DID YOU READ

Stellan Skarsgård’s Promise to Be “Gentle”

Stellan Skarsgård’s Promise to Be “Gentle” (photo)

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There are few actors as in demand these days as Stellan Skarsgård, who will be appearing in no less than three of the year’s most anticipated films — and strangely all with Scandinavian ties — in “Thor,” Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” and David Fincher’s adaptation of the “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Yet the film industry’s desire to cast him is no comparison to the odd pull he has on middle-aged women in “A Somewhat Gentle Man,” an idiosyncratic and distinctly Norwegian comedy about a recently paroled criminal who attempts to rebuild his life as a mechanic while reaching out to the family that he deserted and trying to ignore the entreaties of the gang he once served. Although he’s only moderately successful at both, Skarsgård’s Ulrik is unique amongst former thugs onscreen since he emerges from prison as a people pleaser, whether it’s looking out for the pregnant secretary at his garage or dutifully schtupping his landlady who never fails to heat him up a plate for dinner.

Incidentally, one shouldn’t underestimate the importance of a warm meal to Skarsgård, since as he’ll explain later he nearly gave up filming in his native Scandinavia because of the rigid lunch habits. For everyone’s sake, it’s good he didn’t since “A Somewhat Gentle Man” is the kind of low-key charmer he might not get offered anywhere else, given his reputation as a heavy, but one that seems true to who he is when he’s not on camera. A consummate gentleman when he called from his home overseas, the actor’s actor talked about his third collaboration with Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland, why he might make a solid obstetrician, working with David Fincher and how he became the unwitting patriarch of an acting dynasty.

You’ve done a couple of lighter films in recent years, but it’s not necessarily what you’re known for, so is it a nice thing for you to use different kinds of muscles?

No, it’s…I don’t know. I never get cast as it. Everybody thinks I’m so serious and the dark side is very accessible to me, so of course it’s a challenge to do something funny. Hans Petter Moland and I have done two films before that have been really realistic and dark, so nobody thought we could do a comedy, so we had to try. And of course, it’s a different kind of comedy. It’s more personal in that sense, but it has a lightness. It’s about humans, even if they’re caricatures in some ways.

01092011_StellanSkarsgard2.jpgI’ve read it took a little bit of time to develop the script and for you and the director to settle on this in particular. Was it a matter of striking the right tone?

Yes, that was the big problem. We’re always looking for things that we can do together because we work so well together and we have so much fun when we do it. So he sent me this script before Christmas two years ago and asked me if I was interested and I thought it was very, very funny. The people that had read it before saw it as a tragedy. [laughs] So I said, yeah, if we can do it within two months because I’m having a baby. So he raised the money in six weeks and then we shot it for six weeks.

The baby came a little early and fucked up our schedule, but in principle, it worked. But when we started working, we had rehearsals. I always rehearse with this director, which is very nice, not to decide everything, but to figure out the tone of the scenes and of course, all the actors started playing in their own films, very different films. So we had to find the tone for all the actors — they’re very good actors. It was easy to rein them in and get them to be in the same movie I was.

That’s interesting you were expecting a child when one of the story threads is about a father reconnecting with his son. Was there any special resonance for you?

No, not really. [laughs] The baby came during the shoot, so we closed down for three days. You can do that on small independent films. You can never do it on a big film. And it was very civilized. The only way our personal lives interfered with the film was that when the girl delivers her baby in my car. When we shot that scene, I was there and Hans Petter Moland, the director, he had six kids and I also had at the time also six kids, so we were trying to teach this girl everything about what it looks like and feels like to give birth. And that was a hilarious situation – two middle-aged men teaching a woman about how to give birth!

What was it like reuniting with Hans on this film? It’s been more than a decade since you last worked with him.

I didn’t know it was so long because it doesn’t feel like it and we talk frequently, so it feels like it was just a couple of years ago. But it feels fantastic because we know each other so well. We pull each other further than we usually go, both of us. We become a little braver together. That’s probably because we’re not alone. [slight laugh]

01092011_StellanSkarsgard5.jpgIs it true that you have a contract stipulation on your Scandinavian films to require a hot lunch?

Yeah. When you work in Norway, you actually have to have a contract about lunches because Norwegians don’t eat lunch normally, so they just throw out a loaf of bread and some coldcuts. And when I did “Insomnia,” I lost eight kilos, which is like 20 pounds during the shoot and that was not being method. That was just starving. And then I promised the Norwegian crews that I’ll never work in this country again unless we get good catering of the highest European standards. So I always have that in the contract that everybody should have good food and I reduce my salary to make it possible. But they don’t have it. It’s not in the tradition, not even the schoolkids have hot lunches in Norway. They bring a couple of sandwiches from home. But I can tell you the crews like it.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.