WHO IS STELLAN SKARSGÅRD?

As one of the most prominent film actors to have emerged from Sweden, Stellan Skarsgård drew favorable comparisons to the likes of fellow Swedish thespian Max von Sydow. Though relatively unknown in the United States for the first half of his career, Stellan introduced himself to American audiences with a memorable performance in Philip Kaufman's erotic drama, "The Unbearable Likeness of Being" (1988). But it was his performance in Lars von Trier's art house hit "Breaking the Waves" (1996) that propelled him into stardom. From there, he gained widespread recognition for performances in high-profile films like "Good Will Hunting" (1997), "Amistad" (1997) and "Ronin" (1998), though by no means did he become a household name. Stellan did, however, earn the respect of his peers and the allegiance of theater goers who recognized in this brillian and complicated actor an innate ability to transform himself and become the part he played onscreen. Despite his penchant for the art house, he segued into blockbuster features, such as two installments of "Pirates of the Caribbean", playing the barnacled ghost Bootstrap Turner allowing him to display his considerable talents to worldwide audiences of all ages.

Born June 13, 1951 in Göteborg, Sweden, Stellan began his acting career as a child, but became a star as a teenager with his first leading role in the Swedish television miniseries, "Bombi Bitt och jag" (1968). After making his film debut in "Strandhugg I Somras" (1972), he joined the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, where he stayed for the ensuing 16 years. In between stage productions, he continued to appear on screen. One of his first leading roles was in the erotic drama, "Anita, Swedish Nymphet" (1975), which he followed with "Tabu" (1976). He won a Silver Bear Award at the 1982 Berlin International Film Festival for "The Simple-Minded Murder/Den Enfaldige mördaren" (1981), in which he played a young man with a hairlip who is beaten down by a rich Nazi landowner to the point where he is taken in by kindly neighbors, only to take his revenge on his tormentor and spiral his life out of control.

Though not yet a known commodity in the United States, Stellan was rapidly becoming a major star in his native Sweden. After a supporting role in the dark thriller "Falsk som vatten" (1985), he played the son of a landowner who spent years forcing a young woman to bear his children based on a misinterpreted Biblical passage in "Ormen's vag pa halleberget/The Serpent's Way" (1986), then soon followed with the light children's comedy "Jim och piraterna blom/Jim and the Pirates" (1986). He had a leading role in the plodding romantic comedy "Hip, Hip Hurrah!" (1987), then followed with a supporting role in "Friends" (1987), an absurdist comedy. Following a turn in the 16th century set thriller "Vargens tid/The Age of the Wolf" (1988), he played a burdensome forensic scientist butting heads with a world-weary inspector trying to find the attacker of an employee of a member of India's upper caste.

By the end of the 1980s, he had begun to appear in international films, playing an engineer in "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" (1988) and a Soviet submarine commander in "The Hunt for Red October" (1991). After appearing in "Slingshot" (1993), he starred in "Breaking the Waves" (1996), playing Jan, an oil rig worker who becomes paralyzed in a freak accident and asks his wife to have sex with other men and tell him about her experiences, causing her to spiral into a pit of despair and tragedy. "Breaking the Waves" earned critical kudos and numerous awards, though Stellan remained overshadowed by Watson's tour-de-force performance. Meanwhile, he landed the male half of the title role in "Harry and Sonja" (1996), then co-starred in the British-made satirical comedy "My Son the Fanatic" (1997). He continued to flourish, co-starring in "Savior" (1997), Steven Spielberg's period drama "Amistad" and "Good Will Hunting" (1997), playing a professor who mentors a math whiz. Mainstream Hollywood beckoned him further and he found himself in "Ronin" (1998), "Deep Blue Sea" (1999), "The Glass House" (2001), "The House on Turk Street" (2002) and "King Arthur" (2004), while continuing to appear in experimental indies like Alain Berliner's "Passion of Mind" (2000) and Mike Figgis' "Timecode" (2000).

Among a steady slate of non-Hollywood projects, Stellan also reunited with Von Trier for "Dancer in the Dark" (2000), the director's acclaimed take on the Hollywood musical which focused on a Czech immigrant who dreams of being in a musical while struggling to keep secret a genetic disorder that will eventually render her blind. Next they teamed on the unusual Danish television event "D-dag" (a.k.a. "D Day") (2000) as well as the feature "Dogville" (2003), Von Trier's period drama about a woman on the run from a group of gangsters. While he appeared in numerous Swedish television projects, Stellan made few forays onto the small screen in America, appearing in the never-was series, "Parker Kane" (NBC, 1990); starring as a union organizer who aides a coal miner's daughter in spearheading a long, bloody labor strike in "Harlan County War" (Showtime, 2000); as well as playing Theseus, King of Athens, in the made-for-cable miniseries, "Helen of Troy" (USA, 2003).

