Cafť Magazine Interview

August 2004

Q: Jennifer Connelly and Dogville co-star Paul Bettany have named their first son after you. On Conan O'Brien, Connelly remarked that you said, "all right, so now I get to suck at your wife's breast?" when Bettany telephoned with the news. True?

Stellan: No. Well, Paul telephoned and said that now he has got a little Stellan who sucks at his wife's breast. And then I countered with that she can have a "Stellan" at each breast if she wants."

Q: What did he say then?

Stellan: That he'd have to check into that, ha-ha. Then he called from Canada and shouted, "I have talked with Jennifer and she says that itís okay.Ē

Q: Actors used to say that it's more stimulating to play villains than heroes...

Stellan: ...but I donít agree. Bad guy roles are boring in Hollywood. They are exactly the same character and the same film all the time. I say no to some every year.

Q: So why did you say yes to the role as the evil Cerdic in King Arthur then?

Stellan: I said no to it as well at first because I thought the dialogue was bad. But the director telephoned and said that they'd fix it on spot. We did that, but it was complicated.

Q: So you didn't telephone mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer and complain?

Stellan: Not really. I rewrote my dialogue the day before production and so we filmed. The team was extremely nervous since Bruckheimer had not seen the changes. But he evidently approved the results and did not interfere. It was the same thing with Pirates of the Caribbean (note: - ironic that he eventually does the sequels). The film company wanted to fire Johnny Depp when they got to see how he staggered around like Keith Richards, but Bruckheimer didnít give in...

Q: And so came the success. Did you ever think when you stood there in the clay with sword and false beard during the King Arthur production that "Oh no, this is exactly like Monty Python's crazy world - soon comes the evil rabbit and bites us to death?

Stellan: All the time. Everyone on the team joked about that from the first production day on. Clapped their hands to imitate the horses, copied the ďNih!Ē-knights and all that stuff.

Q: Monty Python crushed the genre a little, made it difficult to take this kind of film seriously.

Stellan: Yes, but people have probably forgotten it a little as there are many sandal films ongoing at the moment - Troy, AlexanderÖ Gladiator went well, and so Hollywood, inventive as usual, does the same thing again and again.

Q: There's been a lot of talk about the strange production of  Exorcist: The Beginning. What really did happen?

Stellan: The first director, John Frankenheimer, died when the production was just half way done. Paul Schrader (the odd fish who wrote Taxi Driver among other things), was taken in and he engaged me. A film for 40 million dollars with Schrader as director and SkarsgŚrd in the main role... I thought, "they probably havenít got a f-ing idea about what they are doing or they are geniuses.

Q: And?

Stellan: They didnít know what they were doing. It became an art film about a man in a crisis, not at all that kind of popcorn movie the film company had wanted. They panicked and tried to put in thriller effects. It didnít help. Then they took in Renny Harlin to broaden up things. He rewrote the script, took in new actors and 50 new millions. So it became two different films.

Q: Which one is best?

Stellan: I havenít seen them but it would be like comparing pancakes and pork fillet. An art film and a thriller. The Renny Harlin version will be shown in film theatres. It seems Schraderís film will be released on DVD.

Q: Did you like the original Exorcist?

Stellan: Yes, itís quite amazing. To make a film about a girl who puts a cross up her vagina in 1973 requires courage.

Q: What about the football film, Goal, where you play a coach with Alan Shearer and others?

Stellan:  It will come round for sure, but not with me. I wanted to work with director Thomas Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo), but after a month he quit. He wanted to do an exceptional film while the producer wanted something more popular.

Q:  How is your playing football then? Did you play when you were younger?

Stellan: No, I was afraid of the ball.

Q: You didn't have a company team at the theatre (in Stockholm)?

Stellan:  At least not when I worked there.

Q: What do your Swedish actor colleagues say when you meet? ďGreat that youíre doing so fineĒ and things?

Stellan: Sometimes. But often you get a feeling that you left those who drudge for starvation wages at the theatre alone. Although I rarely meet any Swedish colleagues at all. Iím at home doing the cooking when Iím in Sweden.

Q: You seem to be manically interested in cooking. A pal saw you once standing and squeezing tomatoes for 10 minutes before you made your pick.

Stellan:  He must have seen wrong. I can decide within two seconds if the tomatoes are okay.

Q: You have to travel enormously in your job. Have you missed many important family things?

Stellan:  I have missed birthdays regularly. Under certain periods when they grow up, it would have been better to be at home with the children. When they have turned16, you cannot do so much more,  then they stand on their own feet. But there are many children who have worse lives than mine.

Q: You have been married for a very long time, especially for an actor. How do you manage it?

Stellan: You have to bear with each other and be ready to work on the trials. Otherwise, you can just throw in the towel.

Q: Are the Hollywood babes hitting on you a lot?

Stellan: I learned very early in my career that itís not a good idea doing things like that. Besides, Iím working all the time. Itís not like Iím lying at a pool all the time not knowing what to do with my body.

Q: Are you good at playing drunk?

Stellan: Well, Iíve done a whole film, Aberdeen, where I had to do the whole register from warm-up to hangover and restoring. The basic principle for that is that the brain is going slow in a way, and itís all about not staggering.

Q: What do you do with all the money you earn?

Stellan: Spending all the shit at once. And thatís not difficult at all. My wages do not fill accounts on the Cayman Islands. When my agent negotiated my fee for the film Timecode, which I wanted to do, she telephoned and said with a trembling voice that she had never negotiated so little money. There you see.

[Interview by Hans Wiklund and kindly translated by Judith Pfaff]