Hot in Hollywood

“I can afford to PASS UP Hollywood”
Alexander Skarsgard doing so well in the U.S. these days that he can choose smaller projects.

  • FACTS:
  • Who: Alexander Skarsgård.
  • Where: The Beverly Hills Four Seasons Hotel.
  • What: Launch of the fifth season of “True Blood”, which in Sweden is broadcast on 6 september.Hur he was: Alex is always schyst but depressed over the interview scheduled, while Italy and England played the quarterfinals of the European Football Championship.

Alexander Skarsgard on his career in the U.S., family and love
In the last year Alexander Skarsgard worked non-stop.
In addition to television current “True Blood”, he has four new films in the pipeline.
- Now I can afford to PASS UP Hollywood, he says.
When we meet in Beverly Hills brings us to the topic because that particular seat was something he dreamed about when he made the jump across the Atlantic many years ago.
Today he has reached the goal.
- Last year was the first time I could turn down more high paying jobs, and instead do what I am passionate about, he says.
Not able to go home
Alexander, 35, refers to the three upcoming films, “What Maisie knew”, “The East” and “Disconnect”.
- I wanted to work with the directors and such projects as Lars von Trier is doing, where you more or less pay to be with (laughs).
It also cost leisure. He says he has been working so much that he could not go home as often as he wished.
- But I will stand for five days when we’re done with the TV series. Then I’m going to Vancouver and the film “Hidden”.
Opted out of Sweden
It is a drama about a family who moves into a bunker to escape a mysterious epidemic.
- I had a choice between a summer in the Stockholm archipelago or a bunker. I chose the bunker, he says with a laugh.
But first, he hopes to catch a taste of the Swedish summer.
- I’m going to mom’s summer cottage in the archipelago, meet friends and my siblings. I have a brother who is three and when you are away for eight months is a long time.
Soon, another sibling of the world.
- Megan, Dad’s wife is pregnant so that is on the way. He runs hard, old man.
“The difference in girls’
Alexander himself is officially single.
But he does not seem to have no companion. Scarcely a day passes without the gossip columns in the United States claims that he has a new woman at his side.
- There is a difference between American and Swedish girls. In all cases in Hollywood, where people are much more aware of appearances.
But that makes him not to throw in the towel in the hunt for the right one.
- I think it’s okay as long as one stays away from the Hollywood scene.

by Magnus Sundholm for

Alexander Skarsgård vs. Jonas Åkerlund

The star of True Blood and Lars Von Trier’s upcoming Melancholia talks with the filmmaker about the Swedish conquest of Hollywood, national differences in etiquette, and why Swedes get so much sex.

Thu Oct 06 2011

What is it about Sweden that is making this far-flung country of less than 10 million people so culturally relevant right now? From Robyn and the Knife to the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Sweden has leaped ahead of its European neighbors and infiltrated America’s mammoth entertainment machine. We invited Alexander Skarsgård, best known for his role in HBO’s lusty drama True Blood, to sit down with director Jonas Åkerlund — whose seminal videos have included Madonna’s “Ray of Light,” Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” and Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi,” (which starred a then–largely unknown Skarsgård as Gaga’s paramour) — to help answer the question.

Out: As Swedes abroad, both working in the entertainment industry, you must feel like the go-to spokespeople for Sweden.

Alexander Skarsgård: I love my country. I always love talking about it, especially as an expat. When you live there you bitch about everything, but when you move away, all you remember is how amazing and wonderful it is. You remember all the sunny days and forget the rainy days.

Jonas Åkerlund: It was very rare to hear about Sweden, period, when I moved to Los Angeles in 1996. You were still mixed up with Switzerland. Now there’s Swedish music everywhere, actors and directors, everything, everywhere. And it didn’t used to be like that. You were very happy and proud when you heard Ace of Base on the radio.

Skarsgård: Not to mention all the songwriters and producers, as well as the musicians. Every other song on Billboard seems to be produced or written by a Swede.

Åkerlund: The one profession that was left behind was filmmaking, which is now catching up a little. Music and fashion has been out there for a while, but lately I’ve also begun to notice Swedish co-producers and directors working abroad.