Given his career similarities to Max von Sydow, it came as no surprise that Stellan was cast as the younger version of von Sydow's character in "Exorcist: The Beginning" (2004). Hired by the film's original director, Paul Schrader, to play a young Father Merrin, he remained the only original cast member Schrader hired after the studio fired the director and the bulk of his cast before putting Renny Harlin in charge. In "King Arthur" (2004), Antoine Fuqua's so-called more realistic take on the ancient legend, he played the ruthless and bloody-minded leader of a band of Saxons invading the British Isles at a time when the Romans were rolling up the empire, leaving its people to fend for themselves. He next appeared in "Beowulf & Grendel" (2005), playing King Hrothgar of the Danes whose kingdom needs assistance from a Norse warrior to fend off the frightful monster, Grendel. Stellan then played the undead pirate Bootstrap Bill, father to Will Turner, in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (2006), a harrowing, energetic and worthy addition to the swashbuckling franchise that went on to break several box office records.

Before the third and last edition of "Pirates" was released, Stellan played controversial 18th century artist Francisco Goya in "Goya's Ghosts" (2006), a compelling biopic centered on a Spanish monk involved with the Inquisition who targets one of Goya's favorite models on suspicion of her being a heretic. He next plodded along in the "Saw" wanna-be horror-thriller, "WAZ" (2006), playing a haggard detective hunting down a serial killer who carves parts of a math equation into his victims. Stellan once again revived Bootstrap Bill Turner for "Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End" (2007).  He then went back to his native Scandinavia to make "Arn" (2008), an epic look at the Knights Templar during the 12th century.

Along came a rather surprising role when he was cast in the musical, "Mamma Mia" (2008), but as usual, Stellan stepped up to the plate and pulled off the singing and dancing like a pro. You could see he truly had fun on that Greek Island. The same year he starred in Duncan Ward's indie film, "Boogie Woogie" (2008), set in London among the world of international art dealers. He then turned to narrating by joining his son, Alexander, in providing voices for the Swedish sci-fi animation "Metropia" (2009).

His next role had him playing the leader of the Swiss National Guard in the Vatican mystery thriller, "Angels & Demons" (2009), directed by Ron Howard and based on Dan Brown's novel by the same name. Three indie films followed. He teamed up with Halle Berry, playing her shrink in "Frankie & Alice" (2009) and went on to do two highly successful Norwegian films. He re-joined his favorite Norwegian director, Hans Petter Moland, in the black comedy, "En ganske snill mann" (2010). It was one of Stellan's wackiest roles and won him significant recognition. He quickly went from funny to serious in his next role as a schoolmaster in Marius Holst's "Kongen av Bastøy" (2010), based on the true story of the infamous Bastøy Boys Home correctional facility in Norway.

It was back to Hollywood for a minor role in "Thor" (2011), the first film in the superhero series created by Marvel Studios. He would return a year later for the second film, "The Avengers" due out in May 2012. Before going on to the next blockbuster, he took a break and hooked up again with his Danish friend and director, Lars Von Trier,  for "Melancholia" (2011), a beautiful film about the end of the world. He was next cast in the crime thriller, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (2011), based on Stig Larssen's bestseller. This was not the original Swedish version though it was filmed in Sweden much to Stellan's delight. We all know Americans do not like reading subtitles so director David Fincher helmed the US version with Stellan playing an infamous member of the Vanger family.

At the end of 2011, he was in Brazil filming an international TV co-production called "Rouge Brésil" taking on the role of Admiral Villegaignon, who founded a colony in Rio de Janeiro back in 1555. At the start of 2012, Stellan had a change of pace with the Shakespearean drama, "Romeo and Juliet", playing the Prince of Verona, with filming in Italy. Next he hooked up again with co-stars Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth to do the true WW II story of POW Eric Lomax. 2013 proved a busy year with a continuing role in "Thor 2", a medieval period drama called "The Physician" (Aka Der Medicus) filmed in Germany, another collaboration with Danish director Lars Von Trier in his 2-part sex film called "Nymphomaniac", and another indie film from Norway with director Hans Petter Moland called "Kraftidioten".

Regarding his personal life, Stellan married My Gïnther in 1976 and the couple raised a family of six children - Alexander (August 25, 1976), Gustaf  ( November 12, 1980), Sam (June 5, 1982), Bill (August 9, 1990),  Eija (February 27, 1992) and Valter (October 25, 1995). Four of their children have become actors. After his divorce in 2007, he married Megan Everett two years later and together they have two sons, Ossian (April 26, 2009) and are expecting their second child in 2012.  (August 24, 2012)