Bill Skarsgård’s Crazy Adventures! [Interview in Café, Sep 2012]
we are! The ~~translation of all translations~~. Beware, Bill is from
Södermalm, and they speak in a very particular way, which is hard
to translate without making him sound like a douche. I have the same
problem when translating Alexander. So know when you’re reading that my
translation might alter the tone of his voice but he is a very relaxed,
funny and non-assuming guy! Hope you like it!
It took his big brother four years of hard work to get his first Hollywood part. For BILL SKARSGÅRD it took six weeks. Café meets up with Sweden’s latest shooting star in LA.
Bill Skarsgård is sitting in a rental car on the five lane 405 interstate to San Fernando Valley with his bros (lol best way to translate polare I’m not even sorry) Robin and Tobias. They’re on their way to a “shooting range” to burn off a few shots when they are interrupted by a phone call. On the other side of the line half of William Morris Agency, Bills American agency, has gathered in true Hollywood fashion to cry out in unison “Congratulations, you got the part!”
After six short weeks in LA Bill, 21, has landed his first leading part in an American tv series, the thriller Hemlock grove. While others have to draw blood to get a second of air time as an extra in some half assed Stallone film, Bill has effortlessly skid in and scored a lead. It’s almost a bit provoking.
“Dad just said ‘Fuck off’ when he called” Bill says. “But with love of course.”
He seems to be taking it all in his stride. Bill Skarsgård seems more afraid to speak loudly about his breakthrough, as if it could slip through his hands if he dares. He called his brother Gustaf and told him about getting the part, the rest of the family had to read the press release.
The Gothic thriller series Hemlock grove, which in the industry media has been compared to Twin Peaks, is produced by Netflix, a popular American steaming service who last year decided to add their own library of films and series to compete with the regular tv stations. The Norwegian series, Lilyhammer with Little Steven at the reins, and David Fincher’s House of Cards with Kevin Spacey in the lead is also part of Netflix’s big venture.
They’re challenging the traditional way of watching tv and releasing all episodes at the same time instead of weekly releases. It’s an attempt to catch the younger audience prone to downloading what they want to watch and not sticking to the tv listings.
“In the script my character is described as a slim guy with big, green eyes and that fits me pretty well,” Bill notes. He shakes his head, looking a little dazed. “I’ve had four lead roles in Sweden och then I get here and then this happens in just six weeks. It’s all about luck. Alex was here for four years before getting a part.”
A few weeks before the happy word we meet for brunch in Loz Feliz, LA. At this time the visit is still implicit (no idea if that’s the right word). “A few meetings” and a couple of auditions is on the schedule - otherwise it’s all very unplanned, to the degree that Bill and his two friends, Tobias and Robin, have nowhere to stay.
“We nagged ourselves two more night at the place we’ve been staying, after that we’ll have to see,” Tobias explains, who’s been a friend of Bill’s since school.
“Robin is my driver, I don’t have a license” says Bill who despite trying, summarizes the year 2011 as “the year I didn’t get my driver’s license”.
“A payment from an old job came through, so I had the money to pay for Robin’s ticket. He’s now hired as part of my staff,” Bill explains with a broad smile. Robin nods in assent but mumbles something about how it would be nice if Bill stopped introducing him as “the driver” for girls on nights out. “I’ll never get to fuck, I might as well stay in the car!”
At the restaurant Le Fiagros’ sun drenched patio life seems pretty fun for the guys.
“Yeah, but it’s not too glamorous. We don’t have any money. Not even accommodation. And the car is uninsured. But Bill with his seize-the-day mentality seems to be taking this in his stride too.
“You should have no money until you get a lot of money before you have no money again. It’s boring being economic.”
“It’s worthless, you should blow everything you have!” says Tobias. Robin - who has for the moment forgotten he didn’t pay a dime for his own plane ticket - nods along.
