Berlinale - February 2018
Iíll start by saying Ė "Gordon & Paddy" is a very charming film.
Stellan: I definitely think so. A film like this stands out in a current
film climate for children. I have small children and most of the
material they get is shouting at them to get their attention. Delivering
messages in a very fast-pace and they donít get any time to think or any
time to be drawn into a universe, so itís important to make films like
this. Itís also the kind of film that I love. Itís so warm-hearted,
contemplative in a way. Itís a universe that is wonderful to be in. Itís
unbelievably innocent without being stupid. And itís fantastic to see a
crime story where the police are so happy when they can say, "no crime,
It must be nice as well that you can make films that your young
children can watch? Because Iím assuming you havenít sat down with them
to watch Nymphomaniac yet?
Stellan: No, I havenít. I suggested to my wife but she said not yet
For children, seeing a film in the cinema for the first time is a
very special moment Ė can you remember the first film you saw?
Stellan: The first film I saw was "Alice in Wonderland", the Disney
version. Mustíve been in the 50s. All I remember is the rabbit running
saying: "Iím late, Iím late."
How important is it that children still go the cinema, at a time when
they can watch films at home on Netflix, for example?
Stellan: I think it is, because itís a different experience and a
different language, a dying language in a way. They are trying to make
television more cinematic, so storytelling will go on and there is so
much brilliance in television, but I would miss those beautiful films on
the big screen. If you have Ida on while youíre making coffee at home,
you wonít get anything out of it.
With movies like "Gordon & Paddy", which is contemplative, can it
teach children patience?
Stellan: Yeah, and itís good to put them in a cinema to do that, if
possible. If you give them "Gordon & Paddy" on the iPad, they may flick
into something else. The concentration, the entering a universe and
sharing it with other people, that cinematic moment, for that, a film
like "Gordon & Paddy" is really good. Itís also nice to show a film to
young children that shows humanity in a decent way. I didnít
particularly think about that in this film, but I think about it in
general, I think about it all the time. The times are troubling.
Especially the opposition against what is happening in the world, the
Left, the social democrats, they have to find an alternative and they
havenít. Theyíve accepted the idea of the market as rulers and gave away
the power and the democracy and they have to have come up with an
alternative economic theory that is a good alternative. They also have
to come up with ideas that are not only identity politics but real
politics that will change a society.
Do you think sometimes itís easier to access profound messages and
themes through animations or science-fiction films, because sometimes we
almost have to step out of reality to best understand it?
Stellan: Yeah, I think so. The fable has enormous advantages, youíre not
trapped by reality, you donít have to have your image blurred by all the
details of reality, you can be extremely focused. Gordon is a character
who is very tired, he has been in his career a long time. But by being
an actor, have you avoided that feeling of tedium? That sense of coming
to the end of something. Itís a cool job. Itís fucking cool, it
is. No two days are the same, but then I have small children, still.
Iíve done a vasectomy now so there will be no more, and I already regret
it. But itís new all the time... I meet new people all the time and Iím
challenged by other people. Half of what I do is made by my fellow
actors. Itís fantastic and itís fun. Itís like never getting out of the
sandbox. I get to play all the time and thereís new toys coming in all
This year marks 50 years since you began your career. Does that make
you look back on your career?
Stellan: To think about what I should have done differently? (Laughs)
Itís too late! No, I donít look back very much, I donít. I know there is
a past, but I donít dwell on it. Iíve been around for a while, yeah.
Has a lot changed during this time?
Of course it has. I started before the fantastic wave of American films
in the 70s, and when I started it was a totally different world, there
were no iPhones. There was no internet, and the market hadnít taken over
films as much as it has now. The Godfather opened in a 100 cinemas in
the United States. Now that doesnít happen, you shove out a film in 4000
copies and itís vacuum cleaned before people get the chance to say what
they thought about it.
