Excerpts from a loosely translated interview in
Norway's Dagens Naeringsliv
March 29, 2013
is restless during filming at the Perminalen Hotel in Oslo. His co-star
in the scene, a Danish actor in a small role as an assassin, waits
silently leaning against the wall, dressed in black with galoshes over
shoes. All the while Stellan paces back and forth between takes, but
it is not because he is unhappy in any way. He's just a restless soul
and always has been.
It was his mother who originally had the idea that he should try his
hand as an actor. He was the eldest of five children, and the
middle-class family had to move about in Sweden because his father
always needed better-paying jobs. So the need to adapt to new
surroundings has followed Stellan since he was a little boy, and he
believes this has influenced him with the importance of family, a safe
ticket in an otherwise ephemeral existence.
The first memory Stellan has is a railroad crossing: two booms that
slowly descend. It's just a picture. Also the smell of a rain-soaked
pine forest in summer with his grandmother and grandfather on Öland.
Perhaps his father simply was restless, too.
Q: Do you know actors who do not allow themselves to
go out of character when they go home from the film set for the day?
Stellan: (He smiles, slightly amused by the idea, it seems) Yes. I
played against Harvey Keitel in a movie called Taking Sides. He's
a wonderful actor, but he swears to the so-called method acting... and
for me it's hocus pocus. They take a course to deal with the fear. All
actors are afraid. But I come from the theater, and in a Shakespearean
piece, you often play three or four roles, and then you have no time to
spend three months in order to get into character.
Q: But are you not afraid?
Stellan: Damn right I'm afraid. I have experienced camera fright when
the director finally had to stand behind the camera and utter every word
I would say. You can see the panic in my eyes in the footage. But I try
not to be vain. I do not dislike myself, but I do not look at myself
with particular admiration.
Q: How many movies have you starred in?
Stellan: A little over 90.
Q: Have you seen any?
Stellan: Some I will not watch.
Stellan: Because I know that they are very bad. (He then mentions
a film called Passion of Mind, starring Demi Moore). Demi was in
the middle of a divorce from Bruce Willis at the time and was a little
neurotic, surrounded herself with eight bodyguards. The writer was fine
and as well as the talented Belgian director they had picked for the
film, but what was to be a black and dangerous film, got mawkish music
and was called a psychological romantic thriller, and everything became
a disaster. When I, along with my then wife, attended the Paramount
Pictures premiere in LA, I wanted to hide my face in my hands. When we
left the theater and came out into the bright sunshine, I saw a
silhouette in front of me. It was the kind director. I said, "it sucks".
He said, "I know".
A tram rattles past outside. Stellan glances at life outside. He
carries an impatience that is not quite possible to hide, even if he is
friendly. He has just finished Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac...
Over the last three years he has been involved in 18 productions.
Stellan: I want to work in Hollywood. It is important to keep the
proportions. A movie is just a movie. All you can do is prepare well and
do your job. You know what's one of the best film projects I've been
involved in? Deep Blue Sea. (laughing)
It's a science fiction horror movie where Stellan
plays a professor named Whitlock tries to find a cure for Alzheimer's.
Stellan: I love life and I want it to be good.
There I had the a pool and beach in Mexico and walking distance to the
film set, two or three days a week. I flew in 25 friends who stayed with
me... The only movie that can compete is Mamma Mia!.
Q: How much do you earn?
Stellan: On a large production I can get up to one million dollars. But
I never have any money left. My personal finances are a disaster. It's a
weakness I have inherited from my father. He was an economist. But
really, he was a dreamer. My worldly outlook on life, I have inherited
from my mother... She had this desire to say what one cannot say, and I
have this desire too. Doing what you cannot do. Perhaps the reason for I
have become an actor... My dad was unconventional for his time. He
showed his children respect, enjoying life with books, math, good food
and drink. I inherited no money, but the language...
Q: How have you been as a father?
Stellan: I've never been brilliant. I have screamed at them, but I have
treated them with the honesty and respect I learned at home. When I
first became a father, I was 25, and then I was pretty keen to find my
own way in life, but last time I was 61. I'm better now...
When the subject of Lars Von Trier comes up, he then
talks about male directors.
Stellan: Directors are often socially disturbed
individuals. As children, they had no friends, so instead they set up
the children's room and built a world where they can have full control
of their environment... And it is this sense of control they attempt to
recreate as adults when directing film.
Q: How was it working with Ingmar Bergman?
Stellan: He was a great director, but a terrible human being. I can live
with directors who will retake control of the children's room, but he
wanted to control everything. When he was directing me in "One Dream
Play", he demanded that I quit smoking.
Stellan drums with his fingers restlessly on the
table. He is probably not aware of it. He seems overly attentive to it.
He talks about LA and how he couldn't live his whole life there. He
calls it the City of Fear, an entertaining but weird place where
everyone is at all times afraid to be in the wrong place at the wrong
party... Along with his two youngest children and his wife, he lives in
an apartment on Södermalm in Stockholm.
Q: How about an Oscar statuette?
Stellan: It would be cool.
Q: Then why not find a suitable role?
Stellan: To play the handicapped tends to work. Or a historical figure.
(He throws out his arms as if he has the solution). A handicapped