Skarsgård: The reason I went to L.A. a few years ago was because the young interesting filmmakers didn’t get a chance to tell their stories or do their movies because the older generation, who were pretty mediocre filmmakers, were the only ones making movies in Sweden. That’s changed so much now. I’m excited about going back to Sweden to work with young, cool Swedish filmmakers. It’s really a vibrant industry. And now, for the first time, there are a lot of Swedes working on Hollywood projects, often on super low-budget films.

Åkerlund: But it becomes a trend — everyone wants a Swede now. Getting that opportunity is one thing, but living up to it or holding onto it is another thing.

Skarsgård: Exactly, we’re like the flavor of the month. Next month it will be Finland.

Åkerlund: Oh, never say that. Never Finland. It’s interesting, though, Alex. I met you at the Chateau Marmont. We looked around and there were, like, 10 Swedes around us, and not one Finn, no Danes. Wherever you go there are Swedes. But I rarely meet other Scandinavians.

Out: Is there anything that helps define a Swedish sensibility or identity?

Skarsgård: I think it has to do with minimalism in terms of everything. There’s a lot going on under the surface. It’s something hidden. And that’s always interesting to me. You have to dig deeper. It’s like a duck — calm on the surface, but paddling like a motherfucker underneath.

Åkerlund: It all depends on where you are in the world. It’s easier for a Swede to stick out in America than, say, Italy or France, because their personalities are so different. The one thing we learn is we don’t really talk much about what we’re doing — we just do it. And that’s the biggest difference between us. In America, people talk a lot. I never talk; I just work. To me, to be on time and to deliver on time and stay on budget, and not just say, “Let’s do lunch,” but actually call up and book a lunch — that makes you different.

Skarsgård: There’s something about the sincerity that I miss in America. When someone asks, “What do you think of this painting?” or “How do you like these shoes?” I would take a second and actually look at the shoes or painting and say, “I like it.” Some people are kind of uncomfortable with that. When you ask, “How do you like my shoes,” they say, “I LOVE THEM.” They say, “YOU LOOK AMAZING; I LOVE IT!” At the same time, the reason Swedes can hold back is just because they don’t want you to think that you’re special or great or better than they are. At least when people in the U.S. like something, they say it.

Åkerlund: That’s very true. There aren’t many compliments flying around Sweden. I worked a good 10 years in Sweden before I came to America, and not once did anyone tell me I was good or that my stuff was great. And then I came to America and I heard it every day. That was the first time I actually believed in myself. But you can never return home a hero. Whatever you do is not really interesting in Sweden.

Skarsgård: Even if you have money in Sweden, it’s frowned upon to show off. In L.A., you see all these people driving around in yellow Hummers and wearing rhinestone dresses, and they live in fake palaces. Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of Ikea, was riding around in a beat-up old Volvo from 1980 until just a couple of years ago.

Out: Many of us have this impression of Sweden as this utopian paradise, but a lot of the arts culture is characteristically dark, from death metal to Bergman.

Åkerlund: I wouldn’t say it’s just that, is it? Maybe. I always thought we had a different shock level there. I didn’t realize, until I came abroad, that some of the stuff I did was controversial or different or dark.

Out: So that probably makes something like True Blood, which is seen in America as pretty dark, seem relatively mild in Sweden?

Skarsgård: Very tame, very tame, by Swedish standards.

Åkerlund: One thing I notice when I’ve been in Los Angeles and then come back to Sweden is that when I put on the TV and see a naked person, I go, “Whoa.” It takes me a little bit of time to convert every time I come back. It’s just two different cultures.

Skarsgård: And that always strikes me as weird because parents in the States freak out if their kids see a nipple or a butt cheek, but at the same time they’re OK with their kids watching people bash each other’s heads in with baseball bats. I notice in interviews in the U.S. all people want to talk about is nudity. You have a half-hour interview, and you spend 25 minutes talking about the nude scenes, and of course, if it makes sense as a scene, I’ll do it. I don’t even think someone — some guy who doesn’t know any gay people or black people, who may have all these prejudices — if that guy watches the show and thinks, I really like this character, then you’ve done something pretty good.

Out: If you had to choose the greatest Swede of all time, who would it be?

