Cafe Magazine - No. 9, 1998

Hollywood’s Lonely Hero

Far away from home, at the coast of the Pacific Ocean, a father of six is involved in a battle for life or death with a four-ton mechanical shark. The gringo of Cafè, Håkan Lövström, goes to a Mexican dump to save Stellan Skarsgård – who is becoming the biggest Swede in Hollywood since Greta Garbo.

The Mark on the Manhattan Upper East Side is one of those hotels so exclusive that it doesn’t even need a fancy entrance. The benefit of such a classy hotel is that the janitor doesn’t make a face or grin to reveal his thoughts about a Swedish reporter walking around in flip flops and an old t-shirt with a Stax-print. He even helps me locate the discreetly hidden elevator button when he realizes I’m headed to suite 411.

This is where record and movie companies usually hide their biggest stars, and I swallow both once and twice in the elevator. In the hotel hallway, there are small niches with lust-filled sculptures so inviting that my first impulse is to walk up and touch the soft shapes. But I pull myself together, and try not to forget the room number: “411, 411, 411…” What if I knocked the wrong door and Leonardo DiCaprio or Harrison Ford opened? But it’s alright. After just one knock, Stellan Skarsgård is standing there with a Heineken in his hand asking, with his renowned talent for opening lines:

"What would you like to drink?"

And in time, Skarsgård also reveals the story behind one of the most provocative opening lines in a Swedish movie ever. In the opening for Harry och Sonja, Skarsgård comes driving in a car. The mood of this failed barber becomes obvious with the first word of the movie: "Cunt!"

"I came up with that myself, since 'cunt' had never previously been the opening line in a movie," Stellan laughs.

It was the same thing with all the incredible curse words in Zero Kelvin: they were never scripted, but Stellan felt that the ass he was playing needed them.

To change the script, bring ideas and to be generally involved in the production has become a calling card for Stellan Skarsgård's journey to fame in Hollywood. In Good Will Hunting he plays a professor who writes a near impossible equation on the board in his school. When the complicated problem is solved the next morning, it turns out to none of the top students are responsible. The genius is instead a cleaner (Matt Damon) who we follow in a slightly different story of success.

According to the script, Stellan Skarsgård's character was meant to support the main characters played by Robin Williams and Matt Damon.

"But Stellan came in and reworked the character and script in a wonderful way. I’d love to work with him again," says Matt Damon who also worked on the script. Skarsgårds character ended up being so important that Miramax added his name to ads, mentioning his roles as worthy of Oscar nominations.

Earlier this fall came another sign of Stellan's growing Hollywood-status. The most powerful film critics in America, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, spent a good portion of their show talking about our Swedish star, saying things like “he will have his big breakthrough during this coming year, Skarsgård has intelligence, intensity, an original look and a presence which is gripping”. In the same way, Stellan received credit from his friend Robert DeNiro during the film festival in Venice: “He’s a brilliantly intelligent actor. I hope we can work together again.”

In the Frankenheimer-directed thriller Ronin, soon opening in Sweden, Stellan is working with Jean Reno, new star Natasha MacElhone and DeNiro himself. All four play old agents who stand without employers. Now they decide to make one last hit which ends in a magnificent and thrilling car-chase drama. When we manage to get across the wall of studio people saying no, and get into the elevator up to Stellan, it’s the weekend before the film opens in New York. The MGM studio has had stars flown in from across the world for a very long day with the American media. He’s exhausted.

What did you say? You did 40 TV-interviews just today?

"Yes, I did 40 in a row - it drives you crazy."

It has to be all the American TV networks then?

"Yeah, you get damn worn out. DeNiro and Jean Reno were also here and did interviews. But DeNiro left, he had to learn tango for a new role."

What do American reporters ask you about?

"They only get five minutes each. So they ask things like: 'What was it like to do the car chases?' It’s apparently the best car chases ever made. It’s a hell of a lot of cars. And it’s all real, nothing fake at all. And then they ask how you’ve approached your character. The guys we’re playing are pretty mystical because of their backgrounds. Almost everyone asked me what it’s like to work with DeNiro and Frankenheimer. What was the project's appeal... A couple, like CNN, also ask me about the Lewinsky-story."

And what did you answer?

