Stellan Skarsgrd: I dont give advice to my children

The actor, 68, tells James McMahon about dreaming of being a diplomat, smashing telephones with skill and the days before Marvel ruled the world

I intended to become a diplomat. That was my dream. I didnt take acting seriously until I was 16 and got a role in a Swedish show that made me extremely famous right away. There were screaming girls, all that stuff. Id never had any girl take an interest in me before that. Suddenly being a diplomat didnt seem half as attractive as it had done.

My heroes growing up were politicians. The main one was Dag Hammarskjld, a Swedish politician who was the secretary general of the United Nations. He was a real hero for peace to many of my generation. I idolised him.

I was lucky to have smart parents. What they were interested in theyd talk about at home, so topics like the civil rights movement were common currency at the dinner table. From an early age we talked about black history and the Holocaust. It was a humanistic upbringing. Ive tried to give my children a similar existence.

It doesnt matter to me that my sons are actors. I had no great wish for them to follow me into the profession. I was, at first, worried when they decided to. Its hard to become an actor when your father is one, because theres a big shadow to break out of. Thankfully they all quickly found their footing and superseded me!

I dont give advice to my children who act. I give them support. If you give them advice and they achieve something then they dont feel like they achieved it. Also, if you do give them advice and they dont achieve something, then they can say: Its all your fucking fault.

Its pretty cool being part of the Marvel Universe. When I signed up for my part in Thor, Marvel hadnt yet taken over the world. You have to sign up for five films and at the first meeting I asked: Is there really any money in these comic book things? The whole table just froze and looked at me like I was a fucking idiot.

Scorsese was right [when he said the success of a franchise like Marvel was edging out new stories being told]. But the problem isnt Marvel and the problem isnt Netflix. The problem is the concentration of ownership. Big financiers have taken over everything. The only films that get made are the big movies, because the financiers demand 10% of their capital. Its stupefying.

It takes skill to break a telephone properly. It helps to channel your anger, but you need some technique so that you avoid smashing up your hands along with the phone. When we were filming Chernobyl I took three attempts, but they were all pretty good. Im skilled at breaking telephones.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is in cinemas from 31 January

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/jan/18/stellan-skarsgard-i-dont-give-advice-to-my-children-who-act

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