Skarsgård: The actor Ernst-Hugo Järegård. He’s been such a big inspiration in my life. He played the lead in Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom, the Danish TV series. And that performance was kind of when I knew I wanted to be an actor. It’s just amazing. It’s similar to what Ricky Gervais did in The Office — one of those characters that you just love to hate, or hate to love. You’re not sure what it is, but you’re just mesmerized.

Out: What’s the thing you always miss when you’re away from Sweden?

Åkerlund: Two things only: the change of the seasons, which are so extreme in Sweden, and my mom’s cooking. Those are the only things I really care about.

Skarsgård: Also, I think part of the reason why there are so many musicians coming out of Sweden is you’re encouraged to play an instrument, or to sing and be creative, from a very early age, and it’s free. It’s a combination of a good school system and the long, dark winters. Because that means people sit in their garages and play music for five months because it’s too cold and dark to be outside.

Åkerlund: That’s the boning season. [Laughter] And then it’s spring, and that’s also boning season. And summer’s the best boning season.

Skarsgård: And that’s also why we’re so liberal and so cool with our sexuality — because we fuck a lot [laughter].

Åkerlund: How much time can you spend playing the drums?

Skarsgård: When you’re bored, just have sex.






Source: Out Magazine

Alexander Skarsgård’s Melancholia

The True Blood actor talks about working with Danish provocateur Lars Von Trier, starlet Kirsten Dunst.. and his own dad

Denmark’s most controversial director explores the languid depths of depression in his latest film, Melancholia, the story of two sisters Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and the ominous advance of a planet towards Earth. Inspired by German Romanticism, Von Trier’s latest work is an exquisitely shot, apocalyptic melodrama with a stand out cast including Kiefer Sutherland, John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling and Udo Kier. Alexander Skarsgård, who plays Justine’s husband Michael, spoke to Dazed shortly after finishing the shooting of True Blood season 4 to talk about working with the legendary director.

Dazed Digital: Have you always wanted to work with Lars Von Trier?

Alexander Skarsgård: It was very high on my wish list. I got the chance to work with him 10 years ago on a small thing he did for Scandinavian television, for one day. So I had a little bit of experience working for him and I was really, really thrilled when this came up and I had the opportunity to work with him for a little more than a day.

DD: What did you make of the script when you first saw it?

Alexander Skarsgård: It’s not like a conventional script. They’re only 60, 70 pages long but they’re so rich, the characters and relationships are so rich, so interesting. I was working on True Blood, shooting season 3 when it came up and I just called my agent and I said I don’t care what comes up in July or August, I’ll be in Sweden shooting with Lars Von Trier instead!

DD: What’s it like working with Lars?

Alexander Skarsgård: The first day on set was the scene in the limo with Kirsten and I driving to the wedding reception. Lars was like, ‘You know you’ve got to sit in the back of the limo, you talk for a while and at some point, Alex, when you realise you’re not getting anywhere maybe you can step out of the car and try to help the driver.’ And I said, ‘Sure, what side so you want me to exit the car from?’ and Lars just looked at me, almost confused, like ‘I don’t know, you do whatever you want and I’ll follow you with the camera’. And that kind of set the tone how it was working with him. You’re so free, you can do whatever you want you can change things from one take to the next. It’s very organic, very fun and very open.

DD: You star with Kirsten Dunst who gives an amazing performance, what was it like working with her?

Alexander Skarsgård: Kirsten’s phenomenal, she’s so thrilled with the movie and it’s a great role and it’s a really amazing ensemble. And to work with Kirsten and Charlotte Gainsbourg, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland… it’s just an amazing ensemble. It was such a special experience, it really was.

DD: Tell me what the shoot itself was like, it’s quite an intense film, was it an intense shoot?

Alexander Skarsgård: It was, in the sense that it’s such a sad relationship between my character and Kirsten’s. I worked hard on trying to figure out where my character came from and how he was desperately trying to salvage this [relationship]. And what was meant to be the happiest day of his life turned out to be the saddest day of his life and how he tries to cope with that, to deal with that and out of desperation tries to do anything to save their relationship and finally he realises that he can’t. Lars shoots all his movies in this old town in the middle of nowhere in western Sweden, there’s a big old wooden house that we all stayed in together, you become like a family in a way.

