He came, he saw, he conquered…
He is one of the Swedish actors that have earned the title Hollywood Star. Since the move to the US eight years ago the oldest son of the Skarsgård clan has had several successful rolls. DV met Alexander Skarsgård in Los Angeles.
‘In two years, Swedes will be out of fashion and I will be unemployed’, Alexander Skarsgård jokes. We meet at the studio at Universal Studios in LA. It’s relaxing to interview Alexander Skarsgård. He doesn’t want to be put on a pedestal in a conversation. Despite the hype that has followed him the last four years – and despite him being interviewed by international press all day long – the conversation and the tone is unpretentious and comfortable. As if we actually met in a coffee house in Södermalm in Stockholm and not LA. And this is no wonder since that is where his heart is. Today, Alexander Skarsgård has lived in Los Angeles for more than eight years, and he likes his new hometown, but the longing for his old hometown is always there.
– My family and childhood friends still live in Stockholm. I like living here a lot, but the life style back home is so different. In Stockholm, all of my best friends live within five blocks from each other, so we never had to call each other on the phone. If I went down to the local coffee shop, I always ran into someone I knew. We didn’t have a car growing up, but here you have to drive everywhere and plan your social life. Sometimes it feels as if I live in a bubble where the spontaneity partly is gone.
However, it’s clear that Alexander Skarsgård has come to the sun in southern California to stay. Since he conquered the TV-world with his parts in the HBO-series Generation Kill and the vampire drama True Blood, where he plays the Viking vampire Eric Northman, the movie parts are rolling in.
After parts in thrillers like 13 (2010), the remake of the 70s version of Straw Dogs (2011), Lars von Triers Melancholia (2011) and still to be released independent movies like The East, Disconnect and What Maisie knew, he can currently be seen in one of the main leads in Battleship. Battleship is a sci-fi-action-blockbuster, inspired by a game, and it is Skarsgård’s biggest movie to date starring Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch and Rihanna.
– When I look for new projects I look for a challenge, Alexander Skarsgård says. So it was a great experience to make an artistic movie like Melancholia to follow that up with Battleship.
Last year, Alexander Skarsgård ended a 2-year-long relationship with actress Kate Bosworth and now the rumors about who he currently is dating are roaming the internet. The relation with Rihanna seems to be strictly professional, but Alexander doesn’t comment on it. However he does admit being impressed by her.
– She is incredible. So beautiful and she works really hard. For example when we had filming scheduled on a Friday, she would fly from Hawaii to LA the day after to perform to the world at the MTV Awards. After that she flew right back to us in Hawaii and showed up without being tired when filming started early on Monday, ready for a long day of work.
Alexander himself is constantly on the go. It’s a hectic life, to say the least.
– Yeah, it’s been crazy lately. We finished shooting the fourth season of True Blood in July and since then I’ve practically been traveling and lived in hotels for 6 months. I made two movies in New York, after that I went to Sweden for a few days to see my family, went to Rio de Janeiro where my Dad was filming, flew to Louisiana to another set, visited a couple of film festivals and came back here to LA about a month ago. It’s stressful to travel like that but I like it. Right now we are filming season five of True Blood.
The sexy vampire series is the top show of HBO since Sopranos. And for a lot of the viewers it’s the thrill to see vampire Viking Eric Northman show his muscles and compete with the gentleman vampire Bill Compton about the love of the waitress Sookie. Alexander Skarsgård is a big fan of creator Alan Ball, who is behind series such as Six Feet under, and getting this part was a dream offer for him.
– The idea of playing a vampire was so appealing. It sounded really cool. But it was the fact that Alan was behind the project that made me decide to join. I loved his earlier productions and I thought the combination of HBO and Alan Ball was really fantastic. Add to this that I liked the character Eric Northman a lot. He was introduced in the series as a bad guy, but once you get to know him it gets clear that he has a softer side and that he is sort of melancholic which I like.
Alexander Skarsgård is wearing blue Whyred jeans and a blue Burberry shirt – a fitting choice of color since the movie Battleship largely takes place at sea on a huge warrior ship, in a fight with an alien invasion force. Alexander Skarsgårds own background in the Swedish Marines 15 years ago have been very useful for his part as Sergeant Brad Colbert in Generation Kill (taking place during the Iraq war) and also as the part as Commander Stone Hopper in Battleship.
