Situation - May 2016 (Excerpts)

Stellan Skarsgård started suddenly to cry. It happened a few years ago.  He sat a few rows away from the stage in Dansens Hus and saw Mikhail Baryshnikov and Ana Laguna perform a dance, choreographed by Mats Ek. At first he did not understand at all why he cried.

Stellan explains, "Baryshnikov cannot do those amazing jumps he could do years ago, but every little detail, every single muscle in his body expresses everything he feels, all his life experience. And you cannot resist. It is a communication between people that goes a long way beyond language. I had not cried for probably ten years and then suddenly I started crying. It was nothing dramatic that happened. I just became so fucking taken, so moved."

It is during a discussion about the BBC TV series "River" that Stellan shares this when talking about the final scene at the restaurant and the type of life experience and the art form that's required to play such a scene. And Stellan will think of that time he saw Mikhail Baryshnikov dance.

"As an actor, it is not a disadvantage to get older, that life goes on. That scene in 'River' is the best love scene I've recorded. They never say they love each other. It's not about that. it just happens between the lines. They sit and really love each other. And the audience sees that. That's fun to do."

Despite the international success with "River", there will be no continuation.   Stellan appealed to the screenwriter, Abi Morgan.

"I told her: 'you are not allowed to write anything more now, no more episodes.' Because this is one finished love story. If one would do one more season, you would only get one 'quirky cop' on new adventures, but the love story is over."

Before shooting the movie "Our Kind of Traitor", Stellan met its author John Le Carré.

"He is over 80 years old. He bounces down the stairs when he arrives and opens the door, then takes out one bottle of wine right away and so we sit and talk. And he's on top of everything happening in the world in terms of politics and economics, everything. I meet a lot of people who are not even half as old as him, who have much more lost touch with what is happening around them. That curiosity and that interest is something you want to try to preserve. Do not just preserve it because it is wise to know a little about what is happening in the world, but to  stay alive, not to be stern sailed.

Stellan Skarsgård sees it as pure democratic duty to stay informed as citizens.

"If you are to exercise your democratic right, it is your job to make sure that you are not too stupid, because then the decisions you make will be stupid, and then those who rule the country will be stupid.

He remembers what the image of Sweden was like when he started out in the world, and how it has changed today.

"Then Sweden was known for its straight-backed foreign policy and the legacy of Palme, to take a stand for the weaker in conflicts. There was, of course, a double standard then as well with the fact that we simultaneously sold weapons to some countries, but there was still an aspiration for a moral attitude that was not only based on economic benefits but also that you stood for something. Nowadays you notice more that we are respected for making Nordic Noir TV series, that we have music exports, designer clothes. People see Sweden as an artistic and technical highly developed country."

When Stellan was 17, he attended high school in Helsingborg. At that time he lived in a room with views of the train ferry terminal. And he longed to go away. From school. from Helsingborg.

"I saw and watched those trains that constantly left Helsingborg, partly the Stockholm trains but also the Berlin and Paris trains. I kept track of train times for all the trains leaving Helsingborg."

His decision to drop out of school was made because he felt those topics he was not interested in were a waste of time.

"My father always treated his children as adults with personal responsibility. He suggested that with finishing school, I would have something to fall back on but he accepted it was my life, my decision. The same with my children. Gustaf also interrupted his high school studies. It was after all, his decision."

After leaving high school, Stellan got a job at Malmö Stadsteater and moved there. Then he was at Uppsala City Theater and then he moved to Stockholm and commuted.

"I moved here myself. I was probably 18-19 years old, it was 1969.  I rented an apartment with some friends... I was at Uppsala City Theater first.  Then I started at
Stockholm City Theater... The first time I was in Stockholm, we lived in Marielund outside Uppsala. Then you had to take a steam train to Uppsala, narrow-gauge railway, and then from Uppsala to Stockholm. There were some steam locomotives,
but above all, there were trains that were pulled by large, red gear locomotives - I was, as you hear, interested in trains."

"And when we would go to Öland where we had a summer place, you would leave Stockholm with the night train to Kalmar. The first the time I went myself I was about six years old. As a child, you had to ride in the women's compartment at that time, it was considered more decent."

On foresight:

"I have very short foresight, it seems...  I feel damn sorry for opera singers who know what they'll do in ten years. They have such enormously long foresight. I think it's awful to know what I'll do it in a year. I do not know what I feel like doing after finishing a movie. Maybe I want to do something completely different. This suits me not to have any foresight."

On directors:

"It must be the director's film if it's going to be a good film. If it is to be good, it must be personal and it is the director who's in charge and the actors should not take over. They must contribute with as many ideas as they can, add them on the floor in front of the director so he can pick what he wants. But it must be the director's film...  You have to realize as a film actor that you have no control. You can try and limit the director's opportunities, but if it's a good director, you want to after all, increase their chances instead. Is if it's a bad director, you may want to limit his opportunities, but it's boring.  When we made 'Good Will Hunting', for example, we made about ten shots on each stage. We tried different things. Gus van Sant could completely regulate all the roles and how far they would be drawn to the tragic, comic or sentimental direction. He had full freedom."

On smoking:

His father died ten years ago.

"He was ten years older than my mother. Two packages of Pall Mall a day. In later years he also sat in a wheelchair after a stroke... Long after I quit smoking, I suggested that my characters would smoke, so I would have to smoke a little. But it's not that fun when smoking on film because if you are going to start a scene of lighting a cigarette and you do 20 shots, then it starts to taste pretty bad and now I'm not that interested."

On the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles:

"When I started living there (over 25 years ago), it was one of the cheapest places you could stay at in Los Angeles. Horrible decline then when everyone went there to party and do drugs and stuff.  Belushi died there. Everything has happened there. They have a motto that goes 'Whatever happens at the Chateau, stays at the Chateau.' You are protected with no lobby that people can just walk into. Then André Balazs took over  but kept the rooms, that is the same style of furniture, the bathrooms are as they were with slightly cracked tiles. But it has a cool atmosphere. And finally you know people there. A bartender and a waiter from Chateau Marmont greeted me in Öland."