Skarsgård: Between the Film Takes

January 26, 2006

If you see a man nearly 6'4" tall with a coat over his head at the Draken Theatre tonight, it might be Stellan Skarsgård opening the film festival.

"I haven't seen Beowulf & Grendel yet, so I'll be standing in the back if I want to escape," says Stellan Skarsgård.

He calls from a summer house in Ljusterö and describes how beautifully the snow is glistening. Since Christmas, Stellan Skarsgård has been home in Sweden after spending the fall in Madrid and Salamanca with director Milos Forman and the movie Goya's Ghosts, in which Skarsgård plays the spanish painter Francisco Goya.

"I've liked Goya ever since I spent a whole day at the Prado museum in Madrid a couple of years ago. So it's been interesting to go into that man, even if I'm not doing an accurate portrait of him."

But it's not because of a Milos Forman film that Stellan Skarsgård is back at the Göteborg Film Festival again, but because of a Canadian-Icelandic version of the old Anglo-Saxon myth of Beowulf & Grendel. The story is about danish king Hrothgar whose castle is haunted by the troll Grendel.  has As the danish king, Stellan Skarsgård has plastered on a reddish version of the beard he wore for the film King Arthur, but he has a deeper role this time.

"Hrothgar is a miserable man. He is damn unfortunate and everything really screws up for him. From being a mighty king, he becomes more pathetic and human. He meets the man in himself, and as always when meeting yourself, he becomes very depressed," says Stellan Skarsgård.

At director Sturla Gunnarsson's web site, Skarsgård tells in one clip about the shooting in Iceland and how he had barely prepared for the role. But that proves to be a modified truth.

"Of course I prepared including reading the script over and over. But not by running around the woods in a viking outfit for three months. I don't believe in that, just like that you don't need to kill a bunch of people in order to play a murderer. It is, after all, the person who needs to be brought out in the character. I simply ignored that Hrothgar was a king in the 4th century and built a character with great problems.

Today Skarsgård arrives at his city of birth, Göteborg. He thinks that going to a film festival can be just as amusing as annoying. Rather Göteborg and the little hippie festival Telluride in the Colorado mountains than the media circus Cannes. But it's not a long visit - tomorrow he is off to London for a meeting, and then on to the Bahamas and the shooting of the third Pirates Of The Caribbean film. This summer part two, Dead Man's Chest, premieres and in both films, Stellan Skarsgård plays Orlando Bloom's father, Bootstraps Bill Turner. It's a role consisting mostly of having seaweed and clams on your head, since his character has risen from the bottom of the ocean.

"There is something very charming about the films since the director believes in the stories and characters. But there's also the other side of it, the films are part of a great industry with film companies that might be more eager to strengthen their positions in the market. These two films had a budget of 400 million dollars, which could probably nourish a number of African nations for a year."

To create balance in his existence, Stellan Skarsgård therefore chooses to go for a tiny independent film in Northern Ireland after the Disney adventure. With a first-time director and a small story, he follows his own ambitions to rather have fun than to make successful films. But that means he has to be away a lot from home which has its disadvantages.

"When I'm working, it isn't that bad. Then you're into the moment. But living in a hotel isn't much fun with the silence constantly there after a day of working. I try to avoid that by renting an apartment or house or taking the family with me whenever I can."