By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist December 19, 2011 at 6:04PM
After nearly thirty years of work in Sweden, with a few small roles in English-speaking films like "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" and "The Hunt For Red October," Stellan Skarsgård really started to turn heads internationally in Lars Von Trier's "Breaking The Waves," as the paraplegic husband of Emily Watson's character. And while that film's led to his current near-omnipresent state, with starring roles in everything from "Good Will Hunting" and "Ronin" to "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," which opens in a few days, he keeps coming back to his old pal von Trier, having worked on three of the helmer's films subsequently, including this year's "Melancholia" (which also involved his son, "True Blood" star Alexander Skarsgård).
We spoke to Skarsgård Sr. over the weekend as he was doing the press rounds for 'Dragon Tattoo,' and he explained that before "Melancholia," von Trier had been considering giving up filmmaking altogether, saying "He had a six year depression, we’ve been in touch all the time, and it was really, really bad for a long while. When we started 'Melancholia' I sat down and talked with him and he said, 'I don’t think it’s fun anymore' and I said 'Well, you better, because you can’t live without it.'" Fortunately, and ironically, given the title of the film, his apocalyptic drama seemed to find him reclaiming the joy of his profession, according to his actor; "Eventually I think he started to enjoy himself on 'Melancholia.' He had a very playful attitude on the set... his depression is over now, and we are going to be doing a film this summer."
Indeed they are, as Skarsgård was the first actor on board the director's next project, "The Nymphomaniac," which will co-star Charlotte Gainsbourg in what promises to be another taboo-pushing piece of work, and we're likely to see more of the actor than ever before... "He called me a couple of months ago," the actor said adopting Trier's adnoidal voice to relate the anecdote, "and said 'Stellan, I just want to book you for next summer, so don’t take anything else. I’m going to make a porno film and I want you to play the male lead.' 'Yes of course, Lars,' I said. 'But you will not get to fuck in the film.' I said okay, he said, 'But you will show your dick at the end, and it will be very floppy.' 'Okay Lars, I will be there, if that’s what you’re doing.' "
While we imagine the female lead will get a rougher ride (it will be a von Trier film, after all...), it's still quite a brave move for Skarsgård to take the chance on his old friend. Did he have any hesitations? "None. It’s fun. If you make as many films as I do, the process of making it is where you live, it’s not the release dates and the reviews and rewards. My life is to be on set and I want to do interesting processes, that’s why I want to work with interesting directors. I want to have fun, that’s my problem."
Given his reputation as a prankster, we're sure there'll be fun to be had. "The Nymphomaniac" will shoot next year for a 2012 release (presumably not at Cannes...) while "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" will go on release tomorrow, Friday December 20th. More from our interview with Skarsgård in the next few days.