DECEMBER 2004 NEWS

12.26.04:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)In a recent interview, co-star Gerry Butler gave this amusing comment about filming Beowulf and Grendel - "I got to go to the Blue Lagoon and the geysers and the hot springs, went up on the glaciers. I'm actually one of the few people on this planet who can claim to be on a snowmobile with (co-star) Stellan Skarsgård feeling my breasts. 'Nice pecs, boy!' (laughing)."

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Remember the DVD of King Arthur is now available. My copy came from Santa :)

"I'm generally a very positive person. I'm not afraid of dying at all. It would be inconvenient at certain points, and it's not good for my family, but I don't mind. We're going to die, all of us, and I've already had a fantastic life - ten times better than most people in the world, so I don't deserve really more."

...Stellan Skarsgård

New York City - August 2004

12.16.04:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)New Additions! First, there's a new image gallery for the photos taken on January 30, 2002, at the Dogville press conference in Trollhattan, Sweden, (sometimes called "Trollywood") where the movie was shot on a sound stage. It's interesting to note that the 12/20/04 issue of Newsweek includes Dogville in their list of  the "Ten Most Disappointing Films in 2004". I think that's a notch up from the ten worst films. Personally, I took no pleasure (or offense) in viewing the film, but I like the provocative and strange Lars von Trier and agree with those who call him brilliant. Did you know Lars added the "von" to his name when he was in film school? I love the story about how Stellan and Lars first met and even though Stellan was warned that the man didn't like to be touched, he still gave him a big bear hug! This picture of Lars seems to aptly capture his surrealistic personality.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)The second addition is the film page for a 1988 little-known feature called FRIENDS. However, cinematographer Peter Mokrosinski did win a Guldbagge for Best Cinematography, so it obviously has some merit. It was based on a 1967 play written by Japanese novelist, dramatist and photographer Kôbô Abé and became a Swedish/Japanese collaboration when it was brought to the screen by director Kjell-Åke Andersson. The lead went to American actor Dennis Christopher, most famous for his role in the 1979 classic, Breaking Away. Stellan played one of the so-called "friends" and was in prestigious company with Sven Wolter, Helena Borgström and Lena Olin. I can't find any availability on video, so I imagine it remains stored on its original reels somewhere in Sweden. What a shame...

insomnia5a.gif (11780 bytes)And the last addition is the film page for the Norwegian psychological thriller INSOMNIA. This is one of Stellan's finest works, and one that he is deservingly proud of. As a first feature film by its young director, Erik Skjoldbjærg, it was selected for the prestigious Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was hailed by critics from around the world. There are wonderfully good reviews all over the Internet, but I appreciate this little gem - "Stellan is perfectly cast... soulful eyes... a sort of Gary Cooper as Viking." Another reviewer said that "Skarsgård perfectly embodies that moral ambiguity" in Jonas Engström. And it's in that vein that Stellan is likened to Humphrey Bogart. In John Huston's The Maltest Falcon, the classic film noir, Bogie plays Sam Spade, a brooding private eye with a less-than-reverential attitude toward the law. Good characters are not entirely good; bad characters have their charms and emotional weaknesses. That is Stellan's trademark - moral ambiguity (presented gloriously in the role of Willem Furtwängler in Taking Sides). Stellan himself continually admits, "If I get a real bad guy, I try to find out his good sides. And I try to explain, at least to myself, what he is lacking... what makes him bad. And if you play a good guy, you have to find his flaws to make them more interesting and alive."

Insomnia was remade in 2002 with Al Pacino in the lead and received better-than-average reviews.. Roger Ebert compares the two films - "Unlike most remakes, Christopher Nolan's Insomnia is not a pale retread, but a re-examination of the material, like a new production of a good play. Stellan Skarsgård, who starred in the earlier film, took an existential approach to the character; he seemed weighed down by the moral morass he was trapped in. Pacino takes a more physical approach: How much longer can he carry this burden?" Some reviewers took exception to Nolan's ending with one critic likening it to "Bergman’s The Seventh Seal remade with heavy special FX and a script by Stephen King" indicating the difference between world cinema and this country's homegrown attempt to imitate it. I haven't seen the remake so I can't comment.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Stellan quote on doing both popcorn flicks and arthouse fare:
"You can't live on foie gras. Sometimes you want a good burger."