DD: Your father, Stellan Skarsgård stars in the film and has worked with Lars Von Trier many times before, did he give you any advice before the project started?

Alexander Skarsgård: His advice was, basically, just enjoy the ride. Dad has worked with him on 6 parts I believe, and obviously I’ve talked to my Dad about these experiences so I knew how much he loved working with Lars. I was just really excited. It was such an amazing opportunity.

source: Dazed Digital

Alexander Skarsgård: Interview with a vampire

He gave us sex and death in True Blood – now we are about to see a new side to the extraordinary Alexander Skarsgård. Here, he talks to Aaron Hicklin about his famous father, military service and why Lars von Trier is actually ‘a very sweet man’

“You just have to be the guy you are, and never forget where you come from”

I have brought Alexander Skarsgård a small jar of pickled herring. It is from Ikea, so not exactly gourmet, but he is gratifyingly appreciative all the same. His face splits into a wide grin as he turns the jar over in his hands. “You went to Ikea?” he says, making me blush like a schoolgirl. “Oh man, thank you. I’m going to have some right now.” He unscrews the lid, proffers the jar in my direction and stabs at a piece of fish with his fork. It looks gray and pallid. “Obviously it’s better if you pickle them yourself,” he says, popping the morsel into his mouth. “I love the purity of the regular stuff, when it’s just pickled with herbs and onions. I hate the fruity, sweet varieties.”

We are sitting in a spiffy bistro, just off the Bowery in New York’s NoHo, and the incongruous presence of a celebrity vampire – Skarsgård’s profile in the US rests largely on his role in HBO’s lusty drama True Blood – is creating ripples of interest. At 6ft4in and shamelessly handsome, it’s hard to ignore him. A young girl interrupts to ask his name. “Alex,” he replies, “What’s yours?” “Emma,” she says, before racing off to confirm to her mother that, yes – it is the man from True Blood. A waiter approaches to congratulate him on the latest episode, before recommending the potato pizza with truffle oil and fontina cheese, a house speciality. We order one between us. There has to be wine, too, though Skarsgård agonises momentarily. “I got here two weeks ago, and I haven’t been sober one day since,” he says. “It’s not like I’m wasted, but every single night there’s been something. In LA you have to plan, like, ‘All right, next Saturday, let’s get drunk and let’s not drive – we’ll arrange a car.’ In Stockholm or New York you go out, you have a late lunch, you end up ordering a bottle of wine, and someone shows up, you order another. I love that, just the flow of it.”

There’s a fresh, unguarded quality to Skarsgård. He’s not yet so wary of journalists (or too primed by publicists) to have lost his spontaneity. Although he lives a lot of the time in LA, he gets back to Stockholm as often as possible, as if to keep his ego in check. Fellow Swede Jonas Åkerlund, who cast Skarsgård as Lady Gaga’s paramour in his 2009 video for “Paparazzi” – he pushes her off a ledge, she returns in a wheelchair to poison him – describes it as a “country cousin” mentality, which turns out to be a compliment. It means that Skarsgård is incapable of affectation, and it explains why he doesn’t get mocked or disparaged back home. “Swedes tend to judge very easily; nothing really impresses them,” says Åkerlund. “It’s really hard to find the right balance, and the only way to do it is to be the guy you are, and never forget where you come from.” Skarsgård is not the first in his family to have managed that balancing act. In that respect, at least, he is just like his father – “one of the coolest guys in Sweden,” as Åkerlund calls him.

The cool guy, of course, would be actor Stellan Skarsgård, who seems to glide effortlessly between theatre, art-house movies and camp blockbusters such as Mamma Mia! But his position as the most famous Skarsgård on the planet is looking shaky right now – at least in the US, where True Blood has established itself as HBO’s biggest hit since The Sopranos. Young Skarsgård says it was only in the past year or two, during the second season of the series, that he began to realise his career was taking off, some eight years after his dad’s manager suggested he audition for Zoolander, but he bats away the suggestion that there might be any oedipal rivalry in progress. “We’re more like brothers than father and son. We hang out. I’ll take him out with my buddies in LA or in Stockholm, and it’s never awkward or anything. He’s 60, but he likes to party.” You get the impression that this is something that comes easily to both of them.

