LIDOVKY.CZ - February 25, 2020

GÖTEBORG. Recently, Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgĺrd has been collecting one film award after another. He won the Golden Globe for the Chernobyl series and was awarded the Nordic Dragon for Lifetime Achievement at the International Festival in Gothenburg 2020. There was also the Swedish premiere of Marhoul's The Painted Bird, in which he played one of the roles.

How did you meet Vaclav Marhoul and what made you decide to work with him?

I met him in the early nineties, when he headed the Barrandov studio. His sister-in-law Jirina was married to a friend of mine, a Swedish journalist. I went to Prague back then for some shooting and we thought we'd meet. He took me for a great beer and we spent a great evening together.

Then we did not meet again, but he contacted me eleven years ago when he bought the rights to The Painted Bird. He said he spent two years doing this and asked me if I wanted to participate. I asked if he already had a script - he said no. But it's the kind of movie you just want to see. It is an art film that is not made for three million dollars in four weeks, loosely inspired and so on, just as most such films are made today. It was a very much an art project and I really wanted it to come true, so I said yes. He then spent several years writing and several years financing because it is almost impossible to tighten something like that.

Luckily he did it and then, as you know, he shot it for two years. And I only came for one or two days, because we all had little roles except the boy. Even Harvey Keitel signed it, because it's an amazing story, an amazing book ... We wanted the movie to be made. Everyone who funded the film really wanted it to come into being. Many people wanted it - and most of all Václav.

Then I saw the movie - and I was thrilled. It is comparable to the best European art films of the 1960s and 1970s - in terms of style and everything ... Such films are no longer made today. It's just a wonderful movie. But the best part was when we had an eight-minute applause at the Venice festival after the screening and Wenceslas stood there and I watched his face. I will never forget those emotions, it must have been great satisfaction for him after fifteen years of hard work.

Have you become friends after all?

We don't know each other so well, we met only a few times in Prague, worked together for two days, and then of course we saw each other in Venice. But we are in contact and I consider him my friend.

In one interview, you mentioned that you are no longer making art films because your face is not anonymous enough for them ...

I make art films! We can consider all Lars von Trier films as art ... But as far as The Painted Bird is concerned, I told my agent that an offer would come and that it could not be accepted for more than a hundred euros. "What ?!" the agent was horrified. I do make some movies out of love, some because I enjoy them, and others for money - I have a wide dispersion.

Why, in your opinion, did The Painted Bird get shortlisted for the Oscar?

I have no idea, but you know what, if it is an Oscar nomination, you need a distributor who is ready to give a million or two million dollars because it all costs a lot of money. I'm on an Oscar jury and I get twenty-thirty e-mails a day from various studios, they send me DVDs, they invite me to screenings ... Ten to fifteen screenings with directors and actors are held every day in Los Angeles, New York or London. It's an advertising campaign. When Ida Pawl Pawlikowski was nominated, the Polish government contributed a million dollars in addition to what the distributor paid. So it's not just about the quality of the movie. I had another movie that was believed to deserve a nomination - Out Stealing Horses. It was also a very good movie, but they didn't have the money.

Yes, it's a great movie, I saw it in Prague at the Scandi-Nordic Film Show. I have one question about the film: family relationships seem very close to him, for example, the father you are playing will move without telling your daughter where. This is a general feature of Nordic cultures, is it normal for you?

No, it may not be normal. We can say that we are opposed to the Latin temperament where everything is right on the table. We in Scandinavia do not talk so much about feelings and things like that, which is given by tradition. The tradition seems to be based on the fact that we are a poorly populated country. People live far apart, there aren't many of them, there are long dark winters ... That probably contributes to the little we speak. It's just so cold for long talks! And what I like about Out Stealing Horses is that there are so few dialogues - that's nice. But of course leaving the family without saying anything is not so common. This is probably as uncommon in Italy as in Sweden.