I’m old enough to remember when Stellan Skarsgård was hot stuff. Truly! He was seen as a sexy Swede, an avant-garde and sex-soaked Scandinavian back in the day. Maybe some people still see him that way, but he’s transitioned nicely into a varied character actor in film and TV projects. He sat down with The Big Issue for a promotional interview for the BBC series River, but he ended up talking a lot about his work with Marvel (Thor/Avengers), how he flat-out refused to sign Disney’s morality clause (because he loves to go without pants) and how America “stole” Texas and California. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:
He envies actresses: “I often envy actresses. They get to show uninhibited emotions, everything that is going on inside the character. Most male characters are, for cultural reasons, written to contain their emotions. But in all the scenes with the manifests my character River is wide open. That is very liberating.”
His work on Mamma Mia: “We were supposed to be cute and silly – typical bimbos. I really enjoyed it. In a way it was an extremely feminist production, written, produced and directed by women.”
The Millennium Trilogy (the Lisbeth Salander books/movies): “Nordic Noir got a great push from the Millennium Trilogy. That is a really mediocre crime story but it has really interesting characters. Scandinavia is far more emancipated than any other corner of the world, which means our female characters are written in a different way.”
Why is the UK so repressed? “I don’t know! I’ve been asking that myself. Why did you put pink lights on Tower Bridge when a princess was born? Is it a f–king Barbie country? We don’t colour code our children depending on whether they have a penis or not.”
The immigration debates in America & Britain: “It’s the attitude. When should you have closed your borders? Before 1066 maybe? Or before the Vikings came? You have to understand people will move, societies will change and we all live in a little flicker of time. In America they want to build a wall between Mexico. First of all, America stole Texas and California and most of the southern states from Mexico – but I think who really should have been restrictive with immigration was the Indians!”
Defending Benedict Cumberbatch: “After the Enlightenment you’re supposed to be allowed to say everything, and still you’re not allowed. You’re not even allowed to use all the words you want to use. When Benedict Cumberbatch used the word ‘coloured’, which once was the decent way to describe a black person, he got so much sh-t that no one listened to what he was actually saying. It’s so weird in America – the crime is to use the wrong word but at the same time you have double the infant mortality amongst blacks than whites. You don’t change anything by changing the words.”
Disney’s morality clause: “Disney has had it for years. It basically says that if you upset a substantial part of society they can take your name off the film, sue you and do other evil things to you. I’ve never signed it. I said that’s infringing on my freedom-of-speech rights, my constitutional rights – and I also said, what society are we talking about, Salt Lake City or Kabul? So they reformulated it for me. I can still take my pants off in public without being sued by Disney.”
Just to nitpick for a moment, Benedict Cumberbatch did say “colored actors” while doing press in America, but most of backlash he got was from British sites and British groups. While his comments were a story in America, the fact that he issued a sincere and exhaustive apology almost immediately did tamp down the controversy. As for the rest of it… Stellan is an interesting guy. I don’t really agree with him about everything, but I like that he’s a strong, liberal Swede who is unapologetic about his politics. Plus, he stands up for the rights of the pantsless.
Photos courtesy of WENN.