Telluride swoons for Skarsgard

September 5, 2000

U.S. audiences viewed Aberdeen for the first time at Telluride's 27th Film Festival during the Labor Day weekend. So did the film's star, Stellan Skarsgård.

Skarsgårds filming schedule has been so hectic that the Swedish actor hadn't caught the final cut of his latest film.

"I liked it very much,"   Skarsgård told The Hollywood Reporter. "Hans Petter Moland is a great director."

Crowds at this high-altitude festival (Telluride is 8,750 feet above sea level) swooned over  Skarsgård's performance as an estranged, alcoholic father who takes a wild road trip with his embittered, cocaine-frenzied daughter. Their relationship is explored in all but the trite or melodramatic ways.

The festival honored Skarsgård with a silver medallion for his performance in Aberdeen and for his contributions to film. He has appeared in more than 70 films during his 32-year career and is probably best-known for his portrayal of Jan in Breaking the Waves, which won the 1996 Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes International Film Festival, and of the mentally deficient farm boy in Simple-Minded Murderer, for which he won Best Actor at the 1982 Berlin Film Festival.

But his array of characters is much wider than the farm boy and the oil rig worker.

A crossover actor, Skarsgård has avoided typecasting in Sweden and the United States. He has played roles as diverse as the Swedish equivalent of super-agent James Bond to a math professor in Good Will Hunting to the diplomat/hero who saves hundreds of Jews from the Holocaust in the true story Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg. He also appeared in 1997's Amistad and played opposite Robert De Niro in Ronin and Demi Moore in Passion of Mind.

The 49-year-old actor said he owes his versatility to his experience in theater. Skarsgård performed with the Royal Dramatic Theater Company in Stockholm, Sweden, under esteemed directors such as Ingmar Bergman.

"Theater forces you to go outside of your personality," Skarsgård said. "I probably wouldn't have been able to do it without that."

During a seminar at a Telluride park that serves as an outdoor venue during the festival, Skarsgård and an all-star panel of his contemporaries spoke about how theater acting benefits film performances. The panel also included Al Pacino, Angela Bassett, Willem Dafoe, Janet McTeer and Lena Endre.

Pacino, on hand to present the world premiere of his Chinese Coffee, a Fox Searchlight picture he starred in and directed, said a live performance has an element of "adrenaline."

"Theater is like walking on a tight wire," Pacino said. "Movies — it's the same thing, only the wire's on the floor."

Skarsgård said repeated film takes are similar to theater rehearsals, affording him the opportunity to delve into a character.

The Telluride fest also paid tribute to Taiwanese director Ang Lee  and South Korean filmmaker Kwon-taek Im.

[The Hollywood Reporter]