“True Blood” star Alexander Skarsgård has gained American heartthrob status as the show’s thousand-year-old Viking vampire Alex, but even if the role is clearly make-believe, the Nordic charm is all his. Son of famed actor Stellan Skarsgård, the Stockholm-born thespian has a long and storied career in his homeland, from becoming a child actor to being named the sexiest man in Sweden circa 1999. Not to be confused with his upcoming part in Lars von Trier’s highly anticipated sci-fi flick “Melancholia,” Skarsgård the younger’s latest project is director Tarik Saleh’s highly stylized, animated sci-fi flick “Metropia.”
Set in a dystopian world of the not-far-off future where the world’s resources are running out and the metro system connects all of Europe, “Metropia” concerns a newly paranoid Swedish everyman Roger (voiced by Vincent Gallo) as he begins to hear a voice in his head that isn’t his own. In fact, it’s Stefan’s (enter Skarsgård), a company man who begins to have second thoughts about his government gig monitoring citizens and their inner thoughts. While on the set of “True Blood,” now shooting its third season, Skarsgård called me to talk Glögg parties, filthy cartoons, and his real-life stint as an anti-terrorist marine.
This may be a general worldview question, but if things continue as they are, could you see the world becoming as dystopian as it is in “Metropia”?
[laughs] Hopefully not. But we’re headed in a direction where big corporations take over more and more. People in Western Europe and especially in the States have some distrust, a feeling that the government doesn’t really represent the people, that they’re almost like an enemy now. In a weird way, people almost trust Coca-Cola more than their own government. This new law that the Supreme Court passed where there’s no cap on how much big corporations can pump into election campaigns, it definitely means that corporations will have so much more impact.
It was already slanted through the leverage that they had versus the average guy. It’s harder for individuals to make their voices heard now. So I’m not going to take us down the road to “Metropia,” but what I was fascinated and intrigued by when I read the script was that it wasn’t science fiction! [laughs] I could draw parallels to our society today — a city like London, where they have something like 50,000 CCTV cameras, so you’re always being watched. With blogs and Twitter and Facebook, people always keep track of each other in a quite disturbing way.
Your character is quite the company man, even though he does show some heart. Could you relate to his role in life, or do you have more anti-authoritarian inclinations?
I’m slightly more anti-authoritarian than Stefan, but I definitely understand him. I played the guy, so I have to understand him, make him believable, and back him up. He is a little guy caught in this spider web, you know? He’s just trying to do his job, like a lot of people working for huge corporations who are trying to survive and feed their families. In Stefan’s case, he doesn’t really reflect on the moral issue of what it is he’s doing or where society has gone.
All animated films are different and this has such an idiosyncratic style. What was the voice work process like, from coming up with your vocal characterization to the technical process?
I’ve done animated movies before, but the thing that was amazing about this was we recorded it two years before Tarik started to animate, and then he spent two years finishing the movie. I’ve never had that luxury before. The stuff that I’ve done was already animated. You come in, watch it on a big screen and try to lip sync. You’re more confined in terms of hitting certain beats or timing. This was just me and Tarik in the room, so we could play around. If something wasn’t working, I could ad-lib, adding or dropping a line if I wasn’t happy with it. It was a great experience.
You’ve been friendly with Tarik for a while. How were you introduced?
I met Tarik in Los Angeles five years ago through some mutual Swedish friends. We celebrated Christmas together here in L.A, and I got kind of an instant man crush on him. He’s such a brilliant and interesting man. He was out here for two weeks, I believe, and we just had amazing conversations and talked about everything and nothing. We spent hours and hours discussing his idea for “Metropia.”
Then I went to Africa to shoot “Generation Kill,” this miniseries I did, and it was when I was out in Africa when he called: “We’re recording now, is there any chance we can get you in the studio?” I was down there for seven months, but I had a weekend off, so I flew to Stockholm, went into the studio, spent a day and a half with Tarik, then flew all the way back down to Namibia.