Given that he’s the son of Swedish thesp Stellan Skarsgard — and the younger brother of “True Blood” heartthrob Alexander — it’s not surprising that 21-year-old Bill caught the acting bug early. He made his screen debut at 9, and later earned attention for a string of supporting parts — most notably in the second installment of Peter Flinth’s broadswords franchise “Arn” in 2008, and Carl Astrand and Mats Lindberg’s comedy “Kenny Begins,” the following year.
“Acting was always there, it’s true,” he laughs. “But for a long time, in my teenage years, I wasn’t sure about it — not because I didn’t like it, but I didn’t want people to think I hadn’t earned it. Sweden is a small country and, well, our family’s pretty prominent in that world, I guess. And I really didn’t like the sound of just being ‘the fourth acting Skarsgard.’ I needed to be myself and find my own identity.”
It was his lead perf in Hannes Holm’s “Behind Blue Skies,” as a troubled young man searching for a father figure, that clinched it (“just the thrill, I think, of creating that character from scratch”); and he followed it with another tour de force,in Andreas Ohman’s Oscar-shortlisted “Simple Simon” (2010). Portraying a character afflicted with Asperger syndrome, he admits, came with certain responsibilities: “I did a lot of research, for sure — I wanted to be as truthful as I could. But Asperger’s varies so much from one person to another, that I didn’t feel like I had to portray the entire scope of the syndrome. I just had to find one character, and his own particular truth.”
Last year he starred in Lisa Ohlin’s “Simon and the Oaks,” as a Swedish youth discovering his Jewish birthright in the aftermath of WWII. English-lingo auds will soon catch him in Joe Wright’s adaptation of “Anna Karenina,” where he will play Capt. Machouten opposite Keira Knightley and Jude Law.