Fellini and Mastroianni. Burton and Depp. Scorsese and De Niro/DiCaprio. And Moland and Skarsgard.
This year’s Berlinale competition film “A Somewhat Gentle Man” marks the third collaboration between Norwegian helmer Hans Petter Moland and Swedish thesp Stellan Skarsgard. After two dramas, “Zero Kalvin” and “Aberdeen,” the duo opted to make a black comedy. Skarsgard says the two of them are always on the lookout for films to do together.
“We tried to get the rights to do a film based on J.M. Coet-zee’s ‘Disgrace,’ but someone beat us to the rights. Then Hans Petter came up with this script. It went fast. It was financed in six weeks, and then we shot it in six weeks,” Skarsgard says.
Story concerns a man released from prison after serving time for killing his wife. It’s now up to him to decide whether to try to reconcile with his family or go after the guys who turned him in. Is that really the topic of a comedy?
“It’s fun. A Scandinavian comedy. Very unglamorous,” says the actor, who won the actors prize in Berlin for “A Simple Minded Murderer” in 1982.
Moland says Skarsgard is “a chameleon. He works on intuition, and he likes to take on other personalities. Some actors always play themselves. But Stellan makes sure to come under the surface of the character, and this starts a process.”
Though he’s from Sweden, Skarsgard works more in Hollywood and in Denmark and Norway than he does in his home country, with roles in “The Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy, “Angels and Demons” and “Mamma Mia.” He plays a scientist in Kenneth Branagh’s “Thor.”
“The offers I get from Sweden are more boring. The parts I get offered from Denmark and Norway are much more interesting,” says the thesp. “But hopefully, it’s about to change. Suddenly, I get scripts from new young Swedish directors.
“There are several new production companies in Sweden that make money producing commercials between features. This means that they can spend much more time developing the scripts. If you constantly have to have features in production, the work with the scripts will suffer. There is no time to get them right,” says Skarsgard, who also points out that helmers in Norway and Denmark have a much more collaborative approach, which has resulted in more interesting films.
“They have not had a heavy, wet auteur blanket hanging over them,” he says.
Meanwhile, in Sweden, a new generation of helmers “seems to support each other, like the Danes and the Norwegians do,” says Skarsgard, who says the exhibition industry is different in Norway vs. Sweden.
“Norway is a rather cool film country. The big advantage is that their cinemas are owned by the local councils, which means that even in the small cities, they get to see art movies from all over the world,” he observes. “In Sweden, we almost have a monopoly, with almost all cinemas owned by the same company. It is devastating for the distribution of art movies.”
After launching “A Somewhat Gentle Man” in Berlin but before going to the U.S. to film “Thor,” Skarsgard has a couple of days to shoot pickups on “The King of Devil’s Island,” a fact-based story directed by Marius Holst. Who comes from? Norway, of course.