Stellan Skarsgård
Photo by John D. Adams

Stellan Skarsgård: “Yes Lars, I’ll be there”

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Short Profile

Name: Stellan John Skarsgård
DOB: 13 June 1951
Place of Birth: Gothenburg, Sweden
Occupation: Actor

Mr. Skarsgård, where do you live?

I live in Sweden because the taxes are higher, nobody is starving, good health care, free schools and universities. It’s a civilized country and I like that.

You prefer paying higher taxes?

Of course. If you make a lot of money like I do you should pay higher taxes. Everybody should have the possibility to go to school, and university, and have good healthcare.

Not everyone seems to agree on that I guess…

Well, the sad thing is that most Americans who are on Medicare, or some kind of state support, don’t think they are. They say, “Smaller government! No fucking help for the sick!” But it’s like, you are being helped. And they say, “No, not me, am I?” And of course the Republicans will not tell them either. That is what happens when you have bad education in a society. Then people like Rick Santorum get elected for things. (Laughs) It’s an educational problem.

“I wouldn’t be proud if I was an American.”

So you wouldn’t feel comfortable living in America? Do you have an apartment there?

No, I don’t have anything there. I don’t mind going there, and there are a lot of fantastic things about America, and half of Americans are pretty sane. You have a lot of interesting culture, writers, filmmakers, and intellectual debate, which is fabulous. But it is difficult to accept a system where the level of the political debate is such that Republican senators or congressmen that have gone to great universities can stand up and say, “If you get healthcare it is socialism and your grandmas will be shot.” And nobody says anything! I wouldn’t be proud if I was an American.

Are you proud to be Swedish?

I am not a nationalist in any way, and I hate flag waving, and I don’t think much good has come out of nationalism. I am proud of Scandinavia in the sense that we have actually managed to create a very tolerant and human society, which is very livable. They are of course deconstructing it and privatizing everything now, but there has been some achievement up there, in that cold north.

Is it important for you to support Scandinavian films?

I don’t really care about the nationality. For instance, I think I have done 1 film in 15 years in Sweden. So I don’t think nationally. But I think it is important for me to do the smaller low budget films, and the independent films where the director has more power, so it becomes more personal, and the stories are more complex. I want to support those kinds of films.

I suppose that’s why you like working with Lars von Trier.

I am going to do Lars von Trier’s next film, which according to him is a porno flick. He called me and said, “Stellan, I am going to do a porno flick next and I want you to be the main lead in it.” “Yes Lars, I’ll be there, that’s no problem.” “But you will not get to fuck!” “It’s fine Lars, I will come anyway.” “But you will show your dick at the end and it will be very floppy.” “That’s all right Lars, I’ll be there.”

Just like that.

I haven’t seen any script yet, but I have seen an outline and some scenes of it and I think it will be very interesting. (Laughs)

With Lars you don’t need to see the script before you sign on?

Yeah, I would work with him without a script. I mean, I don’t consider it work. It’s just fun; it’s like play. I love it.

It’s like play?

Well, I mean, my ambition is to be real and truthful all the time, and also to be unplanned in a way, to create life. You cannot plan life, especially in front of the camera. So if you prepare really thoughtfully and you do exactly the same thing in front of the camera that you did at home, it could be brilliant but it will always be dead. So you have to let your own life seep through in a way.

“My life reads more like Proust than a tabloid.”

That sounds like a good gig.

I have done ninety films or something and it is still fascinating. I still have fun when I am doing it and there are new people being created all the time. Man is such an amazing animal, and the possibilities are infinite for each person.

Do you feel lucky to do what you do?

Of course. I am not only lucky to be an actor, but I am lucky to be one of the most privileged actors in the world because I can do all kinds of films and genres and everything.

When did you reach that point?

It wasn’t like “a star is born” kind of thing. It’s been gradual. It is really boring for journalists because if you want to write you should write, “And that day my life changed.” My life reads more like Proust than a tabloid. (Laughs)