ARN achieved the biggest opening ever for a Swedish film. In its first two days, the picture pulled in 160,310 admissions with a gross of $2,240,000 from 207 screens. It will be some time before audiences outside the Nordic Region will get a chance to see it. The international version, a combination of the current film and the sequel, will not be released until later next year, but has already been sold to ten countries, among them Russia, China and Brazil. Svensk and sales agent Telepool will continue to market the film at Berlin and Cannes. Commenting on the opening box office figures, producer Valdemar Bergendahl told Variety: “It is fantastic. We had expected high figures, but this exceeds our expectations.” The Swedish reviews ranged from positive to negative with the majority falling somewhere in-between. Bergendal said: “It was expected. But I’m happy with all the copy that has been written about the film. It has shown what great interest there is in it.”


Today, on Christmas day, ARN - THE KNIGHT TEMPLAR, the most expensive Scandinavian production ever, will premiere in Sweden, with the Norwegian premiere set for Boxing Day. The ambitious project had a total budget of over 32 million and entails not one but two films, with the the second film, Arn - The Kingdom at the End of the Road scheduled to premiere next year. (Note that Stellan is only cast in the first film) The material will also be used for an upcoming, six-part TV series that will be broadcast at a later date. The Arn epic, directed by Danish director Peter Flinth, is based on the bestselling Crusades trilogy of novels by Swedish author Jan Guillou. They tell the story of the fictional Swedish Knight Templar Arn, played in the films by relative newcomer Joakim Nätterqvist. The three novels were worked into two films for the big screen by screenwriter and novelist Hans Gunnarsson. Though the books have been bestsellers in Scandinavia and several other European countries including Germany, it remains to be seen whether the cinema-going public is ready for a Crusades epic so shortly after the lukewarm reception of Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, in which heartthrob Orlando Bloom was sent off to the Holy Land. True, the yarn of Arn comes with a very different angle and the unusual combination of the cold and damp northern reaches of Europe and the scouring heat of the Holy Land.

In Guillou's fictional tale, Arn is a young child brought up in a monastery during the second half of the twelfth century. For breaking his vow of chastity before marriage, he is banished to the Holy Land for twenty years, though he remains in contact with his fiancée Cecilia Algotsdotter (Sofia Helin) throughout this period, a period that saw the making of Sweden as well as the continued struggle for the Holy Land. Throughout his twenty years in the Middle east Arn becomes an experienced Knight Templar and even finds the great Muslim leader Saladin (Indian actor Milind Soman) on his path. Further talented on board includes Swiss actor Vincent Perez as the monk who educates Arn (Note: I also manage The Vincent Perez Archives), Bibi Andersson, Jakob Cedergren, Simon Callow, Steven Waddington and Michael Nyqvist. Part of the cast was at the Cannes Film Festival in May to present the first footage from the project.

The film will be released in Sweden on a massive 205 screens, when popular epics such as the Lord of the Rings films monopolizing only around 160 screens a few years ago. The Norwegian release will debut on around 70 screens, while the Danish and Finnish premieres are scheduled for January 11 and January 22, 2008 respectively.  galapremiär


The red carpet for the  world premiere of ARN was rolled out Monday night in the Swedish city of Skara where many of the townspeople took part in the medieval celebration, alongside the film's director and several cast members. A press conference was held during the day followed by a screening that night. In Skarsgård fashion, Stellan's son Gustaf made an impression at the press conference  Aftonbladet reports his description of that 'special feeling' of carrying a sword. "There is no better penis extension," he said, to which his father chipped in: "Gustaf, I have tried to create the illusion that Skarsgårds don't need penis extensions." Yes, you read it here! You can view video footage from Swedish TV of the ARN press conference and also of the film's premiere in Skara.

Two nights later, a more formal gala premiere was held in Stockholm. It had to be a special evening for the Skarsgård family as four of its members star in the film  Interestingly, Stellan was actually the last to be cast in the film. Gustaf auditioned for the lead role, but director Peter Flint was looking for a new, unknown face as Arn, so the role went to Joakim Nätterqvist. Gustaf, however, was offered the role of Knut Eriksson. After reading the script, he discovered his character had two sons, so he called casting director Catti Edfelt and suggested that Bill and Valter, his two younger brothers, play his sons, Eric and Jon. After these three were cast, Stellan agreed to play Birger Brosa. Dressed in his usual classic tuxedo looking mighty fine, Stellan posed for several photos with his acting clan plus daughter Eija and son Sam. You can view photos from these events at the ARN gallery