The last two years Bill has had four leading roles in Sweden. He was praised for his part in I rymden finns inga känslor (Simple Simon), where he plays Simon who has Asperger’s Syndrome. The film was Sweden’s entry to the 2011 Academy Awards. He was also the leading part in Simon och ekarna (Simon and the Oaks) which was nominated for thirteen Guldbagge Awards and winning two. He has just finished filming Anna Karenina in London, Bill’s first English speaking film, where he’s fighting for the spotlight with Kiera Knightley and Jude Law.
“I play a captain, well I guess it’s called a general. I only had eight days shooting. It’s quite a lot for that small part.”
But was it interesting working with big stars like Law and Knightley?
“I have never really felt the hype around celebrities. Kiera is hot as hell, and it’s fun working with her, but in rehearsals she’s just a girl in sweatpants you know?
Do you think it’s to your advantage being Alex’s brother over here?
“His hype over here has probably helped a bit. It raises me up. In 2010 Himlen är oskyldigt blå was shown as TIFF and I rymden finns inga känslor was the the Swedish entry for the Oscars. So all my agents have seen them. I’ve never signed with anyone who’s never seen my work.
Last year Bill was also chosen as one of the “shooting stars of the year” by European Film Promotion - an marketing organisation for European film - during the Berlin festival. A price earlier awarded to Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig, but Bill didn’t take it too seriously.
“It was great meeting the other actors, but the whole thing felt like a product placement. You stood in front of the cameras, smiling and displaying a Champagne bottle. It felt a bit dirty. It felt the whole ‘shooting-stars-gang’ were there to sell Champagne. The focus was more on making their sponsors happy than actual interest in the actors.” he says but gets briefly interrupted by the mountain of Egg Florentine drenched in Hollandaise sauce the waiter puts in front of him. ”I mean, it was a good thing, the ‘qualification’ is still there if it didn’t lead anywhere.”
Swedish media said you were “celebrated”.
“That’s so fucking Swedish. I mean celebrated, what? I wasn’t fucking celebrated” he says shoving an egg into his mouth.
“But you were always hungover.” Tobias says and a joint belly laugh breaks out around the table.
“Fuck no”, says Bill. “They quoted me wrong! It was a reporter from Aftonbladet who wrote that…I’ve known him for a while and he actually likes me. He asked ‘how is it being a shooting-star?’ or something and I replied ‘I guess it’s nice, you’re a bit hungover after all the events you have to go to every night though’. The headline was ‘Bill Skarsgård: You’re hungover - all the time’ and a picture of me in a hate looking really rough.”
Can you laugh at that sort of stuff?
“I can’t be bothered to care. It’s like a good face rape. For it to be good 90% of all your friends have to believe in it. It has to be something corny and embarrassing. Like ‘Yoga is so fucking nice’. That’s exactly how that headline is. 99% of those who read it thinks I’m sitting there saying ‘Ughh shiiit, I’m always drunk and I’m having such a bad hair day so I have to wear a hat errrr’.
A waitress in a white shirt and see through tights arrives with the second serving of orange juice. If you didn’t know better you’d think Bill and his friends were hungover today. But between apartment hunting and auditions they haven’t really had the time for night outs lately.
“I gave an interview in Metro when I was eighteen years old and the day after the headline was ‘Stellan is my biggest role-model’. If you google me that comes up! Not that I’ve googled myself…”
“Of course you have” Tobias interrupts.
“Yeah okay. But who hasn’t really? You need to know what rumors are out there, if you’ve done stupid stuff and someone finds out about it.”
He stops his explanation and returns to the subject.
“I was reallt fucking irritated because it was Metro, that everyone reads, and my second interview ever. I know that i can’t have said it!
He’s very relaxed, Bill. Talks about almost anything. Laughs at most things. It’s okay to ask all kinds of questions. But when you get to the subject of relationships and potential girlfriends - how many times you may ask - you get nothing out of him. ”No I’m I don’t have a girlfriend, no I’m not dating anyone.” Subject closed. Move on.
With his four leads and being known as a ~shooting star~ you could say his career is on track. So to dip his toes into the Mecka of the film industry seems like a given at this point.
“At the moment there’s Sweden hype in the American film industry. A lot of it thanks to the Millenium-films, and they weren’t even that good! And Daniel Esposa and Tomas Alfredson of course. His Tinker, Tailor, Soilder, Spy was so fucking well made.”
