Anthem Magazine - August 10, 2016

Snow falls on the just and unjust alike in Hans Petter Molandís "In Order of Disappearance." The crime saga opens on a remote, snow-blanketed town in the backwaters of Norway. The always-reliable and on-point Stellan SkarsgŚrd is Nils Dickman, an even-keeled and taciturn snowplow driver so dedicated to his job to keep the country roads clear that, despite being a Swede, heís named Norwayís Citizen of the Year. But Nilsí good fortune proves short-lived when his son is taken out by a trigger-happy gang in a case of mistaken identity during a local drug-trafficking operation. This sends the once mild-mannered man into an outrageous rampage of blood-soaked revenge. Pausing only to catch his breath - Nils is quite old - heís truly in over his head.

As the filmís Norwegian title "Kraftidioten" or ďThe Prize IdiotĒ implies, the tone of "In Order of Disappearance" is altogether absurdist. As the bodycount climbs ever higher, the film slowly transitions from revenge thriller to dark comedy, which is bound to tickle fervent Coen Brothers and Tarantino fans. Firmly anchored by SkarsgŚrdís usual stone-faced gravitas, Nils manhandles, bludgeons, and shoots his
way up a gangland food chain towards his final targetóthe vegan crime lord ďThe CountĒ (PŚl Sverre Valheim Hagen). To complicate matters, ďThe CountĒ has no idea whoís dismantling his operation and jumps to the conclusion it must be rival Serbian gangsters. And so all the characters become knotted into a rapidly escalating cycle of tit-for-tat violence.

"In Order of Disappearance" marks SkarsgŚrdís fourth collaboration with Moland, which first began in 1995 with "Zero Kelvin", and also includes 2000′s "Aberdeen" and 2010′s "A Somewhat Gentle Man". "In Order of Disappearance" opens in New York City and Los Angeles on August 26.

So Stellan, you really are the human equivalent to an unstoppable snowplow.

SS: [Laughs] Thatís fun.

Thereís obviously a lot of brutality in the film. I just didnít anticipate how funny it was going to be as well. Itís all very cleverly done. What do you find funny on a day-to-day basis?

SS: I laugh a lot! My wife is very funny. My children are extremely funny on a day-to-day basis. I like everything from slapstick to the more sophisticated humor. Hans Petter Molandís "A Somewhat Gentle Man" and "In Order of Disappearance" both have the kind of humor that I appreciate a lot.

"Somewhat Gentle Man" could work as an alternate title for "In Order of Disappearance."

SS: Itís true! Theyíre two interesting menótwo interesting killers.

When it comes to emotions, Nils is out of his element. Heís pragmatic. You give him a problem and heíll find a practical solution. Are you similar to Nils in that way, or different?

SS: Hopefully, Iím very different. Heís pragmatic, but he goes on this revenge killing spree because he doesnít have the tools to handle his emotional situation. He doesnít even have the language to talk to his wife properly. A situation like that will probably bring out the caveman in any of us. Hopefully, we find ways to tame the caveman and handle the situation in a more civilized way.

I know this was a long time ago for you now, but if you could take me back to your very first reading of the screenplay, what stuck out? What was immediately attractive to you?

SS: What immediately stuck out was that I didnít see the film, meaning, I couldnít figure out what kind of film this was going to be. It was such a mixture of different styles and genres and tones. At first, I was very reluctant do it, even though it was Hans at the helm and I love working with him. Eventually, Hans said, "Trust me," because he had a clear idea about what he wanted to do. And I trusted him. When we wrapped the film, I still didnít know what kind of film it would be. It wasnít until I saw the first cut that I understood how he made all the disparate tones work together.

Watching that first cut mustíve been a tremendous sigh of relief for you.

SS: It was. I trusted Hans because heís a great director and he has a great sense of tone and everything, but I couldnít imagine what the film would look like. He managed it and I was relieved.

You see the precision start to finish. There are such delicate and precise tonal shifts that, in the hands of less confident directors, the film wouldíve gone spinning off course.

