SUMMER 2006 NEWS:

08.14.06:

I've added the film page for the 2001 psychological thriller, THE GLASS HOUSE from first-time film director Daniel Sackheim. Though the film did not fare well at the box office, critics at least gave credit to its talented cast. From the Detroit Free Press - "Glass House Breaks the Mold with strong script, good actors." From the Hartford Courant -"Lee Sobieski heads fine cast in tale of creeping dread." The Seattle Post-Intelligencer - "Strong cast uplifts thriller." The Mobile Register - "Direction, acting overcome fractures in 'Glass House.'" The Iowa State Daily - "Acting keeps 'Glass House' standing.", and the Boston Herald - "Thanks to a solid cast headed by Skarsgård and Sobieski, 'Glass House' doesn't break." The script ultimately suffered from too much predictability; however, I was thoroughly entertained with its mix of shady characters. Stellan is particularly effective when he plays "creepy" - think Ronin and Insomnia.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)I came across more photos taken at the European Film Academy  in Barcelona, Spain, on Saturday, December 11, 2004.  Stellan participated in an actors summit called "Shop Talk: Actors Talk about their Work."  Hungarian director István Szabó (Taking Sides) and Stellan led a conversation on the topic of "European Stars: Illusion or Reality?". Stellan elaborated on the fact that although there used to be true European stars like Jean Gabin or Gina Lollobrigida, today there aren't such stars, because "we have a problem getting European films seen across Europe".

button_box.gif (205 bytes)BEOWULF AND GRENDEL opened at the Kendal Square Cinema in Boston this past weekend to mixed reviews. Ty Burr of the Boston Globe described the film as aiming for "something between realism and B-movie mythmaking"; however, "if  you've had a few grogs, it's actually kind of fun." Burr continues, "Skarsgård, a talented actor who realizes he's signed up for a losing game, gives us a method Hrothgar, funny, odd, and occasionally moving. At least Skarsgård tries. As a bewitching seeress named Selma, the usually excellent Sarah Polley bellyflops badly, with flat line-readings... Yet Beowulf and Grendel is hard to look away from. Those immense Icelandic beaches and waterfalls are sweet on the eyes, and Butler buckles his swash well." Tom Meek of The Phoenix gives praise to director Gunnarrson for treating the Old English epic with both respect and reverence. He critiques the cast with "Stellan Skarsgård as the weary ruler who’s brought the wrath of unrelenting giant troll Grendel (Ingvar E. Sigurðsson) on his people and Gerard Butler as the title Geat are dead on, but the usually endearing Sarah Polley, speaking like a sullen philosophy student at a rave, is woefully miscast as the witch who beds both monster and hero." Howie Green of The Edge writes, "The real stars of this film are the amazing scenic backgrounds that will have you staring open-mouthed at the screen as you try to take in all the beauty of the lands."  And James Verniere of the Boston Herald calls th film "a  modest but successful - and even at times spectacular - attempt at retelling in English one of the oldest tales in the canon of Western civilization."

The DVD will be available for purchase at Amazon.com on September 26. However, if you can't wait that long and you don't mind spending more money, it's currently available at Amazon.ca

08.10.06:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Here's another photo of a barnacle-encrusted Stellan as "Bootstrap" Bill Turner in POTC: DEAD MAN'S CHEST. The film just earned $11 million in its fifth week to bring its total booty to $379.7 million, putting it at No. 8 among the top domestic grossers of all time. It has also excelled overseas with a worldwide total of $772 million. Stellan is presently filming the untitled second sequel, which will  have  premiere next year on May 25th. After months of rumor, it has been confirmed that Keith Richards will have a cameo as Depp's father.