"That it’s awful when the greatest democracy in the world, with the finest constitution, gets its political life reduced to this level by a man named Kenneth Starr. And I have another answer which is even better: It sucks that a man’s perverted sexuality can stun the political life in the world’s greatest nation. And by that I’m of course referring to the perverted sexuality of Kenneth Starr. I think it’s really damn awful. I might not be a big fan of Clinton, but this is almost beginning to look like McCarthy. This story involves three people. Clinton, Lewinsky and Clinton’s wife. And the only person in the world who was the right to question him is his wife."

Stellan begins to list the things he has to get done during his few days in New York. He mentions meeting his agents…meeting a French director…a costume-fitting…dinner with Robert DeNiro… He says it in an ordinary way. Stellan apparently doesn’t think that grabbing a bite with Robert DeNiro is anything special, but I still have to ask him if a thing like that doesn’t make you nervous.

"No, no, we know each other. He’s been over at my house and had breakfast," Stellan says without taking his eyes off the calendar.

I later find out that they had a wonderful meal at the Japanese gourmet-restaurant Nobu, owned by DeNiro. Stellan doesn’t say more than that about the friendship between him and “Bobby”.

"I never speak about my private relationships, and that’s why I’m not going to give you any gossip on how De Niro is in private. But he adds that he completely understands my interest, and would love to help formulate an answer that even I find suitable.

"Let’s agree that I say this: I don’t talk about my family or about DeNiro."

Stellan Skarsgård has a very hard time saying no and letting other people down. That’s why we a week earlier, at 5:30 in the morning, we're standing right outside the huge villa he rented by the Mexican beach. On the road a couple of yards away, the cars rattle by without lights even though it’s still dark. When I mutter something about it being damn early, Stellan calmly replies:

"I hear you don’t have any kids."

Stellan himself has six kids between ages 2 and 22, and has woken up at dawn a number of times. But this morning is extremely early because he wants us to meet him a bit longer than the ten minutes set to interview him and the other big star of the movie, Samuel L Jackson.

When we’ve closed the door of Stellan’s silver grey Pontiac, he drives away so fast that the photographer Per-Anders Pettersson can’t keep up in his slow rental car. We travel south along the coast of Mexico, a part which is largely occupied by Americans. Here you can find Fox Baja Studios, with the world’s largest over and underwater pools made for filming. From outside the facility looks like some top secret military base, where the bigger of the two pools reaches all the way out to sea. It was in that giant pond that the exact replica of Titanic could be found when they shot the movie by the same name.

Now the uncrowned king of action movies, Renny Harlin, has taken over the facility. He is directing Deep Blue Sea with Stellan Skarsgård starring as the scientist Jim Whitlock. He is called in when his former student, the beautiful Dr Susan MacAlester (Saffron Burrows), is attempting to solve the mystery of cancer by manipulating sharks genetically. But everything goes awfully wrong in the floating lab on the Pacific, and the huge mutated sharks gain the intelligence of dolphins. To quote the press material of the studio: “Researchers have been playing God, and now Judgment Day has arrived…”

When I enter the lab they’ve built, the dreaded shark has just ripped off Stellan’s arm. Renny Harlin is asking the computer engineers from Edge Innovations to show him the lightning swift bite of the shark over and over again. You can tell they’ve spent millions to make the 9,000 pound shark look as realistic as possible. Even if Renny Harlin wants to demonstrate that he’s added a lot of dialogue to this movie, it’s obvious that the shark is the main event.

Doing action against big sharks, how much can you develop a role like that?

"Well, you can at least get something into it. Like the man I played in Good Will Hunting, if you look at that as a role, it’s pretty ridiculous. It has only one function. With that you get to work hard to give it some dimension, so people can at least watch it.:"

But in this shark flick?

"Yeah, it won’t be much in this. But you can give off moments of life, which makes you wonder 'oh, maybe he has a past too – and maybe he wasn’t born ten minutes ago after all?'"

For the sake of the interview, we’re now sitting at a dusty parking lot, watching the first rays of light appear over the dry Mexican hills. Stellan rather give interviews early in the morning than late at night, that’s when he wants time to have dinner with his family. Both at home and while working, he has a great need for continuity and time with the people he cares about.

"I’m very much addicted to feeling good on the set. To feel safe, and to feel like I’m among friends. So people travel - they come and go all the time. I’ve had cousins and other relatives here. A while ago, 16 people came over at once.

Saffron Burrows and the other actors tell me that you’re the rock they lean against.

"Yeah, I do want my co-actors to feel good. But it’s not only to be nice. I feel better if I know they are feeling better. And the acting will also improve. At the same time it’s damn tough. My neck cramps up two weeks before I start shooting, and my blood pressure goes up a lot. I feel pretty bad before I get going; before I find my role and the transition into it. And I also need to find the social balance that I need on the set."

