Words: Josh Woodfin
As career changes go, it’s impressive. Bored after high school and looking for a challenge, 34-year-old Alexander Skarsgård signed up to the Swedish military looking for adventure. He found it in an exhausting couple of years spent climbing, diving, running, shouting and being shouted at, in the small, icy islands on the outskirts of his home town of Stockholm.
And while that was character forming, it wasn’t quite right for the lanky thoroughbred. Yet despite U-turning on the military and following in his fathers footsteps (his dad is celebrated Swedish actor, Stellan Skarsgard), he soon found himself back in jackboots for his breakout role in HBO’s Generation Kill, which in-turn led to his most famous role as Eric, the cold as ice, club owning vampire in True Blood
FHM caught up with Skarsgard and tried not to feel jealous…
Did your time in the military help you with Generation Kill?
It helped tremendously. I play a sergeant, and I am a sergeant. All those little details I learnt were so valuable. But I can’t take credit for those lines, those were the real Brad Colbert, who I played. He’s such a hardcore marine, no bullshit, super intelligent, a leader of men, and an alpha male, but he was so dry and funny.
So you met him? Was that odd?
It was, when I met him I was nervous, I loved this guy, I lived the character, I was super nervous, but he couldn’t have been nicer. And that was great because it s tough, some fucking douche bag is playing him, and talking stuff about his past and it’s suddenly on an HBO show. He didn’t ask for any of that. He knew there was a journalist on the road, but you’re not editing yourself, you’re tired and your getting shot at. And then suddenly all this stuff was on a show.
Your character in
True Blood, Eric, is pretty cold. What was your inspiration for him?
Well, I was watching this David Attenborough show while I was preparing for season one. It was about lions in Africa, and there was this moment when a huge lion was just chilling, he was so relaxed, and he looked at the camera, and man, he just fucking stared you out. It was so cool because you didn’t know if he was going to attack or fall asleep.
He just stared at the camera guy and I was mesmerised. So Eric is supposed to be this powerful old menacing vampire, and I thought it would be cool to play it relaxed. He’s so fucking confident he doesn’t need to be loud or big or aggressive.
I wanted to recreate the feeling that you didn’t know if he’s going to rip someone apart or fall asleep.
He’s pretty relaxed. Fond of a tracksuit as well, which is unlike most of these la-di-dah vampires…
That’s my favourite outfit on the show. When I read the first episode of the second series I thought that it would be good if Eric dressed like an Italian Gangster from New Jersey. In season one there’s a lot of dressing up, so I thought it would be fun if when people see him when he’s just doing shit in his office, he’s just chilling and walking around in a tracksuit. Plus I really like the idea of ripping a guy apart in flip flops.
Vampire did his best to intimidate the garlic bread
You do a fair few nude scenes, is that not uncomfortable?
No, I don ‘t really care about that stuff, if it makes sense in the script, I really don’t care. You don’t get turned on. It’s such a technical environment. They make it look sexy, but it’s definitely not. You have a sound guy five inches away from you, a camera in your face. It’s not a sensual moment.
True Blood has some pretty, shall we say, dedicated fans. Ever had any problems?
I don’t have a mailbox, and I’m not listed. The fans are devoted yes, it’s a serious business for them. But I haven’t had any bad experiences. Its just amazing that the fans will fly five thousand miles for an autograph. That says a lot, and it’s very, very flattering.
Without the fans, we wouldn’t be doing this. You really can’t get complacent. You can’t get to the stage where you don’t have time to stop and sign an autograph.
You used to live in Leeds for a spell. How did you enjoy the jewel of the North?
That’s right. I went to Leeds Metropolitan University. Me and my buddy, after the military, we wanted to travel, and we wanted to go to England, but we didn’t want to go to London, because there are like 300,000 Swedes in London and you just end up hanging out with Swedes, so we just looked at the map and saw Leeds.
We didn’t know anything about it other than it had a football club. So we were like, ‘alright, lets go there.’ I loved it. I had a great time. We lived in a basement with no windows, it was sleeping bags for six months, but it was all good times. We didn’t want to meet Swedes, and we didn’t see one in six months.
You’re currently working on Battleships, a film based on a board game that dads like. How was that?
Well, before I went onto that, I did a Lars Von Trier film that was really low budget and handheld camera, and it was a fun contrast to go from that to this big beast of a production with 45 cameras, cranes and big ships and stuff.
We’re shooting in Pearl Harbour, in Hawaii and we’ve been on the USS Missouri, where WWII officially ended when the Japanese surrendered. There have been some pretty memorable days.
You’re also in the remake of Straw Dogs, which is famous for making the world think Cornwall is full of psychos. That’s not going to be very funny is it?
It is quite different from the first one, but it will be interesting to see what people think. I’m really keen to see what the reactions going to be. My decisions are all made on the director and the script, I don’t care, I have to follow my gut feeling.
True Blood: The Complete Third Season is out on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday 23 May