I've posted more photos from the film's premiere at Disneyland and I've added a couple interviews. The first one appeared in the Swedish magazine, Stardust. It was kindly sent and translated by the "indispensible" Robin Solsjö Höglund. In this interview Stellan reveals he's not the calm guy everyone thinks he is. He admits, "Things take place within me. There's a layer I want to get through every day. I know myself and how far I must get. I know what is demanded of me. Actors are the most afraid and vulnerable people there are. We must always expose ourselves." The second one was featured at Movieweb.com. I am continually amused by Stellan. When Steven Chupnick went to interview him in his room at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles, he was dressed in a button-down shirt, jeans and bare feet. Stellan admitted to feeling more relaxed without the constraints of shoes (and we know sometimes that includes clothes as well!).

button_box.gif (205 bytes)It appears that DOWNLOADING NANCY has acquired financing and is about to be filmed this October in Shreveport, Louisianna. Two major delays in getting the project off the ground concerned Holly Hunter - first a play in London and then last year she was pregnant with twins. Tule River Films is producing the story, written by Lee Ross with screenplay by both Ross and Pamela Cuming. The American independent film is to be directed by Johan Renck, a man of many talents. He's a photographer and a painter, he works in theatre, and is even a Swedish pop star (in his band Stakka Bo). He has become one of the best European directors in the industry, creating an oeuvre of dramatic, well-crafted videos and uniquely-styled ads over the past several years. This will be his first feature length film.

The film also stars William Hurt, Holly Hunter and Radha Mitchell. For some reason, online information has been misleading as to what character Stellan will play. In an October 2004 interview I asked him directly and he cleared up the confusion. He will take on the role of Nancy's lover/killer with William Hurt playing her husband. You may remember that Stellan previously worked with Ms. Hunter in the Mike Figgis film TIMECODE and the telefilm HARLAN COUNTY WAR. It's no secret he has great admiration for her talent - "She has a fantastic combination of strength and vulnerability, intelligence and absolute truthfulness." Most audiences will remember the pairing of Hunter and Hurt in the 1987 Oscar-nominated film, Broadcast News, for which they both received nominations.

In a recent interview, Renck discussed the film - "It's a very dark drama about a very destructive woman. It's a script that was sent to me. I can't even remember how I got it but I liked it instantaneously and we spent six months re-writing it and re-writing it. It is about, if we're going to go into a pretentious analysis of it, the fact that in order to be able to love somebody for real you have to give up a significant part of yourself. You have to take out a chunk of yourself and replace it with a part of another person and in a way you then become a part of that other person and if you're not able to do that, you're not able to love, in a way. This very sad and depressing story is about that and a relationship gone very, very wrong to the extent that the lead character wants to kill herself based on the misery she feels of a wasted life. It's also about another thing actually, which is that point in life when you think, 'oh, that was it.' A lot of people go through crises like that in their 40s because it's not a point in your life when you can start a new life or a new career or a new family or something like that. In many ways you've almost peaked and all the choices in your life come to affect that. So the film is about that kind of staleness that happens at a certain point in life - for some people at 20 and for some people at 60. So that's all the intricate bits of the film. The easier side is that it's about a relationship gone completely wrong and a woman who wants to kill herself because of that. It's quite dark."

button_box.gif (205 bytes)The IMDB is showing a release date of January 2007 (Ireland) for the psychological thriller, WAZ (W DELTA Z), which was filmed this past spring. Journalist Alan Jones claims the original title was THE DEVIL'S ALGEGRA and refers to a math equation for self-sacrifice. He adds, "Think SEVEN meets SAW."

button_box.gif (205 bytes)According to the Spanish media, GOYA'S GHOSTS will be premiering in Spain on November 10, 2006. No USA premiere date has been given though one might expect a limited release at the end of the year to be eligible for the Oscar nominations in January. Back in April, Cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe made these comments - "The film will be ready at the end of July and, almost certainly, will be released this year. From what I've heard there are very good impressions and the people who have seen the first cut are very enthusiastic. For me, this movie has been very special because of the opportunity to work with Milos Forman and because, in spite of being an American production, it has been tremendously human in its production. It will be unforgettable. Plus, now that I am in Prague, I'm remembering Amadeus and I have Forman's cinema very present in my mind. What I'm really hoping is that Goya's Ghosts turns out to be a wonderful film."

