Female First (UK) - June 27, 2012 (Edited)
is one of the most versatile actors of his generation as he moves from
blockbusters to smaller indie movies with ease.
King of Devil's Island is released into UK cinemas next week so can
you tell me a little bit about the movie?
Well it talks place in a prison camp for young boys which is outside of
Oslo in Norway in 1950 - that is the setting.
In some ways it is a normal prison break movie but it is about those
boys trying to revolt against the oppression of the system there. I am
playing the governor of the island. But it is
also pretty special because all of the young boys are not played by
aspiring actors but by boys with a troubled background, some with a
criminal background, which give an enormous intensity and truthfulness
to the story I think.
How did you find working with them?
For me it was fantastic and it was one of the reasons that I did the
film. I already knew the director and when he told me that he was
scanning Norway and filling up workshops and camps where he worked with
young boys who were in trouble I got really interested.
It is very hard to find trained, young, well fed, wannabe famous
boys who can portray those characters because what you want is the
hardness of a child who has been constantly abused and at the same time
you want a crack in the character so you can see the vulnerable child
behind. Those boys actually had that and it
was fantastic working with them. It was also such an experience because
for the first time in their lives they werenít punished for showing
feelings they were rewarded for it and it was a kind of liberation for
many of them I think.
What was it about this character and the
script that really drew you to the project?
As I said the idea of working with those boys and the level of
authenticity that I expected was one of the things. Then I wanted to
work with the director (Marius Holst) who I have known for many years.
And I think that is a traditional film in structure and it works
like a prison break film and yet at the same time it was richer and more
nuanced, so in my eyes it was more powerful than most of them.
He [Hakon played by Stellan]
is an interesting character because on the surface he is very
much a man with strict and high morals and yet when challenged the mask
of civility slips and he reveals a bit of a monster so how interesting
was it to play a man with two very distinct yet contrasting sides to him.
It was very interesting and to me it was very important to make
him human. I decided that I wanted him to be a do-gooder and I wanted
him to be progressive for the time and really trying his best to make it
good for the boys.
But then the system as it was and the society that it
was when there is a case of sexual abuse on this island he cannot let it
become public as it would be the end of his career and his social life
and so he becomes a coward and abandons the children in a way.
But this is something that he doesnít do easily or wilfully it is
something that eats away from him as well. But
it is important that it is a human being who is the oppressor in the
film because if it was a bad guy then you could just change the governor
and everything would be beautiful on the island but that is not the way
that it works.
It is based on a true story so how familiar were you with it and what
sort of research for the role?
I wasnít familiar at all with it - this island is very well known in
Norway but I am Swedish so I knew nothing about it before I started
working on it. The characters are invented but
the place and the riot is real and so I studied the circumstances on the
island at that time.
It was not unique in any way as prison camps for children in Scandinavia
at the time were pretty horrible; in most places of the world it is
still horrible for children when they are gathered in camps; even if it
is refugee camps. It was recently there were
scandals about how children were treated in catholic orphanages in
Ireland so, unfortunately, it is not unique.
How did you find working with
director Marius Holst?
I have known him for many years but I have never worked with him. One of
his big achievements here is the fantastic job that he did with the
boys, for the year he scouted the Norwegian countryside and set up camps
with young boys in trouble and tried to sift out boys he could use but
also make them trust him enough so he could work with them.
But he was taking a chance because those kids just take off one
day and disappear from the set if they werenít treated in a good way.
They were given so much responsibility for the first time in
their lives and they were trusted for the first time in their lives so
it was an amazingly pain free shoot in that sense.
I like working with him as he is very good with the image, he is
very good with the music and he was very easy with me to work with - any
discussions that we had about what was important in the film we agreed
very much on which made it very pleasant.
The movie has been doing very well on the festival circuit.
In its native Norway, it is
one of the biggest successes ever, it did fantastically well there
because it is a Norwegian story. It has been
very well received at festivals all over the place and hopefully it will
be well received here in England as well and hopefully despite the
subtitles it will find its audience.
"The Avengers" -
$1.4 billion at the box office and third biggest movie of all time so
how prepared were you for this monster success?
(Laughs) I knew that they were firing off all the canons to get
something great going and Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed it, is a
very very clever man - Kevin Feige who is head of Marvel is also a very
clever man. I didnít think that they were
going to lose any money on it but I couldnít imagine that it was going
to be such a success. But after I saw it for the first time,
I understood that we had something good there.
"Thor 2" is now
just around the corner so what do you hope the future holds for Erik?
I donít know, since I get paid more for each movie that I do they will
probably kill me off soon (laughs); but I donít know.
Itís fun to going there and hanging out with everyone and there
are some really good actors on the film so I am still enjoying it.
What do you look for in a part?
First of all, I look for something that I
havenít recently done and I try to find projects that are different from
what I have just come out of. But I also look for great and good
directors as well as great actors. When it
comes to the indie movies that I do I look for edgy material and
dangerous material and sometime provocative material because I donít
What can you tell us about the new
adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet"?
Well, I canít tell you much as I only had a
couple of days in it but the reason that I took it was I wanted to see
if I could master Shakespeare
as a Swede - I donít think I managed (laughs).
Itís not Shakespeare as it is some fakespeare as well since it is
partly re-written by Julian Fellows. I think you will see an extremely
beautiful film with fantastic setting and clothes and you will see
Hailee Steinfeld shine.
What's coming up for you?
I am starting a film which is based on the book "The
Physician", we start shooting in German and
Tom Payne plays the young lead. I am playing a
barber/physician/surgeon/seller of potions and a big drinker of alcohol
and a screwer of whores and it is a funny role and I am looking forward
to it. After that I will do
"Thor 2" and try to combine that with
shooting Lars von Trierís new movie "The