– When I did my military service in Sweden, I wasn’t in command but I’ve used my experience from leadership and how it works in the military and the dynamics between Commanders and soldiers. Small details, like how to give orders.
The Swedish hype following the Millennium Trilogy is rubbing off on life in Hollywood. Especially the last year has been very generous toward Swedish actors and the coming year 2012 doesn’t look anything less. Noomi Rapace stars in Ridley Scotts Prometheus, Alicia Vikander in the costume drama Anna Karenina, Mikael Persbrandt in the very longed for Tolkien movie The Hobbit and Lena Endre in Paul Thomas Andersons already much talked about movie about a cult The Master, just to mention a few. Alexander Skarsgård is not surprised:
– We have always had great movie makers in Sweden. It’s a tradition and comes from directors such as Ingmar Bergman and Bo Widegren, but also from actors like Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo and Max von Sydow. But maybe what’s going on right now is more of a trend. A couple of years ago it was all about Australian people.
Another since a long time famous Hollywood Swede, is of course Stellan Skarsgård. He doesn’t live in Los Angeles, but he often visits. But Alexander misses his siblings, two of them are also actors and very successful (Gustaf who last starred in Björn Runges Happy End and Bill in his Guldbagge nominated lead in Simon och Ekarna). A lot of Skype conversations are made to Stockholm, most of them to Mom My Skarsgård, who was featured in Damernas Värld last summer when she openheartedly told the story of her alcoholism and how it led up to the divorce from Stellan Skarsgård.
Alexander is proud over her decision to publicly talk about it:
– That was a very brave thing to do. Mom’s alcoholism started when she was diagnosed with cancer. The drinking made the death anxiety less apparent. Today she is sober and well and works as a therapist helping others suffering from alcoholism.
Parallel with getting bigger parts in the USA, Alexander still has a foot in the Swedish film industry, doing a voice over with his Dad in the animated movie Metropia (2009) and one of the leads in Johan Klings drama Puss (2010). And then there is Melancholia, shot in Trollhättan, and once again with Dad Stellan Skarsgård in one of the parts. Currently Alexander is not attached to a Swedish film project, but he is enthusiastic over how the Swedish Film industry is developing.
– Nowadays the Swedish Film industry is very vibrant. A lot of new interesting film directors are getting the chance to make movies. Ruben Östlund and Jens Assur to mention a few of them. This was not the case when I moved to Los Angeles 8 years ago. However, you can never compare Hollywood to the Swedish film industry. Almost every movie made in Sweden is an independent production with very strong characters. For instance, it would be impossible to make a Battleship about the Swedish marines, he laughs.
Alexander Skarsgård – Facts
Age: 35 Family: Single. Six siblings: Gustaf (31), Sam (29), Bill (21), Eija (20), Valter (16) and Ossian (2). Dad Stellan Skarsgård, actor. Mom My Skarsgård, doctor and alcohol therapist.
Lives: In Los Angeles Career: Film debut at age 7 in Allan Enwalls Ace och Hans valid. At age 13 he had his breakthrough playing the lead in the TV-series Hun den some log. Didn’t like the attention and stayed away from acting for 7 years. Studied drama at Marymount Manhattan College in New York in 1997 after which he decided to pursue an acting career. He landed a roll in the Swedish TV-show White Lies and a few smaller parts in movies, leading up to another small part in Ben Stiller’s Zoolander (2003). This was the same year he co-wrote and directed the short film To Kill a child, which was screened at Tribeca Film Festival and also got a Guldbagge nomination for his part in the Dog Trick.
Got his big break in the US playing in the critically acclaimed HBO-series Generation Kill. He followed this up with landing the part as the vampire Eric Northman in True Blood, also an HBO-series.
In 2009 he shot the Lady Gaga video Paparazzi. In 2010 he starred in Johan Klings drama Puss and last year he starred in Melancholia by Lars von Trier and the remake of American Straw Dogs.
Other facts: Have been given a doctors honor degree at Leeds Metropolitan University, where he studied for 6 months in 1996. He is a devoted supporter of football team Hammarby.
He is playing one of the leads in the sci-fi-action movie Battleship.