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Part II: Stellan Skarsgard talks about 'Nymphomaniac' and Lars von Trier

Part II (click here for Part I)

Stellan Skarsgard
Dorri Olds

He seems to almost not care what people think.

If there is something you are not supposed to say or do, you have to do it, like Tourette’s. You can’t take the lack of freedom and expression so you have to go there. He’s also interested in seeing how far he can take cinema in using other ways of telling stories. Most of all he is a storyteller, a teller of fairytales — but for adults.

He does care what people think, though. I was with him in Berlin when we shot the first long version of “Nymphomaniac” and he was so nervous he was shaking before the screening. Then it was such an incredible reception. People laughed and they were in on everything. I’ve rarely ever seen a happier director. So, yes, he cares but he also has to make the audience feel unsafe. Like the ending that you see in “Nymphomanic: Volume II,” as soon as the audience thinks they feel safe and start to lean back in their chair and say, “Ok, I got this,” he has to go in there and mess it up a little. I think it’s his way of showing people that life is not sweet and easy. I like it. Directors all want you to listen to them expressing themselves. Lars is expressing himself and very candidly so in the film. It’s all him.

Do you feel nervous when you meet a new cast on a movie set?

Every time I say yes to a film I panic. I’m constantly fighting fear because I have to feel comfortable and safe on a film set. Fear sort of shuts you down. The cast isn’t usually what’s frightening. The director isn’t either. It’s the situation. If you have a situation on the set where you have some weird actors and a weird director and they’re fighting and screaming and the atmosphere on the set is horrible then it’s very hard to do something good.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor.

I still haven’t decided. I wanted to become a diplomat and I haven’t given up on that yet. I still act because I started as a child actor and I enjoyed it and I still enjoy it and as long as I enjoy it I will continue. Then when I grow up I’ll see what I want to be.

Do you have a preference between “Nymphomaniac: Volume I” or “Volume II”?

I hope you get to see the five-and-a-half hour movie. That’s the only one I’ve seen and it was in one run.

Really? You sat all the way through it?

Well, I ran out and peed. [Smiles] After it was over I still wanted to see two more hours.

Magnolia Pictures will release “Nymphomaniac: Volume I” in theaters March 21, 2014. It is now available on iTunes and On Demand.

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