IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Stellan Skarsgard Talks 'The Avengers,' 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,' and 'Melancholia'

Wednesday, 31 August 2011 13:35 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Stellan Skarsgard Talks 'The Avengers,' 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,' and 'Melancholia'

Without a doubt, one of the most highly anticipated films of 2012 has got to be The Avengers. Marvel Studios has been teasing this film since the release of Iron Man in 2008 and the movie promises to bridge elements from all of their previous endeavors, including The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and this past summer’s Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger, into one cinematic Marvel universe. It’s a pretty daunting task if you think about it and one that has never been attempted before, which makes it all the more impressive that it appears that they are about to pull it off.

One man who Marvel Studios has given a pivotal role to in this process is Swedish born actor Stellan Skarsgard. Best known for his roles in films like The Hunt for Red October, Ronin, Good Will Hunting, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Skarsgard appeared this past summer as Dr. Eric Selvig in Thor and is set to reprise his role next summer in The Avengers. Anyone who stayed through the end credits of Thor to see Marvel’s traditional tag-on scene knows (SPOILER ALERT) that Skarsgard’s character is now working with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D. to study the cosmic cube, which was first introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger. However, unbeknownst to Fury, Selvig appears to now be under the influence of Thor’s brother and archenemy, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). But how is Loki controlling Selvig and just how large will Skarsgard’s role in The Avengers be?

This morning I had the pleasure of speaking to Stellan Skarsgard about his work in Thor, which will be released on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD on September 13th. While we won’t publish my conversation with Mr. Skarsgard about the making of Thor until closer to the film’s home media release, I wanted to let you know what the veteran actor told me today about his work on The Avengers. It turns out that Skarsgard is actually in New York today filming his final scene for the film and will then fly to Los Angeles to re-shoot some scenes for David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on the extremely popular Swedish novel of the same name.

In addition to talking about The Avengers, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I also had a chance to ask the actor about working opposite his own son, True Blood star Alexander Skarsgard, in director Lars von Trier’s upcoming film Melancholia. In the following interview, Skarsgard spoke candidly with me about shooting the end credit scene in Thor, his role in The Avengers and why he almost said no to making the film, working with Joss Whedon, Marvel Studios, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Melancholia. Here is what he had to say:


To begin with, I want to ask you about the end credit scene in Thor, since it sets so much up for your character going into The Avengers. Who actually directed that scene, was it shot by Kenneth Branagh on the set of Thor, or by Joss Whedon as part of The Avengers?

Stellan Skarsgard: It was shot by Joss about half a year or more after we finished shooting Thor. So that was the first time I had worked with Joss and I think the forth time that I worked with Sam (Jackson).

Was that your first time on The Avengers set?

Skarsgard: Yes. When we shot the tag from Thor to Avengers, we shot it with a 3D camera that was a horrible contraption with two cameras and the mirror and stuff. It was extremely clumsy. I was considering not wanting to do the film if we were going to shoot it with machinery like that. But they decided to shoot The Avengers now on the small electric cameras and then digitally make the 3D afterwards, which is much more comfortable. I prefer to work with light and fast equipment because as an actor if you have to wait twenty minutes every time they change a lens the energy sort of fades out of the performance.

When you first read the screenplay for Thor was that scene included?

Skarsgard: No it was not because I don’t think they had the final story for The Avengers ready at that time. So that developed last fall when they contacted me and asked me if I wanted to be in The Avengers. Then they started sending me pages and stuff.

Was that the first time you realized that you were going to be in more than just the Thor franchise?

Skarsgard: Well when you sign up for these films, because of the way Marvel works, you are prepared to do five films for them and you negotiate for all those films. So I’m on their payroll so to say.

Were you surprised by the direction that they wanted to take your character and his involvement in The Avengers?

Skarsgard: Yes. I was.


In the Thor end credit scene, it was a little unclear whether Loki is possessing Dr. Selvig’s body or if he is invisible and Selvig is the only person that can see and hear him. As an actor, what choice did you make in that scene and what do you think is really going on?

Skarsgard: Well with the scene we did in Thor, it was like Loki, one way or the other, entered Eric’s mind. And in Avengers, you will see more clarity in how Loki is using Eric’s mind.

Can you talk about the size of your role in The Avengers and what exactly happens to Dr. Eric Selvig?

Skarsgard: (My character) is of importance but the size of the role is not big. It’s a small role and it is a pretty crowded film with a lot of actors in it.

In The Avengers, is your role tied to Loki and mostly working with Tom Hiddleston or do you break free and get to have some scenes with the rest of the cast?

Skarsgard: Most of my scenes were with Tom Hiddleston, yeah.


Have you finished shooting all of your scenes for The Avengers or are you still working on the film?

Skarsgard: I’m completing work now. I’m in New York to shoot the final scene of the movie so I will be wrapped here in a second.

What has the experience of working with Joss Whedon been like for you?

Skarsgard: It’s been very nice. He is a lovely man. He’s very different in energy from Kenneth Branagh. Every time you make a new film you sort of meet a new temperament but he has been very lovely to work with and you feel freedom to come with your own input and have fun on the set.


As an actor, are you impressed with what Marvel Studios has been able to pull off, bringing all these beloved comic book characters to the big screen in separate franchises and now ultimately into one encompassing film?

Skarsgard: It’s incredibly impressive. I mean those stories are modern American mythology and there are tons of fans out there to who these characters are very vivid and living. But if they would have done those films fifteen or twenty years ago they would have concentrated on just the special effects, but now they are hiring the best writers, the best directors, and the best actors which means specific quality products that are entertaining to people who are not even familiar with those super heroes.

What can you tell me about working on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Have you completed filming your scenes yet or do you still have some more to shoot?

Skarsgard: We’ve finished principle shooting but after I’ve done the last scene here tonight in New York of The Avengers, I will fly back to L.A. to do a couple of re-shoots of a couple of scenes. I hope that will be a very good film, it’s one of the best directors we have doing it (David Fincher) so it should turn out well.


Finally, I recently had a chance to see Lars von Trier’s new film Melancholia, which stars both you and your son Alexander. You both share a scene together and I wanted to ask you what it was like acting opposite your own son in a movie?

Skarsgard: Yeah that was fun. I have three sons that are actors now and I’ve worked with some of them in different projects before. It’s actually a great experience because you know each other so well so there is so much that you don’t have to talk about on the set. You very quickly find a tone. You understand what you are doing because he is your kid. Also, all three of them are very good so that is nice and I’m very proud of them all.


Be sure to check back with IAR in the next few weeks for more from my conversation with Stellan Skarsgard about the making of Thor.

Thor will be available on 3D Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray, and DVD on September 13th.

Melancholia opens in the U.S. on November 11th.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is scheduled for release on December 21st.

The Avengers assemble in theaters on May 4th, 2012.



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