Actor emerges from his father's shadow

STOCKHOLM — Being the offspring of a famous father and working in the same profession can be both a blessing and a curse. Getting through the door is one thing, but inside, people tend to judge you more critically than they might otherwise.

Gustaf Skarsgard knows this. As the second-oldest son of actor Stellan Skarsgard, 27-year-old Gustaf has always gone his own way — and made sure that whatever he has done, it’s been on his own terms.

The strategy must be paying off: He’s been garnering raves for both his theater and film work, and this year he won the best male actor Golden Bug (Sweden’s Oscar) for “Kidz in Da Hood,” and was Sweden’s Shooting Star at the Berlin Film Festival.

The biggest change in the wake of his Golden anointing? “I get paid more,” he says, laughing.

Skarsgard started early, with his first feature at age 9 (the thriller “Tacknamn Coq Rouge” in which Stellan played the lead). Since then, he has combined working in film and TV and onstage while graduating from the theater school in Stockholm. His biggest film role before “Evil” (2003) was the lead in “The Invisible” (2002), which has now been remade in the U.S. and released by BV/BVI.

“I like to go back and forth between film and theater,” he says. “When I do film, I miss theater and vice versa.”

This year, Skarsgard plays a king in the historical epic “Arn,” the biggest Swedish film production ever. His sons in the film are played by his own kid brothers Bill and Valter.

“I suggested it,” he notes. “It has been fun.”

While Skarsgard was recently considered, and passed over, for a major Hollywood production, he doesn’t consider it a setback.

“It would be fun to do a film there,” he says, “but not as an end in itself.”

He says he feels privileged being able to work full time and being able to choose, while most of his actor colleagues have to take whatever parts they are offered in order to survive.

“As long as I have this freedom,” he says, “I’m happy.”

Claim to fame: “Evil,” a foreign-language Oscar nominee, in which Skarsgard played the bullying antagonist to the hero.

Career mantra: “I go by my gut feeling.”

Role model: “My father. I have grown up with him being a respected actor, and I have taken a lot with me from home, like his way of always treating everybody the same, that everybody has equal value.”

What’s next: The epic “Arn,” the thriller “Iscariot,” and the stage production of “Games of Love and Loneliness” at Stockholm’s Stadsteater.

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