And youíre a part of biggest aspect to the film business in MarvelÖ
Iím having fun doing them. I donít do things that I donít think will be
fun. I make a lot of money making them, but Iím really having fun. Itís
a good meal, it can be a fantastic reindeer steak, but then you can also
have a little piece of chocolate after. You like it. Itís important to
have a varied diet because otherwise you will get bored. And I have so
much fun making those films, you use different acting muscles and you
donít have to worry too much about the psychology of your character, but
you have to be present and alive in front of the camera and thatís hard
Youíve reached that quite privileged position that not every actor gets
to, where now when you pick roles you pick them based on what you will
enjoy. Not how much you get paid, or what it will do for your career Ė
you can just do whatever you want to do?
Exactly. Iíve been really bad at career choices anyway, Iíve never been
interested in it. Iíve been really good at trying to find ways to have
fun, and I still have fun.
But youíve said before that youíve spent the last 40 years changing
There was a little gap in the children, but I changed my motherís
diapers those years, so it is 40 years.
On a different note, youíre not in Lars Von Trierís next film?
No, he called me and said: ęStellan Ė Iím going to make a Skarsgard-free
filmĽ. Good luck, I said. Lars Von Trier on his own Ė unplugged (laughs,
Have you ever thought about moving to the States?
To live? Why, with eight kids, would you live in a society where you
donít have free healthcare or free schools, where women arenít free,
where you have a President who is a nutcase, with an absolutely corrupt
election system? Give me one reason.
It is sunny, thatís true. Iíll move! No, it doesnít suit me. I really
like living in Scandinavia, and in Europe. Itís a very civilised
society. I pay more taxes and nobody is starving, itís a good concept.
But of course we have problems in all of the West now with
anti-democratic movements. We have problems with peace in Poland, in
Czechoslovakia, we have Brexit, we have Trump. Itís happening
everywhere, and this is the price weíre paying for the Chicago School of
Economics, the trickle-down effect. It doesnít trickle well.
Youíve played some complex characters in Scandinavia that arenít black
and white, I guess this too could be why you stay in European cinema?
Yeah, thatís one reason because you get to do them. You can fuck up the
occasional American film by throwing in some complexity. I had a line in
Return to Montauk and there was a line I really liked when my character
said something about American heroes, and they have heroes in America,
they love their heroes. In Europe our heroes are much more ambiguous,
they are Hamlet, Don Quixote, itís the losers. They are our heroes, and
itís a totally different tradition.
Youíve played so many roles, it must be so interesting to look at the
world from so many different points of view?
Yeah, and I do not see the world as being consistent of good guys and
bad guys, I see it as a conflict between ideas and conflict between
different views of humanity, but not good guys and bad guys.
Is that perspective, in part, down to the fact that youíve play bad guys
on screen? Youíve had to try and understand the way they operate and
think, and youíve had to find empathy in the process.
Yeah, and hopefully make the audience understand bad guys. When Lars Von
Trier said you have understand Hitler in the bunker you can almost feel
sorry for him. Yes, that upset a lot of people because they want to see
the Nazis as bad guys, which makes us good guys, which is a terrible
mistake. If we donít see that all those crimes of humanity were made by
humans, if we think itís just some bad eggs and that weíre not bad eggs,
then we canít protect ourselves from the fascist inside us. Thatís why
itís so dangerous having this idea of good guys and bad guys in general.
And also itís blinding. After the 1928 financial crash, in America since
they have this idea of good guys and bad guys, they didnít say there was
something wrong with the system, with the mechanisms of their
capitalistic system, they said there were some bad, greedy people. Itís
pretty naÔve, itís sad.
Do you see any differences in your attitude towards the industry
compared to your offsprings Bill, Gustaf and Aleksander?
No, weíre pretty much on the same page. Iím happy theyíre successful but
Iím also happy to see how approach it and what they see in the material
they are working with and how free they are from the bad side of the
business, which is very nice to see, they donít take the business
seriously. They take their jobs seriously, and that is something
Have you ever felt like youíve taken yourself too seriously?
When I was 19 years old I took myself far too seriously. Everything had
to be art, and I had a very vague definition of what art was. Relativity
is something you learn, I think.