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In Profile: Stellan Skarsgård

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From arthouse to action, Stellan Skarsgård has done it all. We take a look at the Swede's incredibly diverse career.

There are few actors who have managed to balance international arthouse acclaim with Bruckheimer behemoths. Stellan Skarsgård is Sweden’s best-known actor working today, but you might not be aware of just how varied his career has been.

He’s worked with the doyen of dogme, Lars von Trier, no fewer than three times; acted Pacino out of the water in the spectacular original version of Insomnia; and endured six hours of make-up to play undead melancholic Bootstrap Bill in a couple of little films about pirates.

Born in Gothenburg, Skarsgård became a teenage star in Bombi Bitt, a 1968 Swedish TV series. He spent 16 years treading the boards with the Royal Dramatic Theatre Company in Stockholm, while racking up a hugely impressive roster of film and television appearances.

International audiences began to pay attention when his performance in The Simple Minded Murder garnered him a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.

But his real breakthrough was in von Trier's Breaking the Waves, which scooped the Grand Prix at Cannes in 1996. Soon enough, Hollywood beckoned with Ronin, Good Will Hunting, Amistad and King Arthur securing Skarsgård’s international currency.

Already an EIFF regular with starring roles in Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark (EIFF 2000) and Paul Schrader’s Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (EIFF 2005), this year’s Festival sees the World Premiere of Skarsgård’s latest film W?Z.

The atmospheric thriller from first-time director and Skillset/EIFF Trailblazer Tom Shankland stars Skarsgård as an aging detective who finds his past catching up with him.

Shankland is unequivocal in his praise of the actor: “Stellan has been an acting hero of mine ever since I saw him in Breaking the Waves. He has a way of conveying thoughts, secrets, feelings, by doing very little – he is a perfect screen actor.”

Skarsgård is also, Shankland insists, “probably the only actor who has a nudity clause in his contract insisting that he appear naked in all his films.”

He’s certainly a man of many talents: national icon, father of six, and, according to buddy Paul Bettany – who incidentally named his first son after him – “the all-time heavyweight vodka-drinking champion of the world.”

At this year's EIFF you have the chance to see the legend at the exclusive In Person event on Monday 20 August at Cineworld.

Stellan Skarsgård: In Person is on Monday 20 August at Cineworld.

W?Z is showing on Monday 20 and Tuesday 21 August at Cineworld.

 

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