12.13.04:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Norwegian publications are indicating that Liv Ullmann's A Doll's House is now in jeopardy with headlines such as "Fighting for Nora". While Ms. Ullmann was being honored in Barcelona at the European Film Awards this past weekend, she was also troubled by financing problems. The film is budgeted at about $11 million. She expressed frustration saying she was becoming "greatly disillusioned" and "will be terribly sad" if the film is not made as she has been working on this project for several years now. Two weeks ago Scandinavian sources also reported that Kate Winslet, who was starring as Nora, had dropped out of the project. Whether she's in or out is still in question. This production has seen a long list of possible cast members over the past year beginning with Cate Blanchett in the lead role. Now Ralph Fiennes appears to be replacing John Cusack as Nora's husband, Torvald Helmer. Stellan is supposedly playing Dr. Rank with Annette Bening in the minor role of Nora's friend, Christine Linde. Other names that have surfaced are Kevin Spacey and Tim Roth. Apparently funding has to be completed by Christmas as pre-production will begin in January with a shoot date of July 2005 in Ålesund, Norway.

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FROM MY OWN
PRIVATE COLLECTION...

Photo taken at the "King Arthur" premiere on June 28, 2004

(but not by me ;-)

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Stellanonline.com was launched on June 13, 2004 (Stellan's birthday) and today marks its sixth month anniversary. There are now over 75 pages, including 17 completed film pages, 500 images, 33 interviews, and a news archive! And many thanks to the steady source of contributors (including Stellan) who help to keep this gal informed!

button_box.gif (205 bytes)For those living in Sweden, SVT will be broadcasting the short film, EIFFELTORNET, this month. This 13-minute film made the film festival circuit this year starting in January when it won Best Short Film at the Göteborg Film Festival. Stellan plays Jacob, a man who tells his wife (played by Pernilla August) that he's had a dream about Paris but the Eiffel Tower was strangely missing. It will be shown on December 29 on SVT2 at 7 pm (19:00).

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button_box.gif (205 bytes)Several weeks ago Seán Ó Cearrúlláin, editor and publisher of The Ireland Guide, wrote for contact info to interview Stellan regarding BEOWULF AND GRENDEL. The December issue is now highlighting the film, but next month it'll feature interviews with both Stellan and Gerry Butler. Director Sturla Gunnarsson was asked if he felt Stellan would influence the film's success - "Well, you know, Stellan is just so awesome. He arrived out there in the middle of things when we had just begun setting up and there were winds up to 130 km a hour, storms and freezing weather. He was out shooting half naked battling the elements in his nightshirt. He's just such a powerful force." Sean than asked if Stellan was amused at playing the Danish king. Sturla replied, "Yeah, he was amused actually. He laughed a little at it and thought it was great." And does Gerry Butler compliment Stellan in the film? "They are both very powerful actors and give a tremendous amount to the film." And Sturla's expectations for the story's impact in America? "I'm hoping it has immense theatrical impact in the States and does really well. It's a Diamond in the Mud Production!"

12.12.04:

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"They come runnin' just as fast as they can, coz every girl crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man"

...ZZ Top

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Do you recognize these two celebs? If you do, name the movie they starred in together. [Answer here] What's with the shaggy hair?

Special thanks to Eva Ding of France for this fun contribution

12.08.04:

efa2004a.jpg (23929 bytes)Stellan will be in Barcelona this weekend. The European Film Academy is hosting an actors summit called "Shop Talk: Actors Talk About Their Work" on Saturday, December 11th. Taking place in the morning and early afternoon before the evening's Awards ceremony, the conference will focus on the working conditions, challenges and opportunities for actors in Europe and will include a conversation between Stellan and Hungarian director István Szabó (Taking Sides) on the topic of "European Stars: Illusion or Reality?" Norwegian actress/director Liv Ullmann (who will be directing Stellan in A Doll's House next year) will be receiving this year's prize for European Achievement in World Cinema, the same award Stellan was honored with in 1998 for Amistad and Good Will Hunting. Stellan also attended the 2000 ceremony when he was nominated for Best European Actor in Aberdeen. He failed to win but picked up prizes for Dancer in the Dark on behalf of Björk and Lars von Trier. See European Film Awards. [Correction 12/13: Stellan was also nominated by the EFA for Best European Actor in 2001 for Taking Sides but lost to Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast.]