Skarsgards, Alexander, Stellan and Bill“My plan was never to be an actor…”

Dad will soon be coming to visit his son in New York, where Skarsgård is filming What Maisie Knew – an adaptation of the Henry James novel in which he stars with Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan. It’s the latest in a series of diverse projects that is raising his profile in Hollywood and captivating gossip hacks and bloggers (“Alexander Skarsgård takes a walk in New York City” – Socialite Life; “Alexander Skarsgård Goes to the Gym in NYC” – Just Jared). A remake of Straw Dogs, in which Skarsgård has the dubious distinction of reprising the infamous rape scene with his now ex-girlfriend, Kate Bosworth, opens in the UK in November. By that point Skarsgård will be back in the studio to film season five of True Blood, in which his role has rapidly expanded to accommodate his exploding popularity. It’s clear that he is going places, but he’s canny enough to know that where he goes depends on the choices he makes. Lazy Hollywood casting agents, it seems, already have him pegged. “Everyone wants me to play Eric Northman from True Blood in a movie with a different name, basically – strong, tough, alpha-male parts,” he says. “That’s fun to do, but you want to balance that out.”

Enter Lars von Trier, the kind of director who can be relied on to round out an actor’s resumé. In an act of mischievousness, he has cast both Skarsgårds as disparate buddies in his new movie, Melancholia – a typically dyspeptic outing for the Danish director that culminates, fittingly, with the end of the world. They play the groom and his best man at the wedding from hell. Skarsgård senior, a von Trier veteran who starred in Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark and Dogville, is brash, arrogant and malicious; Skarsgård junior is genial, tender, and so utterly guileless that you ache to save him from the insult and ignominy he suffers. (In an email, Kirsten Dunst pithily identified the qualities he brings to the movie as “grace, humour and love”.)

Von Trier has a reputation for putting his actors through the wringer. John C Reilly walked off set during the making of Manderlay, supposedly over the director’s insistence on slaughtering a donkey (the scene was subsequently cut), and Björk’s bitter fall-out with von Trier after making Dancer in the Dark – she said that he hated women – hardly needs a recap. Skarsgård seems to have suffered no such humiliation. He uses the words “paradise”, “heaven” and “beautiful” to describe the experience. Von Trier himself – last seen in Cannes expressing an affinity with Hitler – is “a very sweet man” who “lets you discover your character and the relationships and the scenes on your own. He doesn’t even block the scenes, he just throws the camera on his shoulder and goes, ‘All right, let’s just shoot, see what happens.’ And then, you know, 98% of the first take might be a disaster, but there might be a moment in which two actors meet, where there’s a look, an exchange where something happens that you can’t recreate, and he’ll capture that.”

Yes, but what about the 98% that ends up on the cutting room floor? Only a masochist, surely, would put himself through that. It’s only later, when Skarsgård recounts a gruelling story of his service in the Swedish military, that it makes sense. He was 18 at the time, and had to spend 10 days in the woods – in Sweden, in January – in order to get a hat (yes, you read that correctly). “It’s like a fisherman’s hat with a brim around it,” Skarsgård explains. “And you’ve been dreaming about that hat, because for the first six months you don’t get to wear it, and you see the guys that have been there for a year already, walking around with their hats, and you’re like: They all look like Clint Eastwood, they’re the shit!’ You’ve got this stupid little baseball cap, and you’re like, ‘One day I’ll have that hat.’ And then you do the 10-day test and your feet are bleeding, you are crying because you are so exhausted, and finally we get back to the base, and we think this is the moment we’re going to get our hats, and the sergeant is, like, ‘All right, that’s a good start. Now you’re going to go out on a 15-mile run with your backpack and guns and everything.’ Grown men start crying. We were almost hallucinating because we were so tired. You look at this 15-mile run, and you think, ‘I can’t do this, I’ve got nothing, the tank is empty.’” The upshot, of course, is that he gets the hat. The final 15 miles was just a ruse – the hats were waiting for the men only a mile away – but Skarsgård continues to draw on the lesson he learned that day. “People were so exhausted, but when they saw those hats they ran back to base. That’s the moment when I realised, ‘When you are out of energy, there’s more in the tank.’”

