Damernas Varld Magazine - March 1994


A little sister and a little brother. A pair of former lovers. Two childhood friends. They were there for each other. In sorrow and joy. Good times and the storms. Friendship has many faces. And its bonds are tied for life.

Johan Günther, writer – and Stellan Skarsgård, actor.

STELLAN AND JOHAN have been together in all of life’s phases. They’ve mirrored each other’s reactions, and not always been happy with what they saw. They’ve argued and been angry, but never doubted their loyalty. Today they’ve both had time to turn 40. Both are married and have children, Stellan with Johan’s little sister My, and the families live in the same building at Söder in Stockholm. The traffic between the two families is heavy, and they spend so much time together that it’s hard to know where one family ends and where the other begins.

JOHAN: “It’s pretty natural that it turned out like this. Our families are childhood friends. We basically started playing together when Stellan was an infant, and despite his family moving around a lot, we’d always meet for a few weeks at Öland every summer.”

It was during the summers that the friendship got set in stone. That’s when Stellan and Johan got into a world only for them, and lived out their fantasies.

STELLAN: “Companionship is such a natural part of life that we never questioned it. It is, for example, impossible to say if and how we affected or changed each other. I’d have no idea what life would be like without Johan. He’s always been there.”

JOHAN: “What united us through the years is our ability to dream together. Ever since we were kids, we’ve confirmed each others fantasies – almost like telepathy.”

STELLAN: “We always had a bunch of projects going. Created countries, built rafts, written books. It’s become a way to be together.”

They still share the enthusiasm of childhood and inhibited flow of ideas today. Right now they’ve written a script along with Stellan’s wife My, which, if all goes according to plan, will be shot next year.

JOHAN: “There is a sort of obvious enjoyment in working together. Since we know each other so well, we know who is best at what and we can immediately find a form where collaboration works.”

STELLAN: “When we get to the ‘ping-pong’ and the ideas reproduce, then you have an incredible time. It’s just as lustful today as it was 35 years ago.”

JOHAN: “But we don’t talk much about working.”

STELLAN: “This is why friendship is a sort of haven. We judge and appreciate each other in totally other ways than strictly professional.”

They compare their relationship to an old marriage. The air is full of the silent mutual understanding born in every shared dream and experience. All the dreams you’ve shared and the visions created.

STELLAN: “We know, or often think we know, what the other person is thinking. Therefore, there is sometimes a sort of irritation which didn’t exist when we were little and free, and there was still something to discover about the other person.”

JOHAN: “You can especially tell when we’re fighting. Now I often bark back at him before he finishes his sentence, because I’m positive I know what he’ll say.”

STELLAN: “At the same time I feel very secure with Johan. We can be angry and dumb like in any marriage. But we have a trust and basic comfort with each other, which is hard to find with people you get to know later in life. If you’ve been able to trust each other for as long as you can remember, it means that the relationship can take a bit of strain.”

JOHAN: “The fact that Stellan married my younger sister does not make things worse. It gives us more points and opportunities to be together.”

Living so close to each other is handy in many ways. When Johan has written enough for the day, he often wanders in to Stellan’s and tries to lure him into a shopping round. And since they both have a passion for cooking and there is usually time for an afternoon beer, it isn’t normally a problem.

STELLAN: “What we’ve always been great at is to not let reality ruin our dreams.”

JOHAN: “Like all our rafters. We spent at least 3 summers creating a ‘transicanian’ marine, which was meant to have its base down at the swimming shore. The two first rafters sank like rocks, and “Alifa 3” was so heavy that we never even got her down to the water.”

STELLAN: “But we didn’t quit, but years later got into the boating business and bought an old boat for 2,000 kronor.”

The fact that the boat was so rotten to the core that Stellan once shoved his arm through it while leaning on it quickly diminished it from their minds.

STELLAN: “But we did live big on our dreams, me and Johan. The next summer we were cruising through the Mediterranean, and had a splendid time with Cannes as our base. The fact that the 80 ton heavy boat sank seven times that winter, and that we had to pull her up again and again, never bothered us.”

JOHAN: “Our dreams meant so much that towing it seven times was a small price to pay. For a whole winter, we made due like free and tough sea men…might’ve just been in imagination, but still.”

Might not be that weird that Stellan and Johan’s wives respectively sighed when they heard new plans of getting a boat a few years ago.

JOHAN: “But this time we did not buy the boat. It was alright to dream for a week, and then turn it down.”

STELLAN: “But that basically came down to the boat being much smaller than we thought. Not that we became much smarter over the years.”

[Kindly translated by Robin Solsjö Höglund]