Director Lars von Trier doesn’t have the best reputation as an actor’s director (he also doesn’t have the best reputation as a public speaker, but that’s a conversation for another time). He supposedly fought with Nicole Kidman on the set of “Dogville” and the star definitely didn’t return for the film’s sequel, “Manderlay” (she was replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard). For years, rumors swirled that Bjork vowed never to act in a film again after the grueling experience making von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark.” She later claimed she never wanted to act at all but made an exception for von Trier. Then again; she has acted a couple more times, including in the film “Drawing Restraint 9,” so who knows.
What I do know is talking to the cast of von Trier’s “Melancholia,” which opens this Friday, gives you a different portrait of von Trier. Maybe his style has changed, maybe his mindset has changed, but to a man (and woman) they all relished the experience of working with him. “True Blood” star Alexander Skarsgard wanted to act for von Trier so badly, he did something he’s never done before: he took a role without reading the script first.
“When I got the phone call,” Skarsgard told me, “I just said yes immediately. I hadn’t even read the script, I didn’t even know what he wanted me to do, if he wanted me in front of the camera or to take care of craft services. I just wanted to be there, you know? It’s the first time ever that I’ve said yes to something without reading it.”
The press might have created this image of Lars the Directorial Monster, but Skarsgard knew otherwise from family experience; his father, Stellan Skarsgard, has worked with von Trier on numerous occasions (he also appears in a small role in “Melancholia”). Being “such a huge fan” and hearing about “my dad’s experiences working with him” convinced the younger Skarsgard that he “didn’t want to miss out.”
In the film, Skarsgard plays Michael, newly married to Kirsten Dunst‘s Justine. The couple arrive for their wedding reception, but everything is not quite as peachy keen as it first appears (that bright glowing speck in the sky called Melancholia isn’t as harmless as they all think at first either). Skarsgard says the secret to von Trier’s approach is the reality he brings to these scenes. “The characters are real,” he added. “They’re amazing. There’s depth there. There’s darkness. And it’s always fun to dive into that and explore that.”
Skarsgard told me he loved the experience of working with von Trier so much that he’d jump at the chance to do it again. But von Trier’s next movie is “Nymphomaniac,” a story of “the sexual evolution of a woman from birth to age 50,” that the director has vowed will feature hardcore shots of sexual penetration. If von Trier asked you to appear in “Nymphomaniac,” I asked Skarsgard, would you do it?
“I think my dad’s gonna be in it. But then Lars said, ‘I’m not gonna let you have sex in it.’ Dad was very disappointed. He was like ‘Lars, why not?!?'”
Okay, but what about Alexander? I asked again.
“I want to work with him again. Of course.”
So there you go, Skarsgard fans. He’s up for a hardcore sex film. Start your letter writing campaigns to Lars von Trier now!
Here are some excerpts from my video interview with Alexander Skarsgard: