Interview with Stellan - 1999  - "Hollywood's Hottest Swede"


Is there anything more to say about Stellan Skarsgård which has not already been said? Perhaps Sweden’s most competent actor is moreover Hollywood’s hottest Swede and is to be seen everywhere soon. His place of work is the world, the Hollywood stars glorify him, and the roles become bigger, as well as Skarsgård’s name in the starry sky of the movie industry.

After more than a year of intensive film shooting, Stellan is taking a break with his family, relatives and friends, while his new alter ego is taking over the cinema screens in the autumn. We were able to chat with Hollywood’s hottest Swede.

Our greatest international film star certainly is not lazy. Stellan Skarsgård continues to shoot films. He mixes small films with big Hollywood productions as usual. "I’ve got a big family to provide for and there’s always a need for money," Stellan laughs when we talk about his diligent film shooting. "But money is not the most important thing. I simply like to work, even if I must admit that it is quite illogical to say that because I’m quite lazy by nature and like to have time off as well. (laughter)."

Stellan has stood in front of the cameras for almost one year at a stretch. The result are four films - Deep Blue Sea, Passion of Mind, Signs and Wonders and Aberdeen. It’s not strange that he feels tired and worn out and would prefer to flee the limelight for a while. He politely declined all jobs during the summer and disappeared to the big summer house on Öland with all the tons of relatives. Anyway, he managed to slip over to the USA to the world premiere of Deep Blue Sea – and to do one more interview with questions he probably has heard a thousand times before. But Stellan is a pro and even if he is tired of the media, he does not show it. He is as funny through and through, pleasant, contemplative, smart and outspoken as usual.

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Question: You get good reviews almost all the time in the USA, even if the films are pulled to pieces. The critics seem to like you, and stars like Robert deNiro and Samuel L. Jackson only praise you. Jackson, for example, said that you are one of the best actors he worked with. How does that feel?

"It’s always fun when someone likes what you do. Of course it is tremendously flattering to hear something like that. And I liked working with Jackson again in Deep Blue Sea. I like his acting skills."

Question: How do you pick your roles?

"I’ve never actually been so interested in making a career. I choose those roles which I think seem exciting and interesting. It’s a different reason all the time, but I try to pick something different from the film I’ve done before and try not to repeat myself. I mean, if I just did a big, expensive American action film, I like to do a part in a little smaller European production the next time. But I usually accept what I think could be fun to do right at that moment. I don’t make a secret that it’s about big money in those Hollywood films. I’m getting paid tremendously well, even if it’s a minor role. If I only were to work because of the money, I could have stayed in Hollywood. But I think European films are more interesting. They get to the (?) in a totally different way than in Hollywood. It’s just my agency which does not like me to do roles in small 'obscure' films, so sometimes I have to 'give them' a role in a big, glittering Hollywood film to satisfy them. (laughter) I do understand them. They earn money with me, too. Otherwise, it also depends on the script, the director and the other actors in how I pick my film jobs."

Question: A while ago you won the Felix-award, Europe’s equivalence to Hollywood’s Oscar. What does a distinction like this mean to you?

"Devil knows (laughter). It does not mean that much now. I’ve been around for some time and have managed to establish myself. It would have meant significantly more if I had received the award when I was younger and less well known, but it is flattering of course. It’s always fun to get attention by a nice award, because it means that people like what one does."

Question: You have never considered leaving Stockholm and moving to the USA?

"No, that will never happen. I enjoy living in Sweden."

Question: Do you watch your own films?

"No, rarely. I never go to the theatre in Stockholm anymore and very rarely to the cinema."

Question: Do you manage to see films at home?

"No, we have lots of children at home, so there’s not much time left. I change nappies and cook. It’s not even possible to listen to music at home. We’ve got three CD players running at the same time, while my wife is listening to P1 [Swedish culture and news radio channel]."

Question: When I name the titles of some of your latest films, what do you think of them?

Amistad:

"That was an enormous production with many good actors, e.g. Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins. I play a slavery opponent who tries to save a ship full of African people from slavery. Steven Spielberg works in a special way. We didn’t have a single rehearsal, but shot directly. 250 people in the team and more than 400 extras with a non-speaking part on the set. It didn’t work at all. The dialogue simply disappeared out of my head. Spielberg is a damned competent storyteller, but he doesn’t give himself the time to go deeper into his characters. It’s way too fast. We had about 40 set-ups a day, which is really crazy."

Saviour:

"I don’t appear so much in this film. I get killed almost immediately. I haven’t seen it, but one of my boys have. He says it is 'okay'." (The film is about an American (played by Dennis Quaid), whose wife (Nastassja Kinski) and son got killed in a Muslim terror act in Paris, whereupon the man becomes a legionnaire soldier in the former Yugoslavia to take revenge on the Muslims in Bosnia.)

Good Will Hunting:

"A wonderful experience, good atmosphere during the shooting and a lovely team – everyone from actors to the director (Gus Van Sant). Robin Williams was hysterically funny between the takes, almost neurotic. We had so much fun. I had some really good scenes and got some space to work with my character as I like to have it. Very intelligent script by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon." (Stellan plays a math professor).

Aberdeen:

"My latest film. I spent two months in Scotland and acted drunk or hung over all the time (laughter). It is a Norwegian-English production directed by Hans-Petter Moland. I play an alcoholic oil platform worker, who split up with his wife and daughter, and the family separated. Charlotte Rampling plays my wife. The daughter travels to take her father home when the mother gets seriously ill." (Stellan and Moland have worked together before - the thriller Zero Kelvin).

Signs and Wonders:

"An exciting triangle drama directed by a young, very promising American named Jonathan Nossiter. I  shot in Greece among other places."

Passion of Mind:

"I play Demi Moore’s lover. She’s a woman who lives a strange double life. The shooting took place in France. When I saw how she (Moore) lives, I suddenly realized how lucky I am to be able to move freely. She is really captured in her own fame. She cannot take a single step with her children without being surrounded by bodyguards all the time. It must be hell to be a Hollywood star like that!"

Ronin:

"Nice team, but quite boring shooting. Action films are on the whole extremely boring to do. Most of the time you sit and wait. In Ronin not the actors are in focus but the car races. You sit and wait for hours until the stuntmen have stopped driving. Then they call you in to take some close-ups for half a minute."

The next big film in the cinema here at home is Renny Harlin’s expensive action-thriller Deep Blue Sea. The production of this film took place in the same studio, complete with a gigantic water tank for the sea scenes, which James Cameron had used for Titanic. At Rosarito Beach in Mexico, Stellan rented a big house at the beach to have enough space for family, relatives and friends, who kept him company during his time off during the whole shooting. In earlier interviews Stellan has often said that he does not like to be alone, and that family is the most important thing to him.

Question: Your family used to come with you when you worked?

"Yes, and in Mexico we were like a Swedish colony of 35 persons. They made me crazy (laughter).
The usual cliché is that Hollywood actors live unbelievably glamorous lives, stand in front of a camera when the director shouts 'action' only to get back to their gigantic, luxurious trailers again. Of course we live well. You get serviced, and the big Hollywood productions take very good care of the actors. Everything is practically organized and meticulously prepared with trailers and private drivers. But the job itself is damned tough. It can be cold and awful, wet and boring like hell sometimes. It’s quite hard. In Deep Blue Sea we shot 12 hours a day and were only off on Sundays. We spent most of the time inside and didn't see anything else but the studio. It was the same thing with Ronin. We had 12-14 hours working days. Then it can be nice to live well, eat well and be able to get into a waiting car after a long working day."

Question: What are you going to do now? Do you have some concrete film plans? 

"I actually don’t know. My professional future is to be seen as a 'big, white piece of paper' right now. I enjoy being off for a while, but in a short while I’ll go through the offers I have got, which are laying in wait."

Question: Could you tell us something about your part in Deep Blue Sea, Stellan? 

"I play a researcher who works on making the brains of sharks bigger and better developed by gene manipulation. The intention is to use them for the cure of Alzheimer disease. But of course everything goes wrong. The sharks become as intelligent as dolphins, while they keep their killer instincts at the same time. The sharks suddenly become pure killing machines and start to chase us, while the research station starts to sink into the ocean at the same time. I play one of the scientists, but there’s not so much more to it. I get almost totally eaten up quite early in the film."

Deep Blue Sea is full of action and the actors had to go through a number of hardships with floods, bad weather, tough underwater scenes, big obstinate sharks, explosions and blazing fire on the water. It’s wet and cold and not very glamorous. Many are forced to do quite a lot of their own stunts. One, who definitely likes to act as a stuntman, is Stellan Skarsgård.

"Some stunt scenes are quite awful," he admits. "I only do small stunts which are not dangerous. I’ve got six children, I don’t need to risk my life to prove that I’m a man. I say my lines. The rest is kindly handed over to the stuntmen. (He didn't have to swim with the sharks) I’m not a good stuntman. I don’t like pain. It’s against my nature. I prefer to live a pleasant life, to eat good and not to work out," Stellan laughs.

 

[Shock Movie Magazine]