By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist October 5, 2011 at 7:18AM
While Lars von Trier might get himself into trouble with everybody else and may have ruffled the feathers of Björk, who swore off acting after starring in "Dancer In the Dark," the Danish auteur has a small stable of actors who continue to return to his films. The promise of working on a set that is unlike anything else they will ever experience is a lure and coupled with the director's ambitious and at times outrageous concepts, it's just too good to resist. But for rising star Alexander Skarsgård, he received firsthand knowledge from someone very close to him who is one of von Trier's most frequent collaborators.
Hitting New York City this week for "Melancholia," which both plays NYFF and goes VOD on Friday, we caught up with Skarsgård who let us in on why he chose to do the film without even reading a script first. "Well, my dad [Stellan Skarsgård] has worked with him six times so I’ve known him for many years. And actually I’ve worked with him [before] on a one day [shoot] in Scandinavia ten years ago. I did this thing with three other Dogme directors for Danish television called, 'D-Day' where it took place over New Year’s Eve 2000 – so it was kind of like 'Time Code' if you saw that movie," he explained. "There were four different stories and you could edit yourself because they would showed it on four different channels the following day [at the same time] and so you could [self-edit] by flipping the channels. It was a very interesting project. It was only one day, but I had a blast. I loved working with him even if it was only like five hours.“
“My dad makes his way into every single [Lars von Trier] project, even if it’s a really small part. He loves working with Lars and they have a very interesting relationship. And he was like, ‘If you ever get the opportunity, just do it, it’s the most amazing thing,' ” he added.
And while cable fans recognize Skarsgård's face from his roles on "True Blood" and "Generation Kill," movie stardom is beckoning. He's got an impressive slate of blockbuster and indie films lined up and you'll be seeing him more on the silver screen. The biggest of the bunch is easily next summer's massive "Battleship." And while it might seem like a bit of an odd choice, it was the actor's desire to switch things up which made him sign on for the movie.
"I just wanted to do something really different after 'Melancholia,' and Peter Berg is a fantastic director," he stated. "I play an officer in a U.S. Navy Destroyer. It’s about the relationship of two brothers, I play the older brother and Taylor Kitsch is the younger brother. I love it. I had a really good time on it."
Another project he has been quietly working on, and which has already started filming in New York City, is "What Maisie Knew." A contemporary reworking of the Henry James novel, the picture co-stars Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan, and we'll let Skarsgård explain how it adapts the source material and what it's all about.
"It’s quite different from the book. It’s a very loose adaption. It’s modern day. It’s about the couple divorcing, the kid coping, I play the stepfather, and the mother’s not really there much for the kid, so I start this relationship with her, and they find each other when the mother’s gone. In our movie, she’s physically not there much. She marries Lincoln, because she needs a stable home for the kid, because she’s in the middle of a custody battle," the actor elaborated. "She’s a rock star, and she’s out on the road touring, and Lincoln ends up hanging out with the kid, and they, he becomes like a dad, like a father figure. It was amazing. Onata [Aprile], who plays Maisie, is an amazing little kid, I loved working with her so much. Julianne Moore is the mom."
And nope, that's not all. He's also part of the ensemble of "Murderball" director Henry-Alex Rubin's "Disconnect," a drama about the dangers of the Internet. "It’s kind of like a 'Short Cuts,' with four different stories, and I play the husband of a couple who go online. Paula Patton is my wife, they have a very dysfunctional relationship, they both go online for Internet dating, and someone rips them off, steals their identities online, and steals all their money. And through that, they kind of reconnect when they go after the person who’s controlling everything."
Lastly, you likely already known that Skarsgård is part of the forthcoming "The East" with Brit Marling, Ellen Page and Toby Kebbell. The film tells the story of a female security agent (Marling) who infiltrates an eco-terrorist group and falls into a relationship with the leader, played by Skarsgård. "I play an anarchists...They attack big corporations. Its kind of like an eye for an eye [type thing]. They attack CEOs of big corporations and do whatever they've done to other people to them," he revealed.
It's diverse batch of offerings coming up from Alexander Skarsgård, but they certainly point to an actor who isn't willing to be pigeonholed. You can see him next in "Melancholia" which you can order on your TV on Friday and see on the big screen in limited release on November 11th. And oh yeah, this conversation between Skarsgård and Kiefer Sutherland about the film is pretty interesting. -- Additional reporting by Jennifer Vineyard and RP.