“True Blood” star Alexander Skarsgård has gained American heartthrob status as the show’s thousand-year-old Viking vampire Alex, but even if the role is clearly make-believe, the Nordic charm is all his. Son of famed actor Stellan Skarsgård, the Stockholm-born thespian has a long and storied career in his homeland, from becoming a child actor to being named the sexiest man in Sweden circa 1999. Not to be confused with his upcoming part in Lars von Trier’s highly anticipated sci-fi flick “Melancholia,” Skarsgård the younger’s latest project is director Tarik Saleh’s highly stylized, animated sci-fi flick “Metropia.”
Set in a dystopian world of the not-far-off future where the world’s resources are running out and the metro system connects all of Europe, “Metropia” concerns a newly paranoid Swedish everyman Roger (voiced by Vincent Gallo) as he begins to hear a voice in his head that isn’t his own. In fact, it’s Stefan’s (enter Skarsgård), a company man who begins to have second thoughts about his government gig monitoring citizens and their inner thoughts. While on the set of “True Blood,” now shooting its third season, Skarsgård called me to talk Glögg parties, filthy cartoons, and his real-life stint as an anti-terrorist marine.
This may be a general worldview question, but if things continue as they are, could you see the world becoming as dystopian as it is in “Metropia”?
[laughs] Hopefully not. But we’re headed in a direction where big corporations take over more and more. People in Western Europe and especially in the States have some distrust, a feeling that the government doesn’t really represent the people, that they’re almost like an enemy now. In a weird way, people almost trust Coca-Cola more than their own government. This new law that the Supreme Court passed where there’s no cap on how much big corporations can pump into election campaigns, it definitely means that corporations will have so much more impact.
It was already slanted through the leverage that they had versus the average guy. It’s harder for individuals to make their voices heard now. So I’m not going to take us down the road to “Metropia,” but what I was fascinated and intrigued by when I read the script was that it wasn’t science fiction! [laughs] I could draw parallels to our society today — a city like London, where they have something like 50,000 CCTV cameras, so you’re always being watched. With blogs and Twitter and Facebook, people always keep track of each other in a quite disturbing way.
Your character is quite the company man, even though he does show some heart. Could you relate to his role in life, or do you have more anti-authoritarian inclinations?
I’m slightly more anti-authoritarian than Stefan, but I definitely understand him. I played the guy, so I have to understand him, make him believable, and back him up. He is a little guy caught in this spider web, you know? He’s just trying to do his job, like a lot of people working for huge corporations who are trying to survive and feed their families. In Stefan’s case, he doesn’t really reflect on the moral issue of what it is he’s doing or where society has gone.
All animated films are different and this has such an idiosyncratic style. What was the voice work process like, from coming up with your vocal characterization to the technical process?
I’ve done animated movies before, but the thing that was amazing about this was we recorded it two years before Tarik started to animate, and then he spent two years finishing the movie. I’ve never had that luxury before. The stuff that I’ve done was already animated. You come in, watch it on a big screen and try to lip sync. You’re more confined in terms of hitting certain beats or timing. This was just me and Tarik in the room, so we could play around. If something wasn’t working, I could ad-lib, adding or dropping a line if I wasn’t happy with it. It was a great experience.
You’ve been friendly with Tarik for a while. How were you introduced?
I met Tarik in Los Angeles five years ago through some mutual Swedish friends. We celebrated Christmas together here in L.A, and I got kind of an instant man crush on him. He’s such a brilliant and interesting man. He was out here for two weeks, I believe, and we just had amazing conversations and talked about everything and nothing. We spent hours and hours discussing his idea for “Metropia.”
Then I went to Africa to shoot “Generation Kill,” this miniseries I did, and it was when I was out in Africa when he called: “We’re recording now, is there any chance we can get you in the studio?” I was down there for seven months, but I had a weekend off, so I flew to Stockholm, went into the studio, spent a day and a half with Tarik, then flew all the way back down to Namibia.
I’m fascinated by this Christmas you mentioned, which I’m imagining to be like the opening scenes of “Fanny and Alexander.” Is there a big Swedish community in L.A.?
There are tons of Swedes out here. I don’t necessarily hang out with all of them. [laughs] I have a couple Swedish friends here, absolutely. When we met, it was this Christmas dinner for all the orphans out here. I have a big family back in Sweden, and that was the first year of my life that I hadn’t celebrated with them. There were 10 of us that were pretty much in the same boat, stuck out here and missing our families.
I also throw a midsummer party every year, and I had a Glögg party. I don’t know if you know, but mulled wine is called Glögg in Swedish, it’s a special recipe. We drink that right before Christmas every year, and you have people come over. I try to hang onto those traditions, but mix it up. So I invited a couple Swedish friends from out here, and obviously, all my international and American friends, too.
Besides this film, are you an animation fan?
I am, yeah. I grew up watching “The Simpsons” and, even to this day, think it’s an amazing series. Do you remember “Fritz the Cat,” which takes place in New York and all the cops are pigs? It’s really nasty and filthy. I remember watching that one as a young teenager. I don’t think my parents allowed me to, but I did. That was one of my favorite movies as a kid.
Speaking of your folks, it’s interesting that you followed in your father’s career footsteps, even though he started much later in life. How much did he influence your way into acting?
I was a child actor in Sweden, and I did my first movie in 1983 when I was seven. I worked for six years, then I quit. It wasn’t like I grew up in the industry and I said this is what I want to do. Quite the opposite, I was dead-set on not becoming an actor, and well, became famous in Sweden in ’89 when I did this movie called “The Dog That Smiled.” It was tough. I was 13, growing from a boy to a man and trying to figure out what was going on with my body and mind. I couldn’t deal with people recognizing me, or reading about myself in magazines, or watching people talk about me on television and who I was because I had no idea myself. It made me very insecure. So I quit and for the rest of my teenage years, got as far away from acting as possible.
Not that much later, you became a marine in an anti-terrorist unit. How did that come to be?
I was basically raised in downtown Stockholm. My childhood was very urban, concrete jungle. We never went out skiing and hiking in the mountains, or anything like that. I didn’t really challenge myself much physically or mentally, so when I was 19, I was curious and wanted that challenge to see what that would do to me. [laughs] I joined that company, and was there for 18 months, became a sergeant and platoon leader. It was very rigorous and demanding, the things they put us through. I often hated it and when I did it, I regretted it: “I could just be backpacking in Asia right now like most of my friends are! Why am I out here in the woods in the middle of the night, not having slept or eaten in a week?” But I learned a lot about myself and my limits. I’m happy I did it, but the day I graduated, I never looked back.
What’s the greatest thrill and also the biggest drawback about your work on “True Blood”?
It’s such an amazing job for me on so many levels. To work with a creator like Alan Ball and to be part of his creation is so rewarding. He’s so good at putting together a great team of writers, so the material is always very, very good. And it’s definitely a collaborative process where you, as an actor, are invited to come up with ideas. We’re on our third year now, so it’s almost like when you go to work, you go hang out with your family. That means a lot, especially because I’m detached with my own family, all back in Stockholm.
My character Eric is a fascinating guy, and to play someone who is 1,000 years old is fun because you can play around with all these weird flashbacks that we’re doing right now. You can go back and put Eric in throughout the last thousand years, wherever you want, and see how he’d interact with people in certain areas and times in history.
As far as downsides? I don’t know if there are any. Ask me that question in three years, and we’ll see after six seasons if I’m still having fun. Right now, I’m having a blast every single day.
[Additional Photos: Alexander Skarsgård in "Generation Kill" and "True Blood," HBO, 2008]
SOURCE: IFC (Tack S)
You must be logged in to post a comment.