way, Milos Forman, who has never found a biopic he didn't want to direct, will next tackle the story of Amarillo Slim Preston, who has never thought of a bet he didn't want to make. Film production is slated for 2008 with Nicolas Cage in the lead role]

We have another review in English from Variety film critic Jonathan Holland. He sums up the screenplay as being an "ambitious script stranded between entertainment and intellectualism" which ultimately delivers "a flawed and somewhat sterile discourse on the dangers of unlimited power, hypocrisy and mistaken identity." The performances score high except for Javier Bardem's. Holland writes, "Though his face is a wonderfully expressive vehicle, Bardem is hampered here by his English-language delivery, which is often muttered, oddly stressed and sometimes downright incomprehensible." He describes Natalie Portman as a "particularly convincing muse for Goya earlier on" and then eventually ends up "wearing startling, uglifying makeup and doing a good turn as a trembling madwoman". Regarding Stellan's role, he writes, "It was probably wise of Forman and co-scenarist Jean-Claude Carriere to present Goya as man rather than myth, and Skarsgård plays the swaggering, devil-may-care painter, later descending into embittered deafness, with perception and brio."What Holland does celebrate is the film's visuals - "This period of Spanish history has never been cinematically depicted with such potency... Javier Aguirresarobe successfully unveils sumptuous, spacious interiors, dark dungeons, teeming taverns and (briefly) battlefields. The palely illuminated, wordless sequence when Ines hopelessly wanders the battle-ravaged streets of Madrid is pure poetry. Goya's magnificently grotesque depictions of the era receive homage throughout."

In a Spanish interview with Susana Cachaldora, Stellan says he doesn't want to think about his own ghosts.  She regards him as an actor hardly known outside his country, but Stellan concedes it's an advantage which enables him to make his characters more credible, a character such as the famous Spanish painter. What was it like to be offered the script? He responds, "An enormous surprise. For me, it meant a lot because the project attracted me from the beginning. There was Milos, the script with its melodramatic structure - the emotional dryness and  the intelligence with which it was written." Was it difficult preparing for the role? He replies, "The preparation always seems complicated to me and then there is the doubt.  I anticipate work, pain and much fear.  The complicated thing about interpreting Goya is that he is a very defined, very well-known person, and the expectations from audiences, specifically in Spain, are very clear." He refers to working with his co-stars as "fantastic" and though he was familiar with Javier's films, he was very moved in having the chance to meet him in person. Shooting the film brought no disappointments and it actually was fun. The food was definitely a plus as well. When Stellan is asked whether the characters of Goya and Lorenzo could exist in today's world, he says he believes they could because "humanity hasn't changed so much. The clothes can be altered, but there are many people who will identify themselves with the actions of either Goya or Brother Lorenzo." And though censorship still exists, he says the great difference is, "Today I'm not afraid that I'll have my head cut off."

11.11.06:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)According to Swedish sources, GOYA'S GHOSTS will be released in the US in the spring. The film will also premiere in Stellan's nativeland at the Göteborg Film Festival in February. There's a very brief interview with Stellan at the premiere last Tuesday that can be viewed at this Expressen TV link.  In an interview with Gunnar Rehlin in Madrid, Stellan said he wasn't sure how the Spaniards would react to a 6'4" tall Swede playing their national saint when Goya was actually a small and chubby man. Laughing, he said, "I might have to escape from this country after the gala premiere." Rehlin reports that there wasn't any risk of Stellan feeling unwelcomed in Spain. On the contrary, everyone was saying his performance was as good as it could be, and his director was spreading words of praise about him. Forman said, "It would be easy for a painter as praised as Goya to be portrayed as a person larger than life, as a mystical person. Stellan is not like that. He works with small and very subtle means and makes Goya into a credible person throughout the whole film." Stellan admits, "I've always been fascinated with Goya. When I was in Madrid for the first time many years ago, I visited the Museo del Prado and fell for Goya’s paintings. Since then I’ve read a lot about him, so when I got the offer, I already knew a lot about him." 

He adds, "Everybody wants to work with Milos Forman. He has never made a bad film, or one that wasn’t interesting, and everyone knows he’s a director who cares for his actors. And we like that sort of thing. And it turned out to be exactly as I imagined it would be. It was a fun and very pleasant shoot. The only problem might have been that the Spanish food was too good." Stellan believes it was meant to open in the USA before Christmas in order to qualify for the Academy Award nominations, but it was finished so late that it wasn't possible. When he returns from Spain, Stellan plans to relax, spend time with his family and read scripts. PIRATES III has finished shooting, but despite the fact it has become a great financial success in the history of cinema, it hasn't changed his job offerings. "Not at all," he says, "That's what my agent says too. A fun job, that's all." (Many thanks to Robin Solsjö Höglund for his translation)

11.08.06:

There wasn't much coverage of the Madrid premiere of GOYA'S GHOSTS last night but I did find this one small photo of Stellan. As you might have guessed, he definitely shies away from the traditional jacket and tie combo. Though there was another premiere in Zaragoza this evening and a third one in Valencia tomorrow night, I wouldn't expect to see any more photos. Spain's Fotogramas magazine gave the film two stars out of five. I didn't read the review, so I'm not sure what their criticism was aimed at. It doesn't seem fair to grumble about the fact that it's not a Goya biopic. Forman admitted, "Emotionally, the film is about Ines (played by Natalie Portman)." At least the director doesn't seem fazed by the criticism. According to the Washington Post, he joked to the reporters, "If you like it, it's your film. If you don't like it, it's my film." Film critic Elisabeth O'Leary points out that, "'Goya's Ghosts is beautifully shot and the sets are sumptuous, but the pace is a little uneven and some of the incidents perhaps melodramatic." Peter Besas of Screen Daily finds Javier Bardem "riveting" as usual, ably carrying the weight of the film with fine support from Stellan and from Natalie Portman, who successfully applies herself to multiple parts. Besas concludes with - "But 'Goya's Ghosts' really shines on the technical front. Production design is lavish - the shoot used several of Spain’s royal palaces - and recreates street scenes to winning effect, while costume design meshes with the change of moods. Javier Aguirresarobe's photography is crisp and colourful and the editing propels the narrative along briskly. The only real technical flaw is a somewhat overpowering musical score...." Follow this link for a two-minute featurette with cast interviews.

11.06.06:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Stellan was in Madrid today participating in the photo call for GOYA'S GHOSTS. Milos Forman was also joined by cast members Blanca Portillo, Randy Quaid and Jose Luis Gomez. Check out the picture gallery. The premiere will take place tomorrow evening. I'm sure the Czech director is disappointed that his two leading stars, Javier Bardem and Natalie Portman, will not attend any of the premieres this week though he remained outwardly very good humored. Forman said he had spoken with Javier on the telephone and although the Spanish actor had wanted to attend, in the end it was simply impossible since he's now filming "Love in the Time of Cholera" in South America. Strangely, Forman was told Natalie's publicist was prohibiting her from traveling to Spain. 

When asked about his portrayal of Goya, Stellan said the difficulty in giving life to the painter was basically knowing how to deal with a person with the stature of Goya. When people usually put such people on a pedestal, it seems they are not human. He stated that he had read quite a bit on Goya but his real connection was through his paintings because through them, he could understand how Goya perceived society and you could feel his rage and fears. Stellan concluded, "He is very alive through his paintings."