Stellan Skarsgård

Highly respected Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård portrays characters of deep emotional reserve, as well as flinty authority figures, in such films as "Breaking the Waves" (1996), "Good Will Hunting" (1997), "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (2006), "Mamma Mia" (2008), "Thor" (2011) and "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (2015). Born Stellan John Skarsgård on June 13, 1951 in Gothenburg, Sweden, he was raised in an atheist, humanist-minded household, which would later inform his own publicly held opinions about politics, education and secular religion. As a boy, he appeared in school productions, but harbored a desire to become a diplomat; that changed in his late teens when he was cast as a freewheeling Swedish teenager in the television series "Bombi bitt och jag" (1968). Skarsgård disliked his brief tenure as a teen idol and focused his attention on his training, which he honed as a member of the Royal Dramatic Theater in Stockholm. He also married physician My Skarsgård, with whom he would have six children, four of which - sons Alexander, Gustaf, Bill and Valter - would also become actors of note. Between productions - whuch included a production of "A Dream Play" directed by Ingmar Bergman - he remained active in European features, most notably in "The Simple-Minded Murderer" (1982), a Swedish drama about a young man driven to violence by abuse at the hands of his caretaker, a Nazi sympathizer. Skarsgård won the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the Berlin International Film Festival and soon moved into starring roles in major films, including such critically acclaimed titles as Bo Widerberg's "The Serpent's Way" (1986) and a turn as diplomat Raoul Wallengberg in "Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg" (1990); he also made his first appearances in English-language productions, including Philip Kaufman's "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" (1988) and "The Hunt for Red October" (1991). In 1996, he made his first of several collaborations with director Lars von Trier in "Breaking the Waves," playing the atheist husband of a deeply religious woman (Emily Watson), who believes that his injury was caused by her physical needs. A major hit on the festival and arthouse circuits, it led to a slew of high-profile assignments in Hollywood for Skarsgård, including "Good Will Hunting" (1997) as Matt Damon's mathematics professor, the abolitionist Lewis Tappen in Steven Spielberg's "Amistad" (1997), and the double-dealing Gregor in John Frankenheimer's "Ronin" (1998). After reuniting with von Trier for a minor role in "Dancer in the Dark" (2000), he settled into steady work in both America and Europe; the latter included his debut as producer on the road movie "Aberdeen" (2002) and Istvan Szabo's World War II drama "Taking Sides" (2001), while the latter encompassed a slew of minor efforts, as well as the back-to-back "Exorcist: The Beginning" (2004) and "Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist" (2005), a turn as Francisco Goya in Milos Forman's "Goya's Ghost" (2006) and two appearances as the spectral Bootstrap Bill Turner in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (2006) and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (2007). By the late 2000s, Skarsgård was averaging four to five movies per year for Hollywood and European producers; chief among these was his musical debut in "Mamma Mia!" (2008), a turn as the head of the Swiss National Guard in Ron Howard's "Angels & Demons" (2009), and a lengthy stint with Marvel Comics' production wing as the astrophysicist Erik Selvig in "Thor" (2011), "The Avengers" (2012), "Thor: The Dark World" (2013) and "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (2015). But he also served as executive producer on "King of Devil's Island" (2010), a French-Norwegian film about a draconian boys' prison, and the black comedy "In Order of Disappearance" (2014), with Skarsgård as a vengeful snow plow driver who takes on mobsters. Between these projects, he also found time to reunite with von Trier for "Melancholia" (2011) and the controversial, two-part "Nymphomaniac" (2011), and log appearances in Julian Fellowes' adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" (2013) and Disney's live-action "Cinderella" (2015) and star in the British police drama "River" (BBC One, 2015). In 2018, he reprised his turn as the phlegmatic Bill Anderson in "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again."