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

September 19, 2012

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.

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.

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)

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Short Profile

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

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29 Responses to this Interview

  1. I sympathize with much of what Stellan Skarsgard says. I like you Stellan because you are a compassionate and empathetic person and because you are straight in your statements. You have the ability to compare the social life in Sweden and USA. And not least, you are a very talented actor and director.

  2. Andreas Persson Fondell

    And how about all those people who are starving because the government threw them out into the cold when they were too sick to work? What about those people who were forced to live on welfare in this time of crisis and earns less than half of a minimum wage and where the welfare check hasn’t gotten any bigger since 1996? What about the families who are being evicted from their apartments despite our laws stating that everyone should have a home and a decent standard of living and that no child should be evicted from their home? What about all those elderly people who worked their entire lives and get their own money stolen from them because the government needs to pay for their political mistakes? What about all those people who are stuck in a system where they can’t get a job because the government said so, despite claiming that they are creating jobs? What about all the people that live in motor homes who get shoved around and bullied by police and politicians? Show this to the 8% of mass unemployed people in this country who suffer because this government has a hatred for everyone that doesn’t earn over 1 million a year. You live in a dream world, Stellan. Sweden is slowly moving towards the US when it comes to kicking people when they’re down. Sweden isn’t all that great anymore and I hope that capitalism will never show its ugly face in this once wonderful socialist country of ours ever again. It can still be salvaged.

    • “They are of course deconstructing it and privatizing everything now”

      Andreas. Stellan håller med dig.
      Han pratar om välfärdsstaten som den var.
      Andreas: Stellan agrees with you.
      He’s talking about what was, and is still left of the welfare state.
      (Welfare – to fare well in life)

    • Andreas, läs artikeln först, for crying out loud.

    • I live in Sweden and I have not had a job in over 2 years. Yet, I get money from the government, enough money so I can live well. I do not need to worry about something in a big way, for whatever happens, I know that I will survive.

      Does not matter how much you earn. You are always a human being and you deserve a certain standard. That’s why I love my country.

      Google translate, but i think you get the point.

    • Don’t complain my Swedish friend.Please,come to Spain and you will see many things.

  3. Bravo, Stellan! You are a man after my own heart, sensible and smart. We need men like you in America. Please come back often, speak your mind as often as you can and continue to give us your first rate perfomances whenever you do.

  4. Always loved his outlook on life. Interesting fellow! Thank you.

  5. Jag skulle kunna skriva så mycket, men jag nöjer mig med.
    Tack, Stellan!

  6. I am not swedish, and I have never been there.
    But I love sweden and am I proud that a country like it exists. I understand from comments above that it is not that ideal what it once was. But it is still miles ahead from others countries.

    In the last two decades i have enjoyed watching swedish films for childeren. There must be a relation between this solidarity-feeling of society and making great films for childeren.
    If you know the value of children and do everything to give them what they deserve ( joy, education, love, worrieless-life ) when they grow up they creat the same for the next generation.

    When you grow up as work-childeren in a factory or a lot worse in street you have in your turn do not mind putting childeren on work.

    I wish incarnation would be true and I would come back in world when all Bangladesh ‘s of this world turn to Sweden.
    jag älskar dig Sverige.

  7. im sure the man loves making films in america, and getting paid by american film making companies…

    • “You read and write and sing and experience, thinking that one day these things will build the character you admire to live as. You love and lose and bleed best you can, to the extreme, hoping that one day the world will read you like the poem you want to be.”
      ― Charlotte Eriksson ….Proust will be with you Stellan doing a Lars movie …In Swedeen…Porn Flick,right, lol

    • Proust , Porn Flick in a Lars movie in Sweden… Why am I not surprised by that?…Funny guy..

    • Björgvin Þórhallsson

      What´s that supposed to mean?

  8. seems to me most famous swedes return to sweden at some point, and the middleeasterners are migrating there in droves, could be something there.

    • As a Swede that emigrated to the U.S. I can’t find most of this funny to read, especially since I disagree with pretty much everything he said.

      Sweden is a country of mediocrity. Yes, the Universities are free, but they are either hard to get into, because just like healthcare, when the Gov’t foots the bill, they can only save money by reducing how many gets it, or what they get.

      On top of that, the mediocrity is clear. Ask anyone in Europe if they would like to go to Stockholm University, or … oh i don’t know.. Harvard or Yale…. Gov’t managed doesn’t really promote exceptional results.

      In Sweden, I was a High ranking officer at a software company, and was not really getting anywhere. After taxes, (all taxes included) were done. I got to keep about 25% of my paycheck. When I got sick, I had to wait for weeks to see a Doctor, the health care guarrantee (sjukvårdsgaratin) offered by the swedish government is a joke. Here, I get to see my doctor the same day or next, often it’s simply a matter of what I chose. And the cost of my taxes plus insurance is still leaving me a LOT more than I had In Sweden.

      I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Mr. Skarsgard uses private doctors in Sweden, paid for by his U.S. box office earnings. But that of course wouldn’t be mentioned too much.

      I guess to each their own, but far from all Swedes think like he does, that’s one thing that’s for certain.

