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Hey boys and girls, if all Scandinavians are as charming and cool as international star Stellan Skarsgård, we might have to seriously contemplate relocating to Sweden.  We chatted with Skarsgård for his latest film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; a conversation that included his David Fincher fandom, advice (and lack, thereof) to his handsome actor sons, and making a porno film full of floppy discs with Lars von Trier.

Dig it!

(But be warned of the huge plot spoilers throughout)


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Stellan Skarsgård


The Lady Miz Diva:  How is it that you weren’t cast in the original Swedish production of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

Stellan Skarsgård:  I was sent the script and I don’t remember if I didn’t like the script, or I didn’t have time, or what it was, but it just didn’t happen.  But the reason I’m in this is not because of my love of the books or anything like that.  I haven’t even read the books.  It’s because I wanted to work with {David} Fincher.


LMD:  As the resident Swede on the set, did you feel that David Fincher caught the starkness or mood that we associate with Swedish films?

SS:  I didn’t feel it on the set, but I definitely felt it when I saw the film.  I feel Sweden very present in the film, not because it gives a fair picture of what life in Sweden is like. {Laughs} But still, there’s something absolutely Swedish about it into details and everything.   


LMD:  You haven’t read the book, but had you seen the original film?

SS:  I did see the Swedish/Danish first version of the first one of them, but that’s all I had seen.  But, of course I knew the material because everybody was reading the book and everybody was seeing the films and as I said, I read the script.  But to me, the story is not that exceptional as a crime story or a mystery story, it’s pretty conventional in that, except that it adds different ingredients.  The thing that is really the key to the success, I think are the lead characters, the heroes.  The most violent person is this little girl that is hardly a woman and there’s nothing sort of attractive about her on the surface, but you start rooting for her and you end up loving her.  And you have the male hero, who doesn’t hit anybody throughout the film. {Laughs} It was a very, intellectual normal man.  And then the most remarkable thing is that they are also the love couple, which is very unusual.  I think Fincher really understood that and I think the way that they play it, of course, first, but the way that he’s taken care of that relationship is really beautifully done in this film, and that’s the core of the film.


LMD:  Can you talk about working with David Fincher to create Martin Vanger?

SS:  Mainly what we worked on was how to calibrate the five-minute monologue towards the end of the film, so you don’t end up with the normal television drama where suddenly somebody spills his background, which is horrible.  It had to be a reason for him to start talking, and it also had to be that what he wants to say is not necessarily what he reveals.  So he reveals things about himself that he doesn’t want to, then it becomes interesting.  But also that when he’s suddenly revealed as a monster, you gotta make sure that he’s seen as a human and hopefully even that some of the audience recognise themselves in him, cos then it gets scary.


LMD:  That leads to a question I had about your acting technique, particularly with his role.  Do you need to find something relatable or likable in the characters you play?

SS:  Yes, but not likable, necessarily, but recognisable.  I want them to be complex in the sense that everything that is on the surface is not all there is.  There has always to be contradictions within them.  There has to be a certain amount of irrationality to make them humans, but I’d like the audience to understand them as human beings.  It’s like that wonderful film, Der Untergang {Downfall}, with Bruno Ganz when he played Hitler in the bunker, you know?  Some people got upset that he was portrayed as a human being.  I think it’s a moral obligation to portray him as a human being, because if we don’t look at those people who massacre people as humans, then we’re not aware of what we have inside ourselves and then we can’t protect ourselves against it.


LMD:  So what did you find relatable or humanising about Martin?  Cos he’s…

SS:  He’s pretty horrible!


LMD:  He’s nuts!

SS:  But he’s also a man who was sexually abused by his father.  He’s a man who actually participated in his father’s killings.  He and his sister were sexually raped by his father.  It’s said in small meanings.  He says to himself, ‘I know this is not acceptable behaviour, but let me explain it to you.’  And he tries to explain why he has to do it, but he can’t.  He is human, but he is a monster, it’s true.