But Bill will not take his own success for granted.
“The first audition I did over here I thought ‘This is so cool, I might get this!’, but that has totally abandoned me now. I have no expectations what-so-ever. Instead it’s more “I really will NOT be getting this’ now” he says, waiting for a loud bus to pass by before continuing: “They typecast. They’re looking for a special type of person, and it can all fail because your ears stick out too much. But it’s all making a good impression. If you’re close a few time you might get a part after a while.”
How is it different auditioning in Sweden to Hollywood?
“In Sweden it’s more ‘Hi, wow this is great, good to see you” and you get an hour or so to try out a few scenes. Here you walk in and have five, ten minutes. There’s so many things I’ve auditioned for that I’ve not really wanted to do. But I don’t want to be typecast and end up doing the same thing over and over,” he says and goes quiet when Robin- and Tobias’ discussion if they should fill up the parking meter with coins or card spills over to our side.
“You need to have a thick skin to handle all the no’s you get, no matter how good you are.” He admits Hollywood is a dream, but not at any price. “I want to make good projects and I’ll just as well do them in Sweden. Actually…erm fuck I don’t know I might be lying a bit. But I would rather do a good movie in Sweden than a bad in the US.”
When he was younger Bill and his family traveled around with daddy Skarsgård to all his film shoots. While Stellan played a mathematician in Good Will Hunting and paralyzed husband in the dark Breaking the Waves Bill and his brothers were studying on the sidelines with mother My.
“We’ve always traveled with him, mum home schooled me, I mean only during our trips abroad, until I started secondary school and it got a bit too serious. We used to study between nine and twelve and after that it was play time.
Sounds like a dream!
“It wasn’t that we didn’t take school seriously. On the contrary, when I started secondary school I was further ahead than all of my classmates.
And you’d traveled more.
“When dad was shooting City of Ghostswe lived in Cambodia. It wasn’t the tourist paradise it is today, six months earlier there had been open street conflicts. And we lived in Mexico for a while. You get more perspective of the world as a child.”
Bill says he already knew as a nine-year-old he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an actor.
“I don’t think you take a nine-year-old’s dreams too seriously, but that was the way it was, I knew I wanted to be an actor when I was little.”
Besides Bill, Gustaf and Alex their younger brother Valter, 16, will also enter the big screen with the film IRL - premiering spring 2013 - och will be the youngest Skarsgård to have been cast as a lead role.
“You’ve always had the opportunity to do what you want, there’s never been any pressure for us all to become actors” Bill says distantly, as if the question has come up a thousand times before. “People see us as an acting family but I don’t see us that way. We such a different relationship to each other.”
But you could say acting is still the common denominator.
“I can recognize myself in Gustaf and Alex, I can understand how they’ve gone about things. We are quite alike. Especially Gustaf and I have the same taste in actors and directors.”
Are you competing with Alex for roles now?
“No, I mean he’s so much older than me. We will never be up for the same roles. And I would never try to compete with friends or family.”
A man reading The New Yorker throws himself down at the table down next to us and orders a cheap glass of red wine. Suddenly the music is turned up and we almost have to yell to hear one another.
“It’s odd how things turn out, what things decide your faith.” Bill hollers. “My uncle Kettil was gonna audition for a part in Bombi Bitt och jag in the 60’s and brought my dad along, which the resulted in my dad getting the part and turning into this teenage star. It was hysteria around him for a while. He’d hadn’t meant to become and actor.” He stops for a while. “Acting is appealing for playful and childish people. I think most people would feel stupid if they had to get up on a stage and pretend to be someone else. But I’ve grown up in an environment where that is completely normal.”
As normal, or natural, as being a celebrity. Bill remembers a vacation on Öland he had when he was nine years old. He and Stellan took the car to Kalmar to buy some breakfast and somewhere in between the bread isle and the milk Bill ran into a pair of ladies who were blushing and whispering. “Did you see Skarsgård?! He was in the dairy section just now!”