Has Hollywood become a routine?

"Yes, it’s been almost 15 years since I first worked in Hollywood (Noon Wine, 1985), but I think it just keeps getting harder and harder."

Is that because expectations are rising?

"For one thing, the expectations in my surroundings rise. But that can also help you. They have a respect to begin with, which can help you create a certain atmosphere. But then it’s got to do with your own expectations."

You are impressed that DeNiro can remain humble when everyone wants a piece of him. How does it feel to be in the same situation?

"It’s hard because I can’t satisfy everyone, which I want to. But sooner or later, you begin setting up filters or barriers which you really don’t want. I would prefer to have my number in the phone book and live an ordinary life. But I can’t. I really hate not being able to be generous toward people. But it’s a balancing act. In order to survive, you need to limit your generosity when enough people want a part of you. I find that fucking painful. But at the same time, I know I’d be gone in a week if I didn’t do this. When Emily Watson got her big breakthrough in Breaking the Waves, her life almost fell apart. All of her days got torn apart because she had to meet the press. I speak to reporters while I’m working. When I’m off, I don’t. That’s a way to stay sane."

Emily Watson said you meet and have dinner every time she is in London. Do you discuss things like this then?

"Yeah, we might. I became as famous as a rock star when I was 16 and did Bombi Bitt och jag. There were screaming teenagers by my door and all of that. So I know some of the dangers and problems with stardom."

Did you get good use of the experiences from Bombi Bitt?

"Yeah, but my parents were also smart in dealing with it all. I learned to separate what is me and what is the public’s view of me. Because it’s really hard if you believe that the view that the press gives is true, or you try to live up to it – that is the most disastrous thing, because you’ll become so damn distanced. No matter how famous you are and no matter how many limousines you have, it’s still important to keep in contact with changing diapers."

Stellan Skarsgård himself got his first diaper changed in Gothenburg, where he was born. But his entire childhood was a mess of moving around, because his father Jan always wanted to gain rank in his different company jobs. From Totebo, Kalmar, Marielund in Uppland, Uppsala, Klagshamn, Malmö and Helsingborg to his first own apartment in Stockholm. Stellan kept changing school and classmates.

Were you a class clown?

"Nah, more like an old child. I was an intellectual little guy. Well, I was actually both. But at the same time I did lots of things that intellectual guys don’t. But I was smart for my age."

Did you get bullied?

"They couldn’t bully me. If someone was to hit me, I could turn around and tell everyone 'look how cowardly he is to attack a little guy like me', or 'if I hire someone as strong as you, can’t you fight him instead?' But sure, I took some punches too. I’ve never felt victimized. When I moved to Skåne and had the wrong dialect, some would probably attack me. But others would also defend me. And I also had some sort of basic trust with me from home, so I knew my own value. They couldn’t take that away from me. I also learned to pity the ones who fought me."

Through all the moving, little Stellan also became “bilingual” – when he first auditioned for the role in Bombi Bitt och jag, he was speaking basic Swedish (or “up-Swedish” as he calls it). But he only got the part when he auditioned with a local accent, and went on to become the first teen-idol in television.

Did you fulfil your father’s dream?

"Yes, he wanted to become an actor. But for me it wasn’t an ambition, it just happened."

But you did get into theatre at some point?

"Yeah, I did a little of it at school. The first play was “the kids who were coming to get spring” in the second grade. And then I started with ABF-theater in Malmö, and that was fun. But I never saw it as a career opportunity. I was going to be a fucking DIPLOMAT! On the other hand, it is fun to play someone else."

After Bombi Bitt, Stellan kept playing other people on stage or in films. In 1973, the director Torgny Wickman managed to get him for the film Anita by showing Stellan his large library and explaining the artistic value of his movies. In theatres it was advertised as a typical 70’s soft porn movie.

"I’m not ashamed at all for making it," Stellan says. "I needed the money. But I didn’t waste two hours to watch it, because I know it didn’t turn out good."

Stellan worked hard during the 70’s – movies like Janne Halldoff's Firmafesten and Bröllopet, and Vilgot Sjöman's Tabu – but not until 1982, and the filming of Hans Alfredssons Den enfaldiga mördaren, did the experienced actor get his big breakthrough in Sweden. The role also got him his first big international award: the Silver Bear from the Berlin film festival.