For Stellan fans, probably the most interesting news item is that Stellan attended these events with a woman named Megan Everett. The headlines on the Swedish tabloids were, "Skarsgård went to the premiere with his new love" His lady friend was first seen with our Swede back in September when photos surfaced in the news. On September 25th, while filming MAMMA MIA!, a handsome and happy foursome was seen attending a concert at the Irodio Theatre in Athens honoring the famed opera diva Maria Callas. That foursome was Pierce Brosnan with his wife Keely and Stellan accompanied by Megan. I wish I had more details to offer, such as where this woman hails from, her age and how they met. I would guess she's American, not Swedish, simply by her name but her age is hard to pinpoint. She does have an adorable dimple!

button_box.gif (205 bytes)On December 19th, Swedish publication, Helsingborgs Dagblad, featured an interview with Stellan. You can read it here. It's no surprise that Stellan singles out three roles that I would also choose as his finest work on screen - Sven in "DEN ENFALDIGE MÖRDAREN, Randbaek in ZERO KELVIN and Tomas Heller in ABERDEEN. He admits that these three characters are old, dear friends who continue to live in him.


button_box.gif (205 bytes)There are two trailers for MAMMA MIA! available at the film's official web site. The international trailer has more clips of Stellan than the domestic one. Here are a few more photos from the Skopelos production. I think the movie will be a smash!


button_box.gif (205 bytes)According to the IMDB, Stellan recently took on a minor role in Duncan Ward's UK film, BOOGIE WOOGIE. It is based on the book of the same name written by Danny Moynihan. The film, set in the contemporary London art world, casts a satirical eye at the voracious appetites and questionable morality of some of its prime exponents. Dealers, collectors, artists, and wannabees vie with each other in a vicious world in which success and downfall rest on a knife edge. Stellan plays art collector Bob Maclestone. The cast also includes Alan Cumming, Heather Graham, Danny Huston, Christopher Lee and Charlotte Rampling. It sounds like the kind of film we'll only see on DVD in the states.

Vertigo Films still has not succeeded in launching a workable web site for WAZ and what they do have up is visually annoying. Though the Weinstein Company acquired domestic home video rights back in May, there has been no word yet on a DVD release in the US. However, it will be released next year in the UK on February 22 and in Sweden on April 18. I'm not sure if these dates indicate a DVD or theatrical release. According to media reports, the film is extremely dark with horrific events including torture, but here's a funny story for you regarding the making of the film. Apparently it was a nightmare trying to track down a good American-designed car in Northern Ireland for Stellan's character to drive. They did find an early 80s Buick but it constantly broke down and refused to go more than 30 miles per hour. Trying to orchestrate the chase scenes and stunts with this wreck was a real challenge. Stellan took great pleasure in telling the crew that on "Ronin", they got to drive cars around France at over 200 kilometres an hour. When production finally went over to New York and a matching Buick was found, Stellan went off with the second unit to shoot some fast-driving scenes. He let himself loose and sped all over Brooklyn until he was stopped by a traffic cop. Luckily the cop recognized him - from "Ronin" inevitably - and let him off in exchange for an autograph!

Winner of several international film festival awards, WRATH OF GODS, a documentary by Jon Gustafsson, tells the dramatic story behind the making of the epic movie BEOWULF AND GRENDEL.When director Sturla Gunnarsson and his crew set upon Iceland in 2004, they expected the usual complications involved in filming a motion picture, but what they encountered made them wonder if the Norse gods were actually working against them. It turned out to be the most difficult project any of them had ever been a part of.  The cast and crew continuously fought the onset of a ruthless Icelandic winter and diminishing daylight. Storms tore roofs of buildings and swept away equipment. Two days before the end of principal photography, Producer Paul Stephens admitted that it was truly the fierce determination of the filmmakers that had prevented production from being shut down. For more information, follow this link.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)There is no word yet on a DVD release date in the US for GOYA'S GHOSTS .I came across the following review from the BBC that hit the nail on the head: "Because the script doggedly pursues its own story, rather than that of the artist, whose own life, incidentally was pretty packed with drama, Forman produces a film which looks gorgeous and is brilliantly shot but has no focus. And that's almost sacrilege, since Goya's paintings are so meticulously composed and always have a focal point. Neither the complexity of the man as political chronicler nor of the painter as empathizer is even remotely dealt with here, and that's a shame. Forman might just have got away with it if the film moved with a sense of purpose, or chose a character to shape the story... Two of the three leads are excellent - Stellan Skarsgård and Natalie Portman... Skarsgård's role is underwritten, but the canny Swede who's gained an international reputation invests it with such a wealth of detail that he's a joy to watch. Unfortunately, it only serves to remind us of the flaws in the structure. We keep wanting to see him play a more active role than the predictable 'artist as recorder.'"

button_box.gif (205 bytes)ARN - THE KNIGHT TEMPLAR will be released in Swedish theatres on Christmas Day. Here are a couple more production photos showing Stellan and his co-stars.