The Guardian have just released a new interview with Alexander – From True Blood to Tarzan – How Alexander Skarsgard Swung Into Hollywood
I’m tall in Sweden,” says Alexander Skarsgård, lounging across a conveniently oversized sofa. “But I’m huge in Hollywood.” He’s not kidding: at 6ft 4in, he’s even taller in the flesh than he appears on screen. This must make film parties particularly awkward for people who find themselves pitching projects – or even just chatting – to his navel.
His height, in an industry full of titches, and his unmistakably Swedish looks, have helped Skarsgård stand out from the pack. He was perfect for a small turn in Zoolander as one of Ben Stiller’s buddies, and his imposing presence led to a breakout role in the vampire TV show True Blood. It also makes his turn in new movie The Diary of a Teenage Girl, in which his character has an affair with his girlfriend’s 17-year-old daughter (5ft 2in), even more shocking. The coming-of-age drama, which also stars Kristen Wiig and British newcomer Bel Powley, recently gained an 18 certificate in the UK for its explicit sex scenes, a decision its director has denounced.
Skarsgård’s own teenage years can be split into two chapters. “The first was when I was a young teenager and didn’t go out much, just hung out at home and played video games. The girls in our class, we weren’t cool enough for them and they found some older dudes with Vespas and moustaches. My late teens were wilder. I discovered partying.”
As Skarsgård turned 21, he made the unlikely decision to leave Stockholm and live in Leeds for six months. Unlike many international students, he was unperturbed by the British student lifestyle. “I don’t know if you’ve ever been,” he says of his homeland, “but they take their partying pretty seriously.” Leeds was just what he needed at the time: “A real tough working-class town.”
After he returned home, a career in Swedish film followed, but it wasn’t until his role as Eric Northman, the 1,000-year-old bar-owner in True Blood, that he reached a wider audience. Outside the small screen, he’s mostly stuck with smaller fare but he went full blockbuster in 2012 with the critically derided Battleship – something he doesn’t regret. “I’m only in Battleship for 30 minutes. I get blown up pretty early on. I’m a fan of Pete Berg. I still think he’s a fantastic director and I actually had a lot of fun. I know it was a disappointment at the box office but it didn’t turn me off big movies.”
Skarsgård’s idea of a “good time on set” might be slightly at odds with the average actor’s, however. He worked withLars von Trier on the 2011 art-apocalypse dramaMelancholia and quickly bonded with a director Nicole Kidman described diplomatically as “difficult” and who turned Björk off acting for ever. “People cracking jokes, having a laugh,” he says. “It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It was as close to doing theatre as you can get.”
He’s now after what every actor appears to be looking for: a franchise. His father, fellow von Trier survivor Stellan, has attached himself to the Marvel cinematic universe, cropping up in both Thor films, as well as the Avengers outings. While Skarsgård hasn’t ruled out joining him (“If you do it with the right tone, then sure”), for the moment he’s set his sights on another type of superhero. Next summer, he’ll be the lead in a new Tarzan movie, heading a starry cast that includes Samuel L Jackson, Margot Robbie and Christoph Waltz. While he won’t reveal whether we’ll hear the iconic Tarzan call (“Maybe, maybe not”), he does suggest the retelling will surprise some.
“When you first meet Tarzan, he’s buttoned up in a three-piece suit in Victorian England,” he says. “So it’s reversed – instead of it being about taming the beast, it’s about the beast within. There’s the dichotomy of functioning in a civilised society where you politely wait at the post office for your turn, but also being an animal with everything that contains. I can relate to it. I think every human being can.”
So Skarsgård will soon be yet more visible at those Hollywood shindigs, surrounded by even more hangers-on eyeballing his bellybutton. At least he’ll have some fellow Swedes for support: the rise of actors such as Alicia Vikander,Joel Kinnaman and Noomi Rapace suggests LA is undergoing something of a Scandinavian invasion. “There are a lot of Swedes in Hollywood in general,” he agrees. “We have a tendency to know each other and help each other out.”
And go for meatballs at Ikea? “Of course! We drive there in our Volvos listening to Abba.”