Hollywood and Fine -  January 14, 2011

Yes, Stellan SkarsgŚrd says, heís in the midst of filming David Fincherís version of ďThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,Ē the biggest export Sweden has produced since Abba. No, Stellan admits, he hasnít read the best-selling Stieg Larsson novel upon which the much-discussed Hollywood version is based: ďI read other things,Ē he says by telephone from Los Angeles.

Youíre Swedish but you work frequently in Norwegian films, such as ďA Somewhat Gentle Man.Ē Do the Swedes accuse you of being a traitor?

Yes, they call me a turncoat. I say, well, you only make police thrillers in Sweden. But this is my third time working with this director. I still live in Sweden. Thatís my base. When Iím not working, Iím there.

What attracted you to the project?

I thought it was very funny. When the producer read it, he didnít understand it. He thought it was dark and sad and tragic. I found it hilarious. It was an unusual script.

How often do you get offered leading roles like this?

You donít see many scripts written like this, in Hollywood or anywhere else. There are not many roles like that out there. But this is the third time Iíve worked with Hans Petter Moland. I also worked with him on ďZero KelvinĒ and ďAberdeen.Ē Heís given me three of the best roles of my career.

Yet you say there wasnít a lot in the script to hang the character on.

The character doesnít say anything for the first four or five minutes. You read it and heís the lead role and heís not there, really. It was a funny situation because of everything you could fill in between. The character had to be invented. Even when heís not saying anything, everything around him had to be reflected in his face. I like the character. He had given up on life. He was so reluctant to reenter life. Itís a story about a man who finds magic in life, finally finding at his age that life can be beautiful and wonderful.

Whatís up with that ratty ponytail you wear in the film?

The ponytail was my idea. I wanted it to indicate that he was a man who was a bit over the hill. When he had it like that in the í80s, it was really cool. But heís been in prison for 12 years. My hair was probably that long when I did ďBreaking the Waves.Ē Iíve never had it that thin before.

You have several bizarre sex scenes with Jorun Kjellsby, who plays your landlady. Was it hard to keep from laughing during those?

Iíve done a lot of sex scenes but never anything like this. We laughed a lot during those sex scenes. There were a couple of takes we had to redo because we couldnít keep a straight face. There was dialogue in the script and not much more; it was our interpretation of the script. All the things about just wanting to eat his dinner while he was having sex are things we invented.

Why did you start acting?

My first professional acting job was when I was 14. It was a Swedish Huckleberry Finn for TV. That started my career. I did a lot of amateur theater as a kid. The more I did it, the more I was hooked. It made it possible to be someone else, to do things Stellan would never do. Plus I like people and itís a collaborative art form. Iím not a mirror-style actor. I come with 1,000 possibilities and then it depends on what the other actors do.

Do you like working in Hollywood?

I wasnít keen on going to Hollywood at all when I first came. I won an award in Berlin in 1982 and then did a film for PBS. My agent wanted me to go to L.A. and I didnít want to. It was very snotty and arrogant of me. Iíve been staying at the Chateau Marmont for 20 years when I come here. I like the staff. But I donít feel a part of society in L.A. Itís so totally different a city, so heavily based on the industry. Even if youíre well-known in Sweden, you can be more private there. But I will say the L.A. weather is great. We just had the longest cold spell in Sweden since 1788.