But while waiting for food in Mexico, Stellan is just one guy in a row of people involved. He scoops his plate full of the enormous buffet served out every day for the people on the set. He is not the kind of person afraid of fat.

"Fat and alcohol are the two best ways to carry taste, that’s just the way it is," he says. And then he gets into a discussion that it would be impossible to make a believable movie about the 50’s today. All actors have so trained bodies that nobody looks like that anymore. He also believes that most people who train today – Nicolas Cage, Wesley Snipes and many more, have a harder time acting and making their roles good with this focus on their bodies.

Stellan Skarsgård does not need a Nicolas Cage body. For these eight weeks alone of filming, he will receive 3.8 million Swedish crowns. At the same time, the final acts of election are going on back home in Sweden, and I wonder where a millionaire casts his vote.

"I won’t be voting this time, because I’d have to go down to the Swedish embassy in Mexico City with my voting card. But I’m not happy that the social democrats are selling our shared assets, like SJ and Telia. My left might ends up a bit more to the left. As it is today, even they are worshiping the market. The governments of the world can’t just sit around and watch as the people speculate about international currency brake one country at a time. There needs to be an international system of rules that gives the politicians the opportunity to decide over the economy in their country.

Stellan himself follows his own preaching, taxing away most of his millions.

"First of all, my manager and agent get ten percent each. And then Sweden gets fifty-five percent. But I’m not complaining about taxes. I’ve got six children who all need an education and healthcare."

The new owner of a high income isn’t that interested in his money. He still lives in the somewhat large apartment in Stockholm, and has no apparent plans for investment. He says that he consumes most things.

"When I get a lot of money, I begin feeling rich and invite both family and other people over to Mexico, for example. I spend most of the money."

If Stellan Skarsgård really wanted to make a fortune, he wouldn’t be throwing so many screenplays for Hollywood action movies in the trash can. During just these weeks in Mexico, his agent sent him about 15-20 screenplays to read through. But this didn’t make him react.

How do you plan your career? What do you look for when you get so many screenplays each month?

"I do not choose from a career standpoint. I open and read each script as if it were the only script. If I get excited, if it’s that good, then there is something about it. And then there are scripts that aren’t, well, exciting in other ways. Deep Blue Sea is a fun project. And that’s not because the script is…I didn’t react the same way when I read Deep Blue Sea as when I read Breaking The Waves, ok?"

Is this more because it’s fun to be in on it?

"This film does not help my career. It is fun to participate and you do get paid well."

You still like cool machines and “boy's toys”?

"Yes, of course. I am a boy. I’m not older than 13 mentally, and I love playing with these things. It can be very fun to figure out different solutions. Like how to stumble in front of the camera when you are bleeding to death. Really fun!"

More and more people are predicting an upcoming Oscar nomination soon. What would that mean?

"I’d have to go to that award ceremony again. I went when Oxen got nominated. But I’m not going again unless I have a chance to get something myself."

What do you think about the whole thing?

"It’s a lot of lottery. You can make an amazing performance as an actor, but it won’t help you unless the movie has a huge backing. So getting an Oscar costs millions. There are 5000 participants in that god damn academy. And one big distributor sends out 5000 tapes. Miramax also calls everybody up, asking if they watched the tape. And then they keep harassing the shit out of everybody. It’s a very costly effort to make an Oscar happen. A wonderful movie like Ice Storm, with brilliant acting and directing, isn’t even nominated. And Titanic receives eleven Oscars. But even if an Oscar isn’t a good measurement of how good something is, you’re damn happy if you get one. Even if 5000 people got helped into liking you, they still like you."

What does an Oscar mean financially?

"That you get more at once. But it also depends on the movies you make. The Oscar is on the side of what the big studios do anyway. It’s not like the people making the most money get Oscars automatically. I’m not sure if Bruce Willis got one. And Stallone didn’t get one during his Rambo period. So it’s not directly linked to that. But it’s of course meaningful if someone wants attention. And the movies you make get more financing."

Do you think your agents are planning to get you an Oscar nomination?

"Yeah, they’d probably like that. But in America alone, 600-700 movies are made every year. There are maybe 1000 English spoken movies a year. And in these movies, perhaps 5000 – 6000 actors that might get nominated. How many Swedes ever got Oscars? Ingrid Bergman, any other actor? Lena Olin and Max von Sydow got nominated.

But you’re already more famous than the last two. So shouldn’t you…?

"Yeah, I guess it would be unfair otherwise. For us Swedes at least. Yeah, I think we should send out a diplomatic note on it soon!