LMD:  You’re famous for your collaborations with Lars Von Trier, you’ve worked with Ingmar Bergman and now David Fincher is added to the list of amazing directors you’ve worked with.  Have you never been inspired to direct a film yourself?

SS:  Yes, but I don’t know if I’m too lazy or too impatient.  It’s a lot of work and it spans over years.  You have to be dedicated to the same project for years and then you have to deal with a lot of financers and producers, and I think I’d lose interest.  I wrote a script together with a friend that I wanted to direct many years ago and I got most of the financing together and a producer took over, and then for two years nothing happened and by then I was bored.  My interests had moved on to something else and I still love being an actor.  And I love the social side of the work, which means that if I’m a director I will only work with one director – me -- and that’s too boring for me.


LMD:  You’re one of the few actors that have the credibility to go from Hollywood blockbusters to independent films, often with first time directors.  What are some of the different challenges and benefits to each of those worlds?

SS:  It’s different challenges, but you’re right, I think I’m one of the most privileged actors in the world because I get the chance to work freely in both worlds.  But it also depends on what I just did; if I’ve been trudging under very hard circumstances on a budget of two millions dollars small film, very interesting stuff, very hard work, it’s very nice to come and do something a little fluffier in Hollywood -- and a little better paid. And also my credits from Hollywood helps finance these smaller films, because the bankers, when a first-time director wants to make a two million dollar film and nobody wants to give him money, he says, “I got Stellan Skarsgård,” and they go to the books to see, ‘Well, what has his films made the last two years? Oh! Four billion!’  And then they think they’ll get four billion; so the bankers are not only a problem, they’re also easy to fool.


LMD:  You’ve been acting since you were a teenager, you have a crop of Skarsgård children who are also actors and now you’re working with a young rising star in Rooney Mara.  What advice do you give to your sons or to young actors like Rooney starting out in this business?

SS:  First of all, I’m against advising my children.  I haven’t advised them at all.  I haven't encouraged them in any specific direction.  It’s their own choices all the time.  If they want to know something, they come and ask me.  When you have children, you can sort of put a lot of advice on the table and they can pick from it, if they want to, but you should never try to shove something down their throat.  And their lives, especially since they’re getting into the same business as me, they have to have the feeling that ‘I did this on my own. It was not thanks to my father.’  I’ve never helped them getting any jobs; ever recommended them to a director -- nothing.  They’ve had to do it all by themselves, because now they know that their success is thanks to themselves and that’s much better.  It’s very hard to give advice other than if it’s something specific they ask about.

But working with Rooney was fantastic!  I had only seen her in The Social Network and what she’s doing here … I mean, people talk about the physical transformation. That’s peanuts.  That’s makeup and a few piercings.  ‘Ay, it hurts,’ yeah, but that’s it.  But the greatness is the choices she’s made.  Very, very brave and very, very intelligent and the way she plays this girl without flirting with the audience, without trying to be likable, without being vain - at all.  Instead, sort of being spiky and trying to be resistant to the love to the audience, but the audience goes there and roots for her and loves her.  And that is remarkable; she’s done something unique there.  Sometimes it’s like watching an animal, I think.


LMD:  I know you are going to appear in The Avengers next year, but what else is coming up for you?

SS:  I might do a small, independent film with an old friend of mine in Norway, Hans Petter Moland, maybe with Bruno Ganz in it, but there’s nothing signed yet, so it’s very hard to talk about.  And then Lars von Trier called me a couple of months ago and he said, *does von Trier imitation* “Stellan, my next film will be a porno film and I want you to play the male lead in it.” “Yes, Lars, I’ll do that.” “But you will not get to fuck, okay? But you will show your dick in the end, but it will be very floppy.”  “Thank you, Lars, have a good day.”- Click.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

December 17th, 2011 


Click here for our movie review of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo



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