Sveriges Television - Q&A from Swedish fans

April 29, 2004

Magnus Johansson: You play the Saxon Cedric in "King Arthur".. What kind of character is that?

Stellan: Well, what can I say, it's a usual Hollywood bad guy, which means he's bad, bad, bad, and so then there are people who are much nicer, who kill him in the end.

Jessica, Västerås: What's the difference between this film about the Arthur legend and earlier ones?

Stellan: According to allegations, Arthur really lived some time, but that was in the 6th century. In this version Arthur is been moved back in time compared to knight stories one usually gets to see. It takes place when the Romans leave England, and Arthur is a Roman slave who stays there.

John Cannerstad: In the new "Exorcist" film you play a younger version of Max von Sydow's old character. What attracted you about this part?

Stellan: It was written very well, and it was Paul Schrader, who is a very interesting director and a fantastic script writer who I wanted to work with. But you've heard about what happened, eh? (laugh)

Thomas Grossman: Yes, exactly, that's the next question... How was it like to play in the same film twice with two different directors?

Stellan: It was totally bizarre. When I got contacted, I thought it was a little strange that this very commercial studio Morgan Creek, which works with Warner Bros, was about to spend 38 million dollars on doing a film with Stellan Skarsgård and Paul Schrader - and they really got a 38-million arthouse film…and panicked. So when I was shooting the "King Arthur" film, they called and said that they have to shoot some more horror things to make it more commercial. And that was the most bizarre proposal they had. However, Renny Harlin got involved, a director who I have worked with earlier and who I like very much, even if his films haven't been very brilliant. He tore up everything. There was a new script and tons of new actors and, in the end, we did a completely new film. Even my character changed - although there were the same clothes, and I wondered if they had been washed since I wore them before. So now there are two versions - an arthouse film and a horror film. And the horror film will be released in August, I think.

Thomas: What happened to the other one?

Stellan: The other one will be released on DVD for sure. If there's any possibility to earn 5 bucks on it, they will release it.

Anna Mia, Svenljunga: Right now you're doing a film trilogy about football with Michael Winterbottom. What's your part?

Stellan: In the first film I play a manager of Newcastle United. They send for a young guy from America. A young football talent with Mexican roots which is played by Diego Luna, who is a lovely actor. The film is about how he gets included in the team. I'm not allowed to say anything about the other films. I only signed a contract for the first one. But that's cool.

Anna: Are you interested in football?

Stellan: One might say that my sports interest extends to some single game of chess from time to time. But football is probably the only sport which I like to watch.

Anna: Do you support any team?

Stellan: No, but now I'm forced to watch much football. I even started to read the sports part in newspapers - (laugh) - which is extremely strange for me.

Mikael: How did you begin to work in Hollywood?

Stellan: It was quite a long process. I was very much unwilling in the beginning. It began when I won "best actor" in Berlin for "Den enfaldige mördaren", which I still think is very good, and it led to being offered a part in a long TV-film "Noon Wine" for the non-commercial channel PBS. Then I got an agent - you have to have one over there. And this agent started to pester that I should come over and meet people. So she wanted me to send pictures of myself and I didn't want that either, partly because I was a little snobbish and put myself on airs, but it was also that I found they could just watch my films - I look different in every film. She pestered me for five years. And nevertheless she found some who worked for me - and then I sent pictures and went over there. I did these bizarre rounds of handshaking with all casting directors and directors. Then it just went on.

Mikael: What was the first film you did in the USA?

Stellan: Well, it was this "Noon Wine" with Fred Ward etc.

Karin Peirano: Is it really fun to work in Hollywood or is it just something you see as a good pension?

Stellan: It can be real fun. Because I don't live there and I'm not dependent on that system, I can do what I like. A minor film with Winterbottom which I'm doing now or something with Von Trier, which is more interesting from the artistic point of view with other kinds of challenges. So one can go over and be eaten up by a shark - (laugh) - which I think is very cool. It's more childish but not less fun. Take this "King Arthur,", for example. I really didn't want to take part in the beginning because the dialogue was so bad. Then the director called and said that we'd fix it, don't worry about that. Unwillingly I agreed - and it became unbelievably great. We fence and fence and fence. That's something we boys think is cool.

Maria, Luleå: How do you choose your roles/parts? What kind of strategy do you have?

Stellan: I haven't got any strategy at all. It's rather about what I think could be fun right then. That's why it's very difficult for me to say if I want to play a part in two years. Because I don't know who I am or what I think is fun then. It very much depends on the mood. If I have buckled down in tons of art films for a while, it's really nice to do a lighter story and the other way round, of course. Now that I've been together with Hollywood for one and a half years, it's extremely nice to do this Winterbottom film. Then, I hope to do a film with Stakka Bo, because he has got a very good script. It's a black story which isn't really going to be a blockbuster. It's an American film, where hopefully Holly Hunter and William Hurt will take part in - and they are great people to work with.