07.07.06:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)It's that time of year again to become a beach bum on the coast of Maine, so I will not be updating this web site until August. Today DEAD MAN'S CHEST opened in theatres across the country. According to the infamous Tomatometer, the summer blockbuster is showing a split down the middle among critics. Of course, audiences often respond very differently, so only time will tell if box office receipts prove the first sequel a success. Below are the latest reviews on Stellan's performance.You can also check out an interview with Stellan that appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Recently co-star Orlando Bloom was asked what it was like having the Swedish star as his screen dad. He replied,  “Fantastic, he’s an amazing actor. I felt really lucky to have that storyline coming into the movie, to have him as my father was a real honour. His family came to the set, he seems to be such a great human being, you know, he’s a great example."

07.05.06:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)DEAD MAN'S CHEST according to Stellan

Who is Bootstrap Bill? "It’s Will Turner’s dad and he’s been on the bottom of the ocean for quite a while. He saved his life by making this deal with Davy Jones, the captain of the Flying Dutchmen – a kind of flying ghost ship. So he has to slave there for 100 years and gradually he loses his humanity and becomes a part of the ship. It’s a very tragic story."

Make-up: "I carry around quite a dominant statement on my face all the time and I have to find a way to not be upstaged by my own face. Working on the make-up, we talked about how to find a general expression that I could work with so it has also a sort of sadness to it."

Working with special effects and CGI characters: "You don’t think of it when you actually do it. Even if there’s a lot of special effects, when you work on it, basically all the concentration is about the acting. Because, just like in the first one, this is a blockbuster movie that actually is character-driven. Gore Verbinski (director) is very careful about creating an atmosphere with the actors where the actors can actually act, so you don’t see all the technical side of it as an obstacle."

Working with Verbinski: "It’s great working with him. He’s very collaborative. You try things out and you discuss the text and you discuss how to do it. It’s wonderful."

How the second film differs: "I don’t know. I would probably say that it’s a little rougher ride this time."

You can watch some of this interview from the June 24th premiere at this link. By the way, Scott Holleran of Box Office Mojo claims that Skarsgård steals every scene, and I bet he's right!

07.03.06:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Four more days before DEAD MAN'S CHEST opens in the USA. I've read a handful of reviews that have already come in, some with praise for Stellan. RT-News describes Bootstrap Bill Turner as a "stellar, soulful Stellan Skarsgård." Rich Cline of Shadows on the Wall writes, "Skarsgård is also terrific in a role that grows into something rather intriguing." And from Joe Utichi of Film Focus - "Depp succeeds, at least, to keep one of his most attractive creations appealing and the legendary Bill Nighy acts his way past the effects to simple brilliance, but there's no excusing Bloom and Knightley whose characters are as lifeless as they were the first time around. Bloom, at least, shows some hope as he finally meets up with his father, Bootstrap Bill, played brilliantly by Stellan Skarsgård, but the story never allows their sub-plot the breathing room it needs and Skarsgård's talent is criminally underused."

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From the Boston Globe, 7/2/06:

As Bootstrap Bill, wayward father to Bloom's heroic Will Turner, Stellan's costume was a daily creation. He had to spend five hours having fake barnacles applied to his face every morning and another 90 minutes having them removed. Fortunately, the Swedish-born Skarsgård, 55, wasn't required on set every day. In fact he managed to fly in and out to play the lead in Milos Forman's soon-to-be released GOYA'S GHOSTS. Still, Skarsgård says PIRATES was an intimate experience.

"When [Nighy] first started acting, I was like, 'What the [expletive] is he doing' and then suddenly I understood he was acting for the [special effects people] to be able to get the tentacles right and everything else that would be added," Skarsgård says. "So he had to be slower and bigger with everything. He did a brilliant job. After a while, I saw the tentacles in his dotted face."

Now both Skarsgård and Nighy have their own action figures, certain to make them popular with an audience demographic they don't typically reach, much as the first Pirates did for fellow baddie Geoffrey Rush.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)From Empire Magazine, 7/3/06:

Stellan on his POTC role: “Originally, the effects on my face were going to be CGI, but the make-up artist was so fantastic we decided to let him go on and do the whole thing. It took four and a half hours of make-up in the morning and an hour and a half to get rid of it in the evening – but that was all part of the deal.” It was all worth it though, he said, “It’s rare to find a character-driven Hollywood blockbuster, and this is one of them”.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Tonight the UK premiere of DEAD MAN'S CHEST was held at the Odeon at Leicester Square in London. Stellan attended with his fourteen-year-old daughter Eija and his youngest son, 11-year-old Valter.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)BEOWULF AND GRENDEL will be opening in NYC this weekend, having played in San Francisco this past week. Barry Caine of Inside Bay Area cheers Stellan's performance with "Skarsgård adds gravitas to the kind of role actors kill for. Hrothgar becomes a tragic figure, pitiable and coarse but profound." Kim Voynar of Cinematical gives recognition with "Skarsgård is perfectly cast as the moody, downtrodden king whose world has been upturned by the consequences of an act of cruelty mitigated by an act of kindness."