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The EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING DVD will be available March 1, 2005 at the price of $27.95. The ONLY extra material will be an audio commentary with director Renny Harlin, a making of featurette and the films theatrical trailer. This single-disc release will NOT include the Paul Schrader version of the film. I don't know public opinion, but I really dislike the artwork they chose for the front cover.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)There's now an interview with Stellan at the BEOWULF AND GRENDEL WEB SITE. Some of it was previously seen in the RUV clip last week. Other interviews can be assessed as well by the producer, writer and star Gerry Butler. Here's another Sci-fi interview with Butler - "I think the story is so beautiful and powerful and human, and yet gritty and real. And the dialogue is so incredibly poetic, but tough."

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In preparation for the role of King Hrothgar:
"I didn't do the traditional way. Since I was playing a king, I would have to live like a king for years... (pause)
I do that anyway (big grin).

12.06.04:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)The DVD of The Perfect Murder (1988) will be available in Region 1 format (US and Canada) on January 18, 2005 at Amazon.ca.

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"Few literary forms are more comforting than the classic murder mystery, which opens up the chasm of death, chaos and fear beneath our feet only to resolve it: as a symmetrical puzzle in which all the pieces fit, all evil is avenged or exposed, all memories dovetail and correspond. The often delicious, occasionally arch 'The Perfect Murder', based on one of H.R.F. Keating's Inspector Ghote novels, fits into that form, but also, subtly, expands it. The puzzle has the intricate design of an Oriental carpet, yet a sweet breath of realism often drifts across its surface."     ...LA Times

12.04.04:

NEW VIDEO AT THE  BEOWULF AND GRENDEL WEB SITE! Be sure to visit and view the eight-minute clip that was aired November 30 on RUV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. It includes interviews on location with Sturla as well as some of the cast including Stellan. Co-star Gerry Butler recently discussed Beowulf in a Phantom of the Opera interview - "From the first word, from the first description of the characters, I realized that I was reading something very different." [Read full article] In Canada's Globe and Mail Review, it was reported that Jon E. Gustavsson, not only has a small role in the film, but is also in charge of the "Making of" documentary, which should be quite fascinating.

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"You will feel the weather in the film. It will be present as another actor, as a character in the film... It's been a very interesting experience, not only because the landscape is so outlandish and stunningly beautiful... I haven't see any similarity to it elsewhere in the world...  They've had conditions here that you cannot create with wind machines or snow machines or rain machines."  ...Stellan

 

You never know what will pop up when you put "Skarsgård" into an Image Search. Don't be startled - Stellan didn't REALLY have brain surgery, though Danish make-up artist ,Morten Jacobsen, sure makes the stitching and scarring look real.

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There is something else fake in this photo. Anyone? Favorite thing to do while on location? Stellan responds, "Except for the pleasure of the work and the joy of playing with my friends on the set, definitively taking off the sideburns at the end of the day." If you don't know this film, drop everything and head to the nearest Blockbuster to rent BREAKING THE WAVES.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)The film page has now been completed for ÅKE OCH HANS VÄRLD, (Åke and his World). Set in a small Swedish city in the early twentieth century, the film presents us with the characters and events as seen through the eyes of a six-year-old boy. Åke (played by Martin Lindström) is an unremarkable child, but very winning. He comes from a loving family, his father practices medicine, and disaster doesn't lurk in the wings. But Åke does see some of the injustices and horrors of the world through his playmates and ake21cs.jpg (22956 bytes)neighbors, and he does not live in an idyllic paradise. He has an insane older cousin, who stays in bed because she considers human beings dangerous, a chain-smoking mother, a grandmother who believes in spirits and enjoys spooking the children with ghost stories, a frail playmate named Kalle Nubb (played by Alexander Skarsgård) and a neighbor, the lunatic shoemaker Ebenholtz (played by Stellan), who preaches religious fanatism and also delights in sharing tales with Åke about his murderous father.