Maria: Can you tell more about the project?

Stellan: I'm not directly muzzled. It is called "Downloading Nancy" and one can say that Holly Hunter lives in a marriage with William Hurt, which is awfully unhappy. She surfs the internet on sadomasochistic sites and searches for someone who just wants to kill her. So she finds me there and a relation is being developed between us... and of course I don't want to kill her. Who would ever like to kill Holly Hunter? (laugh). It's a very different story.

Erik Johansson: Why haven't you taken part in any Swedish films during the last few years?

Stellan: I did a short film with Niklas Rådström just one year ago, which was called "Eiffeltornet". Then, two years ago I shot a Swedish film called "Dogville" although in English. I don't care about where the shooting takes place or in which language it is done. I balance the different projects against each other. For example, Björn Runge wanted to have me in his film, but it was impossible for different reasons, but it was a project which was valuable enough so to speak. But if it's a Swedish action film and I have to play the bad guy and be killed in the end, so… I reject most of those American projects as well, even if they pay better.

Håkan Lembrér: What do you think about Swedish film today?

Stellan: I don't observe it as much as I would want to. But you can say that something has clearly happened there during the last years. Several interesting directors with emigration background for example, who, at the same time, in a very Swedish way, but with different facets, examine reality. And we have got a huge number of interesting young directors, too. We got rid of Bergman's wet films. This pressed hard on Swedish film. It has also been something to fight against like, for example, Bosse Widerberg did with unbelievable success. We are about to be freed from this for better or for worse. At the same time one wished that we would be able to afford to subsidize pure art films to a much greater extent than we do today. To my point of view, we managed to enliven Swedish film again, but in a quite special sector, intelligent, serious, but at the same time quite entertaining films. Did that sound good? (laugh)

Håkan Lembrér: Which of your Swedish films do you think are the best?

Stellan: I think that several of my Swedish films belong to my absolutely best films. "Den enfaldige mördaren" is one of course, and "Godafton Herr Wallenberg". And Widerberg's "Ormens väg på Hälleberget", even if its purely dramatical structure is totally hopeless. Then I've done some Norwegian ones as well, which I like enormously. One could say that my favourite films are Scandinavian indeed: Trier with "Breaking the waves", and Hans Petter Moland with "Zero Kelvin" and "Aberdeen" and "Insomnia". I probably did my best jobs in Scandinavia, as a matter of fact.

Alexander, 16 years, Borås: How did you get the part in "Den enfaldige mördaren"?

Stellan: - Well, Hasse called and said that he wanted to see me. We met in a café right across the backstage entrance of Dramaten [most famous theatre in Sweden]. He wanted me to read the script right there while he was sitting and watching me - and that was quite a strange situation of course. (laugh) But I read it and thought it was totally fantastic. It surely is a very rewarding role. You can circle around as much as possible. I could do whatever. And Hasse let me do whatever indeed. We agreed upon that there's nothing like doing it over/exaggeration. And then we went ahead. By the way, there's no doing over/exaggeration - there's only bad acting.

Andreas Olofsson, Malmö: Will you do theatre in Sweden again?

Stellan: I hope so sooner or later. Right now I think it's still so much fun to do films because I'm able to do so many different things, and I think I'm learning so much all the time. I'm still nervous and jittery, which makes it interesting.

Erik Johansson: Which of your film characters are you most proud of?

Stellan: I don't see it as a performance but rather as if there are people I've met. Of course I think that the idiot Sven (Enfaldige mördaren) is a man who lives on in my life in a special way. And Ranbaek in "Zero Kelvin" is a very special character. It's more difficult to play characters like the one I do in "Insomnia", where the lid is on all the time with high pressure under it. It's much more difficult and not as rewarding. Difficult simply in another way.

Zebbe, Oslo: What do you think about the American version of "Insomnia"?

Stellan: I haven't seen it. But I've heard that it is good and not too much American. Of course - they don't shoot a living dog in it like I did, that's not possible in America of course. But otherwise it seems to be quite decent for being a Hollywood production.

Madeleine P: What shot/sequence has been the most difficult to get going?

Stellan: I don't know, there are shots, which I still haven't got going. In every film there are sequences which I think I never got going. I always think it's difficult. Especially before you get started. Then you can begin to find your feet and get some flowing, and this flowing can differ in length. Right as it is, something might tie up and you are unable to manage it. I haven't done any part which I'm totally satisfied with.

Håkan Lembrér: If you were allowed to choose a director to work with, dead or alive, whom would you choose?

Stellan: That's like the question for one's favourite colour. It depends on the context and on the material. There are so many. I have tried many of these old American '70s directors. Then I hope that there are tons of bloody brilliant directors, I haven't even yet heard the name of Johan Renck. (Stakka Bo) is a new name.

Rikard Thorneus: Who's your favourite fellow actor?

