DigitalVD - May 2009 - German interview for ILLUMINATI (aka ANGELS & DEMONS)

Question: You play Commander Richter, head of the Swiss Guard. How difficult was that role?

Stellan Skarsgård: It was an interesting combination playing a policeman representing both the modern world and the old world, carrying on the traditions of the Swiss Guard and the true religion.  I am not religious, but I know that members of the Swiss Guard have to be very devout Catholics. I had to play a man who is absolutely certain in religious matters, a man without doubts, which makes him a very strong personality but also has a somewhat frightening effect.

Q: Were you a fan of Dan Brown and his novels before you accepted the role?

SS: I had not yet read the book "The Da Vinci Code" before I was offered the role.. I do not read thrillers. I read other things.

Q: Is this new movie like "The Da Vinci Code"?

SS: "The Da Vinci Code" had some difficulties, this one does not.  The first one had a very difficult story, which was not easy to tell. "Illuminati" is a lot easier and it moves quickly with the clock continually ticking because a bomb is involved.

Q: Do you have a favorite scene?

SS: The most fun I had was in the last scene during a dispute with Ewan McGregor. That was fun. He is a very good actor.

Q: You were last in an ABBA film and now you star in "Illuminati". What are you looking for in a role?

SS: I'm trying to have fun and take on new challenges. I had never been in a musical  before and I didn't know why they had asked me because I'm not a singer or a dancer.  But then everything changed when they said they didn't want a singer and dancer, but rather a funny guy, actually three funny guys. They wanted the action-hero Pierce Brosnan, the women hero Colin Firth and the indie film hero Stellan Skarsgård.  They wanted us to all look stupid and funny. And they were successful.

Q: And why "Illuminati"?

SS: I did this film because I wanted to work with Ron Howard because he is a great director. You can have different reasons in choosing a role. If you're in a very small film, which is psychologically very demanding and you're filming in Bratislva for several months where it continuously rained, then it might indeed be very nice to go to LA and do something else. Unfortunately, not all movies receive the same attention. It is often said that I only make Hollywood movies now, but I actually do more independent films, which simply get less attention.

Q: Do you think Hollywood movies get you more attention?

SS: It helps, especially financially. Sometimes I have begun to suspect that they are the only reason I do them but, nevertheless, it is worth it if it's a good project. It's complicated and it's getting worse. It is becoming increasingly difficult to finance independent films. It's hard to find a distributor and if you do, it is still difficult to have the film shown in the cinemas. Ultimately, I think new ways have to be found on the Internet because the cinemas are showing more and more big Hollywood productions.

Q: What is the difference between shooting a Hollywood film in Hollywood versus Europe?

SS Normally you're working with a European crew if you film in Europe, and that works a little differently. They are less hierarchical. Besides that, the living conditions off the set varies. In this regard, I would prefer Rome!

Q: Do you think European actors have a good chance in Hollywood? How did you get your breakthrough?

SS:  I was not good enough.  If you go in order to make a career in LA, there are 50,000 other unemployed actors trying to do the same thing. I know an actor who had success on Broadway but still couldn't manage to find an agent in LA. It is very difficult out there, and actually the European actors are better educated because they learn from theater, which is an asset. But it can also be a disadvantage because acting in front of the camera is not the same as acting on stage. It's a combination of talent and the good fortune that you are offered great roles where you can show your talent.

Q: You already know Tom Hanks as executive producer of "Mamma Mia!" What is special about him?

SS: He's just what you would think. He's very smart, very funny, very generous and positive, creative...

Q: Would you like to direct if you had the opportunity?

SS:  I have no patience. Sometimes I feel like a director because I do direct my life. But I don't have the stamina to work on a project for years if I make four films a year as an actor. I do not know that in order to be a good director, it is one thing to know how things works. That's easy to learn but expressing yourself as an director is very difficult.