06.30.06:

button_box.gif (205 bytes) From today's Toronto Star:

GOBBLING FOR GOYA: The buttons were visibly straining on the shirt worn by Stellan Skarsgård, who plays Orlando Bloom's father in DEAD MAN'S CHEST. The Swedish star candidly admitted that he'd been packing on the pounds, but it was all for his art. He's playing the legendary Spanish painter Francisco Goya in GOYA'S GHOSTS, a movie by Amadeus director Milos Forman that we may well see at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. The tall and usually slim Skarsgård said he had to resort to method acting to grapple with Goya's short stature and girth.

"If you think of me being cast as Goya, it's a pretty silly casting, isn't it? This chubby little Spaniard and this high 6-foot-3 Swede. I started out working with a little extra belly on me to make me a little chubbier. But then the catering was so good, so I didn't have to use it at all. I gained probably 10 kilos during that shoot. It was fantastic Spanish catering. It's a lovely project. Milos Forman is a great director who I've always admired. Jean-Claude Carrière wrote the script, and he's a very intelligent scriptwriter. And I've been able to work with two fantastic actors, Javier Bardem and Natalie Portman. So it was a great shoot. It's not a biopic and it's not about Goya. It's very much from Goya's perspective. It's a fiction, a rather melodramatic fiction, but from Goya's perspective during two periods in his life: right before the French invasion of Spain and also 16 years after that."

06.28.06:

Disneyland hosted the much-awaited premiere of POTC: DEAD MAN'S CHEST on Saturday evening, June 24th. Among the cast members attending the gala event were Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy and yes, Stellan! Click here for the special gallery of premiere photos. The film will open worldwide this summer with a July 7th date for the USA. Check the IMDB schedule for all other countries. The third installment will be released on May 25, 2007.

As previously reported, BEOWULF AND GRENDEL was screened at the Seattle In'tl Film Festival earlier this month. Tom Keough of the Seattle Times had some kind words for Stellan - "Skarsgård's performance as a leader stumbling, drunk and disappointed, in the face of an overwhelming enemy, is both moving and fun." He concludes, "This movie won't be to everyone's taste, but it will certainly bedevil some dreams." David Poland of Movie City News praises Stellan with "This is one of my favorite performances ever by Stellan Skarsgård. He isn't using any of the professional tricks we are used to seeing him pull out of the hat. That voice and his height are both diminished as he plays a man stripped of his usual power." William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes, "The film's near-fatal flaw is its dialogue, which had to be invented wholesale from the Old English text. It alternates between sounding stagy and anachronistically hip - with more overuse of the F-word than any two Samuel L. Jackson movies. It's a big mistake. Visually, however, the film is a treat. Shot entirely in the outback of Iceland, it's a gallery of hauntingly beautiful locations, and director Sturla Gunnarsson skillfully uses its bleak otherworldliness to distance us from anything familiar and evoke a lost heroic age... Stellan Skarsgård is at his scene-stealing best as the imperiled king."

Arclight Films has a new subsidiary called Union Station Media, which is overseeing the distribution of Beowulf's theatrical release (see May 18th posting for schedule) and its DVD release on September 26. We are grateful to both Union Station Media and Truly Indie who have made this US distribution possible. The goal of Truly Indie is to provide an alternative distribution channel for films that are capable of finding a theatrical audience but have not fit the traditional distribution model. Filmmakers pay an unfront distribution fee and keep the revenue and rights.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)Here are some lush movie stills from GOYA'S GHOSTS. The first scene shows Stellan with Javier Bardem. Many thanks to Sharon Smithline for alerting me to these photos!