Stellan: You just make tons of people getting sad when answering such a question. But Holly Hunter whom I will work with now, I have worked with two times before and she's one of the favorites. And Karin Cartlidge who died recently was another one. Pernilla Östergren isn't her name any longer, Pernilla...August is still her name, eh? There are male fellow actors as well. It has got something to do with presence and great courage, which means that you just have to be in the same room as the regarding persons. When they go ahead and play, you don't have to think about what to do, you just have to follow them.

Nosy yellow: Who are the nicest Hollywood stars?

Stellan: I think those who I've met are quite nice altogether. Just a few have got diva manners and behave stupid. The most are (?) people like anyone else.

Kung Fu-legend: If you look back on your career, are you satisfied with what you did? Or is there something you regret?

Stellan: I've done tons of stupid choices of course - otherwise nothing would ever get done. But it doesn't mean I regret them. I've done terrible films. You are the sum of your mistakes as well as your good choices. If I say I would want to live my life again completely, it means that my life isn't worth anything.

Magnus Hjelmare: What's the biggest challenge for an actor who has been working for a while like you have?

Stellan: That's a damned good question indeed. You can say that it doesn't get easier by the years. You don't get less nervous as long as you take risks. A big challenge if you've done this for a while is daring to continue taking risks and not just lean against what you know you can play safe and just pick safe projects. It's important to still dare standing there with your pants down and make a fool of yourself. You have to do that because otherwise it dies.

Jan-Åke Olofsson: Would you like to be a director yourself?

Stellan: Noooo, I have no need to write director on the visiting card. I had a project a few years ago which I wrote together with the author Johan Gunter. It was material I would have loved to do, but it took us two years until we grasped that no one wanted to finance it. Two years' work. From that on I haven't tried again. I simply don't think I'm that patient. Within two years you can do eight films. I can imagine directing if I had a story which I feel I have to tell. But just for calling myself a director? No. Besides, you can direct quite a lot being an actor as well in fact.

Jonas Striberger: Will you ever do a film together with Alexander and Gustaf?

Stellan: I have done films with both of them. Gustaf has been in "Coq Rouge", I think. And Alexander has been in "Åke och hans värld". But that's some years ago. It would be fun to work together. We have joked about that and it happens that people come with ideas. But often these ideas don't refer to an existing script the three of us would fit in, but it's a rather commercial thought, and that's no sufficient reason for us.

Mattias Elsnert: (who disagrees with his girlfriend according this question)  Is it you who's talking in the Ramlösa commercial? [Ramlösa is Swedish mineral water from Helsingborg in southern Sweden]

Stellan: Yes, that's it. I've lived in Helsingborg and I like Ramlösa. I thought it could be nice. But I wrote in the contract that Ramlösa was not allowed to say that it was me who speaks in the commercial film. They were not allowed to use my name as a representative for Ramlösa. I thought that was important.

Jonatan Fernström: What is it like to act in a commercial film compared with a movie?

Stellan: I haven't done many commercials at all. Many years ago I did a commercial for DN [Swedish newspaper "Dagens Nyheter" = News of the day] and one for Flora [margarine]. I used to avoid commercials, you are so enormously exposed. But I remember when I did this Flora commercial. You know, before you start doing a shot, I think about - what's this scene all about, what is it supposed to tell. What's the subject, the conflict? And then I stand on the top of a mountain in Sarek [in the wildernes of Lapland in northern Sweden] and I'm supposed to do this sequence in this Flora film - the camera is on - I start thinking - what's this all about? - what's this all about? ....... margarine! I panic and won't get out a word. We had to do several takes. We had flown there by helicopter, and an unbelievably huge amount of money on this film  has been spent and I don't get out a sound.

Jonatan: Many actors just want to do commercials if it is shown abroad.

Stellan: You do commercials to earn money. It would be ideal to do commercial films which nobody saw. But that's a difficult equation.

Annika: You travel a lot in your job. How do you wile away the time?

Stellan: I read newspapers, books and scripts. It's perfect to read while flying.

The Good Will: Certain people who travel a lot are well known for re-furnishing their hotel rooms. Are you such a person?

Stellan: No, I'm not one of them. Some used to take along their own pillow and buy a lot of candles and decorate and fix. When I'm doing a film, if the role isn't tiny, I work about 15-16 hours a day. The hotel room is just used for sleeping. But on the other hand I rent a house if I'm supposed to stay a long time. Then I take with me family and friends and friends' friends. Then everybody has fun there, and I come home dead tired, wave to them and go to bed.

Bengt: What do you do when you are at home in Sweden and off?

Stellan: I read, cook, see friends. Quite a slack life. That's nice.

Bengt: What is your speciality in the kitchen?

Stellan: I cook every conceivable thing. I like the French cuisine because you can be busy with these fonds which stand and simmer for days sometimes. But I like faster Italian and Thai things as well. Maybe I should have a recipe for the viewers up on my sleeve - but I haven't.

[Kindly translated by Judith Pfaff]