Wall Street Journal - December 29, 2010

Stellan SkarsgŚrd stars in the coming superhero movie ďThorĒ and is traveling to Los Angeles next week to shoot the interiors for the English-language adaptation of ďThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.Ē His newest Swedish-language film is ďA Somewhat Gentle Man,Ē where he plays Ulrik, a murderer recently released from prison. The film will open at the IFC Center in New York on January 14.

You were born in Sweden, how is it for you acting in multiple languages?

I only juggle two languages except I made one film in German. Itís easy to do in Swedish because itís my native tongue, and Iíve been working in English for many years. But I do have to work more because youíre not born with language, but itís also fun work. Itís exciting and challenging to try and create life in different language. If you notice how I act in English, I kind of take it down a bit.

This is your third collaboration with Hans Petter Moland, the director of ďA Somewhat Gentle Man.Ē Do you seek out directors to collaborate with?

Itís not that I look for directors, but some of the directors stick and you realize that you compliment each other and Hans Petter is one of them. I really enjoy working with him; we are constantly looking for projects to do. Not including this movie, itís been 10 years since we last worked together, but it felt like two years ago. He sent me the script [to this film] and asked me if I was interested. I heard that people had said it was a tragedy but I laughed when I read it. I thought it was a comedy and I thought I should do it immediately. And we did.

You play Ulrik in this foreign film, a man who was just released from prison. Do you consider it a
role thatís a little bit sad?

Itís a foreign film even in foreign countries. I donít think Iíve seen a comedy like it before; itís extremely dark in some ways but still funny. Of course you can always say that Scandinavians are experts at making fun of darkness because they live in such darkness most of the year. I was interested in doing a comedy, and I was interested in doing a comedy that wasnít a normal comedy, that had some different qualities and this one had it. With a great cast we have, the roles that are in the script are very sketchy and sometimes almost over the top. They all become human beings in a way, in their own special universe.

If you had to describe Ulrik, what are his sensibilities?

I think he is a gentle man and he doesnít want to hurt anybody. He happens to have a job that means he kills people, but not everybody likes their jobs. And I mean at least two of the women he sleeps with in the film he obviously does it just to be nice to them. It would be nice to say no to them but he does it because heís a good man. I think heís a good man but his entire life has been in bad company.

How do you hope audiences will react?

I hope the respond by laughing and that they feel that it is refreshing, that itís not funny always in the way that other films are funny.

You have seven children and nearly half are actors. Do you think itís in your blood?

I donít know whatís in my blood and whatís in the environment. Itís very hard to say, I think a lot of it has to do with how you grow up and how open your family is and how flexible you are in terms of tolerance. But there might be some gene. I didnít encourage them to become actors; I have three that work professionally and very successful as actors. I didnít encourage them but I didnít discourage them either. I didnít interfere with their lives very much after they turned 16.

Your coming roles feature you in ďThorĒ and ďThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.Ē How are those projects?

I did ďThorĒ in the spring. And then I did a film called ďMelancholia.Ē And now Iím in the midst of shooting ďThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.Ē We finished shooting in Sweden and weíre going to LA within a week to do interiors. I have a couple of smaller films that are not financed yet and a couple of bigger films that are financed but that I havenít chosen from yet.

How do you choose a character like Ulrik and then go to a massively financed film like ďThor?Ē

I chose ďThorĒ because of Kenneth Branagh. The script was nice and we got to rehearse and talk to the writers and do some collaborating in the process to make it fit us. So I had a very happy time on it. What I always try to do is immediately do something I just havenít done so I get variation in my life. Iíve made about 90 films and if I did the same thing over and over again I would be bored by now. I try to pick different films. I go and do those big ones and having done that, I can usually afford to go and do some really small obscure films and experiment a little.

Any role you havenít played that you have in your head?

Iíve never had any dream roles. Iíve already done one ďHamletĒ but it wasnít my dream role.  It has to be a good director, good actors and when and where and how they want to do it. Itís the project in itself that becomes attractive and I donít have any dreams. Iím really good at enjoying the present.