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, no punishment."

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 (laughs).

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 the time.

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 enough.

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 diapers.
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, nda).

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.
Itís sunny.
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 completely different.
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.