Alexander Skarsgard in True Blood“Everyone wants me to play strong, tough, alpha-male parts”

In movie terms, a Lars von Trier film is a little like that hat, a prize of sorts that challenges actors to draw more deeply from the tank. For Åkerlund, the creative hunger evident in both Skarsgårds is what sets them apart from many of their peers. “It’s so easy to get caught up in the American system, where everybody tells you what to do, and what not to do, and where the rest of the world is not important. A true artist, in my mind, is willing to fail sometimes, because if you’re not brave enough to say yes and follow your gut, it’s never going to be good.” Skarsgård considers the two months spent on Melancholia as a revelation. “I think we all felt that this was why we all wanted to be actors,” he says.

This is a turn-about for someone who long believed that acting was precisely what he wasn’t going to do. Skarsgård more or less grew up backstage, watching his father at Stockholm’s Royal Theatre, but a stint as a child actor was instructive. “I can deal with it now, but 13 is a tough age to be recognised and famous,” he says. “It’s a tough age, period. I wanted to spend 100% of my energy figuring out who I was, and what was happening to me, and it freaked me out to be talked about in magazines or on television – this is who he is, this is what he likes. It made me feel insecure and nervous.”

He turned to the one person qualified to give him advice: his father. “He just said, ‘I love my job, but it’s a tough job, and 99% of actors can’t support themselves financially, so it has to be worth it; you have to feel that you have to do it.’ And obviously I didn’t feel that way. My plan was never to be an actor like my father, so it wasn’t a big deal for me to go, ‘Fuck this, I don’t want to do this any more.’”

It was only many years later, when he was 20, and studying at the Metropolitan University in Leeds for six months (“I loved it”), that he realised he missed acting. “I didn’t want to dismiss it, and then, when I was 50, be, like, ‘Oh, man, I should have tried’.” He enrolled in drama school in New York and then scored the part in Zoolander. The next three years were spent crisscrossing the Atlantic for auditions, before another HBO series, Generation Kill, set during the Iraq war, gave his career wings. Getting to kiss Lady Gaga just as her career was taking off didn’t hurt either. “She wasn’t that big at the time,” he says. “I kind of had to look her up.” Skarsgård wasn’t so big himself. “I don’t think anyone really knew who he was”, says Åkerlund. “Of course the record label and management had different suggestions.”

Skarsgård says he has to find something of himself in his characters, no matter how disparate the roles. “In movies we tend make things black and white: you’re either this, or you’re that. Eric Northman is very different from Michael in Melancholia, but I think I have both Michael and Eric inside me, and I think that’s what’s interesting about human beings – that we’re capable of so much, good and bad, and we’re fighting that constantly.”

Was there a moment in his life that crystallised that lesson for him, that not everything is good or bad? “Yeah, when I saw weakness in my father, I think. When I saw that he was human and that he could be wrong and make mistakes, because I idolised him when I was kid, and he was fucking superman. He couldn’t do anything wrong. But you can never connect on a deeper level if you idolise someone – you don’t see the real person.”

Skarsgård’s parents divorced four years ago, but it seems not to have been acrimonious. His father has since remarried and had another child. “They all get along. They have dinner parties every night in his apartment, and friends and family will come over, and Mum comes over as well. Of course, when it happened it was emotional for both of them, but I told them they’d be happier. It was so obvious to me that there was a lot of love there, but they weren’t supposed to be together any more; they weren’t good for each other.”

Although he is largely based in LA, it is clear that Skarsgård’s heart belongs to Sweden, where he grew up in the now-popular neighbourhood of SoFo (south of Folkungagatan). His family owns a house on one of the islands in the Stockholm archipelago, and the actor makes a point of going back as often as he can. “There’s something I love about how stark the contrast is between January and June in Sweden,” he says. “In a way, I feel that time doesn’t exist in LA. Sometimes I don’t know if it’s February or April or October, because you’re always sitting outside on the same patio, and it’s 70 degrees, and the sun is shining.” Of course, a lot of people love LA for precisely that reason, but Skarsgård, who won his hat by surviving in the woods in a Swedish winter, does not settle for easy. “There has to be a challenge there,” he says. “There has to be a meaty character. I can’t just be, ‘and then the hot guy walks into the room.’ It’s not interesting if someone is always perfectly tanned, the hair is blow-dried. The only thing that’s important is to make it real.”

source: Guardian UK

‘Blood’ star Alexander Skarsgard shows true range in films

NEW YORK – Alexander Skarsgard isn’t the first acting hunk to be compared to Brad Pitt.