Do you have any producers or directors you’d want to work with?

"Yeah, I’m not even close to having worked with all the ones I want to work with. It’s been fun to work with old legends like John Frankenheimer (Ronin), and younger legends like Lars von Trier and Gus van Sant. But I’m keeping my eyes open for new ones coming, with their own new ways to look at film and still live in the every day world in a different way than the older and more established ones."

Any names?

"Jonathan Nossiter is an American director I will work with in Greece (Signs And Wonder will be shot in January-February). But I don’t have any hot list. I don’t watch enough movies either."

You had your own project as a director?

"Yeah, but we never got enough money. And we spent too much time. I wasn’t quite sure how things worked on that side. First I ran around and got some money together. And then Sandrews took over, and I thought it would work on its own. But it didn’t. They are very conventional and uninspired in the way they make money. So after two years, they were only missing a couple of million. They only go to their kind sources, while genius producers like Lars Jönsson can dig up money out of every dirt pile to accomplish what they want."

What would it have been?

"A triangle drama written together with my good friend Johan Günther. My wife was also involved in the writing."

Any chance it could happen?

"Yeah, but I’d have to get it out of the computer again, and I’m too tired for that. Gene Doumanian, Woody Allen’s producer, is very interested. But she wants me to rewrite it to be set in America. I didn’t like that idea. But I’m not looking to add “director” to my title. I’m still having fun as an actor. But I would be interested in seeing how it works – I know the raw director stuff, like placing the camera right, that’s nothing. But I’d like to see if I can do the hard part, which is to colour your work personally. To find your own voice in the language of cinema. That would be interesting. Anybody can learn the basics of the job."

Do you feel like the directors are supported by you?

"Yeah, I’m good at bringing ideas and opinions. Sometimes they are used, and sometimes they probably find them stupid."

Can you feel while shooting that this isn’t right?

"In that case, you’d have to do something about it. I should’ve noticed the flaws earlier then actually – when I was reading the script. But you can also feel that a scene doesn’t work. Then you put an effort into it to make it work."

And to have the guts to speak up?

"Yeah, but you have to, otherwise it won’t work. When we did Ronin, I told Frankenheimer that I didn’t like the dialogue. And explained to him how it could be improved."

Despite him being such a legend among directors?

"Yeah, he’s not bad. So I got a lot of changes made in the script. But some of my ideas weren’t liked by him at all. Then he began screaming 'nooo!!!' in his own timid way. And I think that’s absolutely right."

It’s not a matter of prestige for you?

"No, it can’t be. You need to make sure that there is no prestige, not for him and not for you. It is the dumbest thing you can get caught in."

It’s so damn hard to find any huge pride or cockiness in you. Are you perfect?

"Like hell. Stina Lundberg (formerly Dabrowski), who’s been with me a while here and done an interview for TV, was told: 'You either find out that Stellan is not perfect, or you get him to tell you how to be.' But I’m not a perfect person, not a perfect father, perfect husband, perfect lover. None of these. But damn it, I’m trying. Trying to make sure I don’t hurt people around me. Trying to add something positive about all my surroundings. And it’s really not easy. I have a damn good life. And I want to share my well being. But of course, I have anxiety and get uncertain of myself and all crazy when I start a new project. Nervous as heeell."

You don’t just stand at home on your street all harmonic, cooking?

"Harmonic is a totally bad description for me, because I’m really a neurotic high-energy person."

Stellan illustrates this by walking back and forth across the floor a few times. A priority when picking a hotel is that the room needs some walking distance. He is up in his room walking several times a day. His favourite hotel in Los Angeles is Chateau Marmont, because it’s made from old apartments with plenty of space when there is nothing to do. It’s a place that after being re-polished has become the area for Leonardo DiCaprio and his friends in Hollywood’s new young “pussy posse”.

But for most of this fall, the hotel rooms in Paris will be feeling Stellan’s feet. There - in the film Passion Of Mind - he will do his first Hollywood role as the lover of newly divorced Demi Moore.

"It’s a very interesting script by Ron Bass, one of Hollywood’s top writers. The director, Alain Berliner, has a very unique way to express himself. It will be interesting to see how he handles this material, and how he handles a Hollywood star like Demi Moore."

What about you?

"Nah, I’m not a Hollywood star. I’m just 'Skarsan' as always."

You’re the lover of Demi Moore!

"Yes. She has two lives, one in France and one in New York, and I’m her lover in Paris. The thing is that one of these lives is only a dream life she lives at night, and in the movie you don’t know which is which. A psychotic story."