      • John good for you if you sort it out and scape to US from our horrible and mediocre country in which probably you got your degree for free and even if your parents are peasants, nobles or even immigrants you were able to go to school and then university, probably you couldn’t get a PhD position because yes it is hard to get in because is not about money like in USA or UK where if you have the money for the fees you’re in, here is about meritocracy and yes I have met people and I know people not just from Europe, Asia or America that want to study in universities like Lund, Uppsala and even Stockholm. Lucky you then because I imagine you are swimming in money to pay private health care in USA and you don’t need to go to Canada to have a surgery or emergency with a normal cost as many Northamericans do. As far as I remember I never had to wait two weeks for see the doctor at the vårdcentralen if you are/were really sick you know you have the emergency. My parents, my grandparents and I we have payed taxes since always, my kids enjoy the child care system, my grandparents enjoy the elderly care system because they use to pay always their taxes even if they were not rich, but of course for someone who thinks is smart enough to critique a whole society because beliefs that solidarity and welfare should be a human right I guess is not important, however thank you for leaving Sweden!
        Stellan thank you! you are not just a brilliant actor I can see that you are a wonderful human as well , you have your hearth in the left side precis som det ska vara!

  9. What Stellan describes is a part of Swedish culture. A greater understanding of responsibility for each other and society as a whole, not just the close community. It is equal responsibility that provides possibility. In other words, everyone chips in and helps out for the well being of the entire community. It truly is beautiful. All of my friends are amazed at how this culture shines through in everyday life. Everything from free education to a very low health care cost. Even the cultural trait as small as the “påtår” (a free refill at the order of ordinary coffee) and the trust that is placed in you get it yourself and only refill once amazes friends of mine.
    That culture is something to be proud of!

  10. “nobody is starving and good health care”

    Which planet did you ome from??? Or are you talking about Sweden for like 20-25 years ago???

  11. I’m a uk expat living in Sweden.Proud to live in Sweden. I am also a Stellan fan. I have never seen a bad Stellan film.
    His comments are fair and balanced. Sweden is still an amazing country and despite many comments about ‘high taxation’ at least, for the most part, you see something concrete and life enhancing for your taxes.
    Just quite how such a small (relatively speaking) population spread over such a vast area can develop a society that is humane, modern and tolerant is something of a 21st century miracle.

  12. Sorry Stellan but there is peopel in Sweden that starves and the health care sucks maybe not in your world but it is how it is in our world

  13. AverageNorwegian

    I am not Swedish, I live in the little brother coutnry to the wes, Norway – but we are very similar as countries. I have traveled a lot all over the world and recognize that I won the lottery when born. I like the US, as a visitor, but I would never want to live there, I disapprove of the “not everybody should get good healtcare, not everyone should be able to go to the university”-attitude. This needs to be fixed.

    Humane societies, like the ones in the Nordic countries, is by far (imho) the best places to live. Thanks to Stellan, I love most, but not all, of your films :)

  14. Sorry but I’m Colombian and can’t change that.
    It’s pretentious to say I live because the bla bla bla. Sorry you live because you can. Majority of the people in these word can’t choose to live like you even if they wanted.

  15. There’s something about comparing a nation of 350 million people to a country of less then 9 million people. The word “disingenuous” comes to mind.

    • Indeed it is. With a population of 350 million the taxes could have been lower for the same system. You’re paying quite alot for things only your government and a few very wealthy corporations benefit from.
      You may have heard your (quite good) economists talking about strengthening the middle class to get your economy sane, and the things Stellan praises are actually solutions to your middle class conundrum.

    • There is absolutely no difference in comparing a nation with 350 million vs. 9 million people. The only difference is your idiotic view on life, where your nation values only money, not healthcare nor the opportunity for EVERYONE and I mean EVERYONE to educate themselves within chosen field. It’s because people like you, that the U.S.A is trembling. In sweden, if you have good grades from the equivilent of highschool, you can go study at KTH(Kungliga tekniska högskolan), which is a internationally known university. In the US, only the wealthy have the finances to study at for example; Harvard, Princeton, Stanford etc. Unless you get a scholarship “and about half the nation is competing for !ONE! scholarship”. I’ve lived in Indiana outside Indianapolis, and I can tell you that I wouldn’t want to move to the US in it’s current state for 10 BILLION dollars.

  16. Old Socialist who still believe in the “dream”…Horrible society in terms of individuality and “package tour” at a Government approved level…same as all socialist based systems. only at a higher level economically. Left long time ago for the US…what a breath of fresh air!

  17. I love this part:

    “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.”

    Shows what a great down-to-earth and coherent person he is.

  18. Velouria Korolainen

    I’m an American citizen married to a Swedish citizen. I have lived in Sweden for 5 years. Let me clear up a few facts for everyone. Despite this actors comments Sweden places low priority on education and healthcare. They are the first to be cut from and the last to receive money. Only 20% of Swedish citizens get a university education and most have large student debt despite free tuition.

    The pensions people are receiving after working decades here is not even enough to cover rent. So most people at retirement still have to work.

    Things like barnbidrag and 1 year of parental leave eat through taxes fast and with politicians promising more bidrag to young able body people the less people are motivated to earn a living. They always have a safety net. In the mean time those working with no support from the government of any kind must make due with substandard healthcare and pensions. Make no mistake it’s the working man feeling the burden here.

    Don’t get me wrong there are some things I love about Sweden, but it’s definitely not the utopia it’s made out to be unless you make $6000 a month or receive government assistance.

    This actor is obviously clueless about US politics, because most of those medicare programs were created by the Republican party. Some of the states with the most welfare are red states. A lot of people would be surprised how much the Republican party has done throughout the country. They just have to stop listening to all the media hype and just go check the numbers and laws.

    This man would not have half his wealth or fame without America. He’s just another actor trying to use his status to make a political statement based on nothing more than his perception. It’s easy to look down on the world from your castle and diagnose the problems of the world.

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