This film, based on Bertil Malmberg's book, premiered in Sweden in 1984 and a year later was featured at several film festivals reaping both an award and a couple nominations. Critics generally applauded the film for the way Åke's sweet childhood innocence permeated the screen. They also agreed that Edwall's version remained faithful to author Malmberg's original idea - While the boy exists, the light will exist.

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Stellan's eldest son, strikingly handsome 28-year-old Alexander, made his film debut in Åke och hans värld. Allan Edwall was primarily an actor, who had worked with Stellan in both theater and film. In just the previous year, they had both starred in Ingmar Bergman's Hustruskolan and Hans Alfredson's P&B.  Allan had written a screenplay based on the 1924 book, which was first adapted for Swedish television in 1959. He was ready to direct the film and pick his cast, so Allan suggested to Stellan that his seven-year-old son should audition for the title role. As it turned out, Alexander was given the role of Åke's poor and sickly friend, Kalle Nubb, since he was far better suited with his pale complexion and waifish appearance, whereas actor Martin Lindström had the freckled, healthy and well-to-do look needed for Åke. Allan ended up taking on the colorful role of Principal Godeman, a harsh believer in strict education.

Interestingly, Martin Lindström went on to make only two more films - Falsk som vatten (1985) and Jim & piraterna (1987) - both of which starred Stellan. Alexander has since starred in 18 films and also directed the short film, ATT DÖDA ETT BARN, narrated by his father and starring his brother Valter, the youngest of the six Skarsgård children. I'm a lover of family photos so here's a precious set.

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Speaking of fathers and sons, LIGHT KEEPS ME COMPANY (Ljuset håller mig sällskap) is an endearing documentary by Carl-Gustav Nykvist on the life of his father, renown Swedish cinematographer Sven Nykvist. Combining footage from family events in the year before his father's death along with scenes on and off camera from the Ingmar Bergman collaborations and interviews with various directors and actors, Carl-Gustav has created a grand tribute to a gifted filmmaker. Stellan appears several times revealing his memories of working with him, not just when Sven was the cinematographer, but also when he made his directorial debut with THE OX. The first three photos below are screen caps from the documentary. Note how the cow is photographed through a cold frosty window with the light encircling it as it were an apparition to the starving Helge Roos. The fourth image shows a new find - a poster highlighting the film's 1996 Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

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button_box.gif (205 bytes)Sven Nykvist was also the cinematographer for one of my all-time favorites - The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1987). I have a video copy I bought a decade ago, but I'm trying to purchase the DVD, evidently rare these days and therefore exorbitantly priced even on Ebay. I asked Stellan recently to share some of his thoughts on this beautiful poetic film and whether this role led to future offers. "As far as I know, Lena [Olin] was not involved in getting me the role but it was, in someunbearable2s.jpg (17987 bytes) ways, a very Swedish production with Sven Nykvist as director of photography, Bertil Olsson as producer and Erland Josephsson in another role. One day we were all on the set and I think Philip [Kaufman] might have become a little uncomfortable when we all suddenly started talking in Swedish... Working with Juliette [Binoche] was, of course a dream... she is so alive and different in every take.... It was very brief though... I basically flew down, shook her hand and went to bed with her and then headed back to Sweden. I have no clue if it, in any way, helped my international career."

Stellan continues...
"I think that the films that have been most important are - first, The Simple-minded Murderer that got me Noon Wine and an agent....the hardworking, tough, never-giving-up Jeri Scott, who is now my manager. Then two Norwegian films - Zero Kelvin and Insomnia - that gave me a good reputation in the film community and, of course, Breaking the Waves that suddenly gave me a lot more interesting options, including Good Will Hunting that put me on the map for a wider audience... This is all my guess, of course. At the moment I’m reading a lot of scripts but still haven’t found anything I would like to leave home for, but I do look for something to do before Downloading Nancy [in April]."

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