Stellan Skarsgard interview: In Order Of Disappearance, Thor

Andrew chats to the always brilliant Stellan Skarsgard about his new collaboration with Hans Petter Moland.

Stellan Skarsgard is, I’m sure, known primarily to readers of this website through his work in Mamma Mia and Moomins And The Comet Chase. He’s also collaborated regularly with Hans Petter Moland, and In Order Of Disappearance is the latest film from the pair. A brutal and hilarious revenge driven black comedy, it tells the story of a man avenging his son’s death at the hands of a drug cartel.

We’ve interviewed both men about a movie that was Den of Geek’s favourite of the Edinburgh International Film Festival this year. Here’s our chat with Stellan:

Hi Stellan. In Order Of Disappearance was our favourite film from what we saw at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this year.

Oh cool!

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When you’re playing someone whose son is dead and whose wife is leaving him, and you’re silent and staring as the cameras roll, what goes through your head?

Yeah, that’s an interesting question. Most of my acting in general is about what’s going on in the head and the lines are just something that comes out. I enjoy saying as little as much as possible and feeling as much as possible, and the thing of course, is, with this specific character, what’s going on in his head is this enormous feeling of loss and the frustration of being unable to handle it, or not having the tools to handle not only his emotional state but also communication with his wife. That is of course the frustration that leads him to start killing people because he doesn’t know how to handle the situation.

Do you find Nils’s story relatable? Do you think there’s the capability for that revenge inside a lot of people?

I think what we have to recognise is that we are cavemen and we have a thin veneer of civilisation that we have to be very protective of, and in Nils’s case the veneer cracks and out comes the caveman – the very primitive reactions – but we should know that we’re all capable of committing the most horrible atrocities. If you look at Yugoslavia, which was a very similar country before the break up of it, just a year later people are savage and killing each other. We have to know that the bad guys are not different from us in the world.

I discovered some information about blood and gore in subzero conditions interviewing Hans Petter Moland, which I’m probably never going to be able to put to any practical use. What’s the most trivial and impractical piece of specialist knowledge you’ve picked up in your career?

Hah! That’s a good question. Useless information… I’m so full of useless information, I’m the kind of person that collects useless information. I like to know everything! But I don’t know, I doubt I will ever have a use for my ability to drive a snow plough again, but I used that in this film and I had a great time driving in those: forty tonnes at full speed through the snow.

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Working with Hans Petter Moland, it seems his practice is to work from character and discuss this with actors in advance.

Yeah, usually you have a week of rehearsals and this is not to decide how to do it, but to make sure that you’re on the same page when it comes to what is important in the scene. What is the trajectory of the character? What does he have to bring to the scene to make the film work? Stuff like that.

He doesn’t interfere in detail in your acting but he always talks about what the scene needs. He also talks in detail about what the character experiences and thinks – in this film some of the characters are really cartoonish and over the top, but he still treats them like viable psychological portraits which I think you can feel. Also, that there’s not one character sort of left two dimensional, they’re all humans even if they’re silly.

You had a similar experience with Kenneth Branagh on Thor. Kenneth Branagh starred in a Wallander TV movie in 2012 – The Dogs Of Riga – which you’d previously worked on a Swedish version of in 1995…

A friend of mine was directing some Wallenders and asked if I could show up for a day, and I did, so I can’t really say I’ve done any Wallender.

If this film got remade, would you regard that as a disappointment, or a compliment?

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Hopefully someone really talented remakes it, then I’d see it as a compliment. If they just take the story and let a generic American director do it, do just the surface of it then it’s sad. But I totally understand when it comes to foreign language films even the most successful ones – like Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in the Swedish version, I think it made ten million dollars in the United States. Which is huge for a non-English speaking film, but the remake by David Fincher – one of the greatest directors – it made a hundred million dollars. So you can understand it, but you always hope that the remake will be better. I did a Norwegian film called Insomnia that was remade and that was a good remake by a good director, so I’m honoured.

How important was the initial collaboration on the first Thor film? Because these characters are now quite popular, despite being new creations for the films.

The fanbase was already there, pretty much, but what Marvel have done – and done very successfully – is cast some of the best actors and actresses in the world to play those superheroes, and that is of course invaluable to the success. It’s not like the popcorn films of the 80s where we had someone with a lot of muscles who couldn’t act and special effects were everything. They have the best directors, the best actors… add that to all the special effects, and it makes those films so much better.

The process of collaboration was of course great. I’ve worked with Kenneth again on Cinderella, he likes to do the rehearsals, you talk it through, you get rid of a lot of discussion that you don’t have to have on the set by rehearsing, and you can address problems. You get to throw out a lot of dialogue that you don’t need because you can express it in different ways. So it’s enriching for the characters to be able to have those weeks before.

Is that atypical then?

Yes, it is atypical.

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Finally, what’s your favourite Jason Statham film?

Hahah, I don’t know, I don’t know. I can’t come up with one!

Stellan Skarsgard, thank you very much!

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