SS: I trust Hans a lot. I know what heís good at and what heís not so good at, and vice versa. Weíre friends outside of work as well. Itís a relationship thatís very much built on friendship and trust. Itís just very pleasant working with him and we have a lot of fun together on set. Itís the lowest anxiety level that you can imagine. We encourage each other to be braver and more playful.

Does working with a close friend in a professional context amount to all positive things, or does it create some minor roadblocks that you wouldnít run into otherwise as well?

SS: I only see the advantages. If we worked together every day for eight years, then maybe it could become very stale. But if youíre in a good marriage, why break it up? When you know each other so well, you speak absolutely frankly because thereís a basis of trust and love. You donít have to filter your opinions, or prance around and court each other. There are things you donít even talk about because weíve already talked about them, so we just do it. The less you talk on set, the better.

Your collaboration with Lars von Trier spans six films so you obviously enjoy working with him as well. Does your desire to work with a director often trump the material itself?

SS: Often. I love the process. I love filming and working and creating together with people, even if the material isnít so watertight. For Nymphomaniac, I didnít even see the script. Lars hadnít even written the script when he asked me to be in it. You want to hang out in an atmosphere where creativity is let loose and youíre amongst friends and feel safe and everybodyís happy, with no hierarchy or stupidities. It should be all about having fun and doing good work.

So the experience of making something is more important than the end product for you.

SS: The experience is more important. Iíve made like 100 films now and the experience of making films is my life. The end product is just going to be what it is. Thatís for other people to judge. They can choose to see or not to see, and you canít do much about them. Iíd rather make a half-good film with really brilliant, nice people than an excellent film with a mean genius.

Your filmography is extensive and itís intimidating to even think about broaching that subject. But in what ways do you think your palate has changed over the years, in terms of the kinds of projects youíre willing to make time for now that you wouldnít have in the past?

SS: With maturity comes less pretension, which also means that Iím more tolerant towards lighthearted material. It becomes all about the joy of doing it. When I was 20, I was extremely pretentious and everything had to be art. Art is wonderful and necessary, but itís not more important than life.

That doesnít come from a place of regret, right? Itís part of maturing like youíre saying.

SS: No regrets whatsoever. When you have your first child at 20 years old, itís a disruption on your life and you donít know how to handle it because you donít know who you are or what will happen to your life. My youngest is now three, and when he was born, it was all about him. There were so many things that I thought were important when I was 20 that I know arenít important anymore.

I donít think I need to ask you how you feel about remakes in general since you were in David Fincherís "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", which was quite extraordinary. But what are your thoughts on the forthcoming "In Order of Disappearance" remake with Liam Neeson?

SS: I donít mind it at all. I had one film remade before and that was "Insomnia". I didnít see it, but I heard it was good. It was done by a very good director and thatís fine. Itís also understandable because there are so many people out there who hate reading subtitles. If itís a good story, why not make it accessible to more people? But what I donít like is when you remake something and clip the wings off the original, like sanitize it or do something stupid with it. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" was a great remake. If Hans is doing "In Order of Disappearance" remake, which is what the rumors say or heís been offered to at least, then I know itís going to be interesting.

I have no context for this, but is it true you were once mistaken for Liam Neeson?

SS: Many years ago, I was walking on the street in New York and this beautiful lady on the other side of the avenue started screaming, "Oh my god! Itís you!" She ran across the street and I was flattered. She was beautiful. But then she came up to me and said, "Oh I love you, Liam." [Laughs] Thatís where the story came from. It did happen once. Now the rumor is that Liam is going to take over my role in the remake and I think thatís good. Heís a very good actor and a lovely man.

Have you officially signed onto "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote"?

SS: Yes, I have.

Terri Gilliam has been trying to get this off the ground for a long time.

SS: With varied success, to say the least.

Are you going to lift the "Terri Gilliam curse," Stellan?

SS: [Laughs] I hope so!