“I remember noticing people looking at him a lot. They thought it was so cool. But I was just this little kid who wanted to shout at them: ‘Don’t look at my dad! He is my dad!” Now it’s Bill who can’t but toilet paper without being stared at.
“I know celebrities who think it’s so fucking horrible. If you always think about other people’s expectations och glances and think you have to live up to them, that you have to be a hunk or you have to be funny or whatever it may be, it gets really hard. But you have to forget about it. I noticed old acquaintances to me, that I must have known since I was twelve, changed a whole lot after my first film premiered. They thought it was cool and started to take a sudden interest. It was really unpleasant.”
On the shooting range you just have to sign a paper where you assure that you’re not suffering from any mental diseases and that you won’t sue them if anything goes wrong. Like if you manage to let a round off in your leg - or someone else’s. The you get the weapon dumped in your hand, in this case a 40-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol.
“The US is fucking insane. The guy at the counter asked us if we knew how to do it, and when we said no he showed us in like two seconds how you load it and pushed the gun into our hands.” Bill says a few weeks after our brunch when we meet up again at a restaurant in West Hollywood. The shoot for Hemlock grove starts in June and Bill can look forward to five months in Toronto, Canada.
“I’m a bit sick of Stockholm. Well maybe not sick of it, or yes…I’m born and raised in the same spot, Södermalm. I need new impressions and environments.”
How sad would you be if there wouldn’t be any more Hollywood for you?
”I don’t know, because I didn’t expect to get this part, I don’t think…I don’t expect it to be a mega hit, it’s quite dark and all. But it’s really fucking good. I think there’ll be more seasons, and of course I’ll be sad if that doesn’t turn out to be the case.”
How much money will you get for the role?
“It’s all relative. It’s not a ‘life-changing’ amount. People think celebrities on tv in Sweden make so much money. On the same island my parent’s have a summer cottage there’s this big castle. There were rumors Alex bought it after he’d been in Vita Lögner (soap opera THAT I FORGOT HE WAS IN LOL). It would be about 45 million Swedish crowns, he wouldn’t be able to afford that today.
Especially if you spend it all at once like you do.
“Yeah I blow it all. There is nothing I can show people and say: ‘Look, this is what I spentmy money on!’”
If you got a big lump of money tomorrow, what would you do?
“But a house where all my friends and my family could live. I have this need to be surrounded by people, and as soon as I have money I make sure those around me get a part of them. If I could afford it I would give all my friends a trip. Put it all on experiences we could share.”
True. The day after Bill and Robin are flying over to New York for a week off.
“Does my vacation start before I get on the plane or after we get off? Robin jokes.
“After,” Bill replies “I might need help with my luggage.”
[blurb 1, picture of him in boxing gloves: No lightweight, Bill Skarsgård graduated in 2009. Three years later he has four Swedish roles and an international blockbuster, Anna Karenina on his CV. His next job: Lead part in the American tv-series Hemlock Grove.]
Voices about Bill Skarsgård:
[blurb 2, Alexander Skarsgård, Actor and older brother. “Bill doesn’t need any shitty help from his stupid older brother. He’s an incredible intelligent dude. Of course we support each other and talk about work, but he needs no help in his career. The only advice I’ve given him is not be in too much of a hurry. He’s only 22 years old, and shouldn’t jump onto the first opportunity just because. I’ve told him to have confidence and to do something he really wants to do. And that’s exactly what he’s done.]
[blurb 3, Björn Gustafsson, Actor and Comedian (and love of my life :3). “When we shot Kronjuvelerna together there were a whole bunch of children on set and Bill seemed to find it so easy to just relax and hang out with them. There’s something very charismatic about being that tall and dark haired, and at the same time being so light and fun loving. And he’s so professional for someone his age.”]
[blurb 4, Hannes Holm, Directed Himlen är oskyldigt blå. “If look at the whole Skarsgård clan I have to say Bill is the most peculiar. He’s the one taking up the lost cloak in the Swedish acting tradition of the male where strength is combined with vulnerability. I’m thinking of names like Alf Kjellin and Thommy Berggren. What else? He eats like a horse! And I’ve never met an actor who memorizes his line quicker!]