Stellan Scenes on Foreign Soil

March 12, 1998

Tall and lanky and leaning over to offer a warm handshake, Stellan Skarsgård, has a charm that infects everyone he meets. He's down-to-earth, despite being the most famous actor in Sweden. With impressive performances in Breaking the Waves, Amistad and Good Will Hunting, Skarsgård is enjoying being in the international arena.

"It's actually nice to be unknown on a set and to surprise people, instead of them having too many expectations of you. That's fun and also it's very comfortable, because in Sweden I've grown pretty shy. I usually don't go to the cinemas or the theatres because I don't like people staring at me. But when I'm abroad, I can do what I want,'' he says.

The 46-year-old actor, who lives in Stockholm with his wife and six children, is known as a hippy eccentric. He likes to walk around the house nude. "I mean, sometimes my kids complain about it when they bring friends home, but I don't do it all the time," he says.

In Good Will Hunting Skarsgård plays an award-winning math professor who realizes the genius of a young cleaner called Will Hunting, while he is mopping the floor outside his classroom. With the help of his psychiatrist friend, played by Robin Williams, the professor sets out to develop the boy's talents. For the genial Skarsgård, it was another buttoned-up role, at which Swedes are specialists. (Just think of Skarsgard's good friend, Peter Stormare, who played the silent monster in Fargo.)

At present he is going for a complete change of pace, co-starring in Ronin, John Frankenheimer's action thriller, alongside Robert De Niro, Jonathan Pryce and Jean Reno. Set in Paris, Arles and Nice, Ronin gave the actor his first experience with car chases. "It's kind of weird driving through Paris and the tunnel at that speed nowadays," Skarsgård says.

When asked about the De Niro's alleged link to a French call-girl racket, Skarsgård responds, in cool Swedish fashion: "I don't care about it at all. They had his name in a notebook and some people want to create attention to themselves because of his notoriety. I can't imagine that Robert De Niro actually had to pay for sex."

[Courier Mail]