Do you get to talk more in this?

"No, there’s no more talking than in Good Will Hunting. But it’s a character-driven film. More of me than in Deep Blue Sea. That’s one way to put it."

Speaking of Good Will Hunting, Stellan mentions what it’s like to work with Robin Williams.

"We were shooting a scene in a bar where I’m supposed to walk in and meet Robin, already standing at the bar. In one of the takes, it’s suddenly Jack Nicholson standing there waiting for me. Robin Williams is speaking and acting exactly like Jack Nicholson. I’m trying to be dead serious and act normally, but after 30 seconds I crack up laughing. I hope someone saved that take!"

In the car, going down south of Mexican Rosarito, Stellan gets some practice for another role - a musical by Lars von Trier. '105,5 Baja California, your old time hit station' is screeched out in the radio before hearing Elvis original version of Hound Dog. Stellan keeps up with it.

"Ju äjnt natting bat ö haound dog, krajiiin ål de tajm! Ju äjnt natting bat ö haound dog, krajiiin ål de tajm! Von Trier called me up here in Mexico and asked if I can dance too…I explained that I can’t dance or sing. But according to him, that can all be done digitally. It will be fun anyway. I told him we’d do something again after Breaking The Waves, but I didn’t think it would be a musical…

The movie will be called Dancer in the Dark, and Stellan will act with Icelandic singer Björk and – judging by the audition in our Mexican rental car – a piece of digital remix equipment just as big and advanced as the giant digital sharks in Deep Blue Sea.


"One of the best actors I’ve worked with. He’s background in theatre makes him so certain and skilled that everyone can learn something from him. I’ve spoken to him a lot while shooting Deep Blue Sea. But he hadn’t heard about that rule at your Swedish Grand Hotel – that you can’t have late guests at your room. When I was in Stockholm, my guests had to leave at eleven. What kind of policy is that in Sweden, which I thought was a liberated country?”  ...SAMUEL L JACKSON

"Even if Stellan is quite handy, I guess cars and engines are not his favourite things. Once at the end of the 80’s, we were going up to the summer place in Öland and Stellan had gotten a new car, a pretty sporty Opel. And the car suddenly dies on the freeway. We complain about it, saying that such things happen with new cars. After a while we get hold of a tow fellow, saying he’ll take us to his special garage. And four guys step out of a normal house, looking mostly like a team of surgeons, and they start tearing the engine up. After a while, when they look a little flabbergasted, Stellan asks: ‘Is that cable supposed to be loose like that?’ It was a cable for the solenoid or something. If he hadn’t seen it, we probably would have spent all night with those mechanics.” ...JOHAN HAMMERTH, Composer and resident of the Skarsgård home in 1980-1990

”We met when I started at Dramaten in 1977. Stellan was my first director’s assistant, and took care of me very well. He’s a rare thing in this business – he’s both a brilliant actor and a brilliant person. I couldn’t tell you how great he is. But he’s no saint – we’ve been through a lot of things that no newspaper could print. Just like other friends, I’ve been invited to visit him in different countries. But since I’m so busy working, I’ve never been able to go.” ...PETER ANDERSSON, Actor, one of Stellan’s best friends, and star of the show Anna Holt

”When he is not out shooting a movie, he’ll drop by my store almost every afternoon. And he won’t accept just any piece of meat. He had friends over once and was looking for some good beef, so I showed him the two pieces we had. Both newly cut and nice pieces. But Stellan complained about them and asked if we didn’t have anything else. Finally, a piece put way by our head chef went to Stellan. He paid 2,700 crowns, and joked that it was worth it, knowing that the chef would be without his dinner.” ...MATS KARLSSON, Part-owner of the meat and cheese store Södercheesen in Stockholm

”When I was four or five, I got a set of plastic toys with farm animals. One day when dad went away, I gave him a white plastic cow with black spots. He walked around with it in his pocket and eventually didn’t dare take it out. It became a thing of luck for him. It didn’t matter if he was doing Hamlet or a movie. With time, the legs were worn off and it just looked like a white lump of plastic with black spots. But about two years ago, he dropped his lucky cow on an Air-France plane. He called the company, and they had to search through the plane for the white lump of plastic. But they didn’t find it. So I guess now everyone travelling with Air France is blessed by the holy cow.”   ...ALEXANDER SKARSGÅRD, eldest son of Stellan's and also an actor

[Kindly translated by Robin Solsjö Höglund]