But the Swede might be one of the few who’s up to the task. Known as True Blood‘s icy-hot Viking vampire, he is preparing to take a bite out of the box office with an impressive slew of flicks.

First up is Friday’s remake of Straw Dogs, which transplants the chilling 1971 Dustin Hoffman-led story into the sweaty, close-knit Deep South. Skarsgard, 35, plays local football hero Charlie, whose lust for actress ex-girlfriend Amy (Kate Bosworth) turns violent once she returns home with writer husband David (James Marsden).

“It’s about territory,” says Skarsgard, whose powerful physique, known well to HBO’s True Blood fans, is showcased in the film. “(Amy) shows up with a writer from Hollywood who’s completely different, completely cerebral and not a real man in Charlie’s eyes.” Charlie puts David to the test, convinced Amy is his.

“From an acting point of view, he reminds me of Paul Newman in Hud. And from a charisma point of view, he reminds me of Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise,” says director Rod Lurie. Like the 1971 Straw Dogs original, Charlie assists in a violent siege on David and Amy’s home, but because of Skarsgard, “you understand finally what she saw in the guy in the first place,” says Lurie.

On a stormy afternoon at the East Village eatery Gemma, Skarsgard has just woken up after a late night of shooting What Maisie Knew with Julianne Moore. Although Hurricane Irene is near, he shrugs off any imminent danger as he eats a late breakfast.

It’s the same attitude he has toward photographers who follow him daily.

“I don’t get it,” he says of the tabloid scrutiny, which intensified in the two years he dated Bosworth (they broke up this summer). But “I’m trying not to let it affect my life. I don’t want to be hiding behind walls.”

Part of his strategy is not talking about relationships, but he says promoting the film with his ex is fine. “I’ve got nothing but love for Kate,” he says. “She’s phenomenal in the movie.”

Skarsgard has come a long way. As a child actor in Sweden (his parents are actor Stellan Skarsgard and his first wife, My, a doctor), he quit the business at 13, uneasy with fame. Instead, Skarsgard finished school, spent time in the Swedish Navy, attended college in England and moved to New York at 21 to begin theater training. After returning to Sweden to launch his acting career as an adult, he visited Los Angeles, where his father’s manager suggested that he audition for a film for “fun.”

That movie was 2001′s Zoolander.

The small part led to others, including his breakthrough role in HBO mini-series Generation Kill. The rest is shirtless, fang-induced history.

When Lurie, who had never seen True Blood, first met Skarsgard in Hollywood, he looked “very European,” the director recalls. “Tight clothes, all white. He had long blond hair, that sort of sweet smile. Almost the opposite of the character he was going to play.”

Lurie told him he’d have to beef up to play Charlie. Skarsgard promised he’d eat a lot of red meat. “I didn’t realize the Adonis-like nature of what I was going to see,” Lurie says. On location in Shreveport, La., “women were driving down from as far away as St. Louis just to sit in the lobby and watch him walk out. ”

But under the veneer of the film’s good looks is an emotional rape scene, which Skarsgard says is a stark difference between the modern film and its predecessor. To his character, Charlie, the violent act is not a rape but rather ” a love scene,” Skarsgard says.

Next, Skarsgard is “a very sweet guy” with Kirsten Dunst in the apocalyptic Melancholia (due Nov. 11). Battleship, in which he stars opposite Rihanna, arrives next year.

In December, Skarsgard returns to the True Blood set to begin Season 5. With fans, Skarsgard has only one rule: “No, I don’t bite,” he says with a laugh. “If I do that once and there’s a picture of me biting a fan, then I’m going to end up doing that for 30 years.”

by Andrea Mandell for USA Today