A major star in his native Sweden since the 1970s, Stellan Skarsgård (Bill) has become an international star of considerable reputation. He became a teen star in 1968 after playing the title role in the TV miniseries Bombi Bitt och jag.
From 1972 to 1988, he was employed at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, where he starred in such productions as Vita rum (1988), Ett drömspel (1986) and Master Olof (1988), working with directors such as Alf Sjöberg, Per Verner-Carlsson and Ingmar Bergman.
Skarsgård has appeared in more than 50 films since 1982. His performance in Hans Alfredson’s The Simple-Minded Murder (1982) garnered him both a Guldbagge (Swedish Oscar®) and a Silver Berlin Bear. He also played the lead in the Oscar®-nominated Oxen, directed by the world-renowned cinematographer Sven Nykvist.
His first English-language role was in Philip Kaufman’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being in 1988. He followed that with his role as Russian submarine captain Tupolev in John McTiernan’s The Hunt for Red October in 1990. But his breakthrough came with his riveting performance as the paraplegic in Lars von Trier’s much-lauded Breaking the Waves, opposite Emily Watson, in 1996. He made two more films with von Trier: Dancer in the Dark (2000) and Dogville (2003).
Following Breaking the Waves, Skarsgård landed several supporting roles in high-profile American films such as Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting (1997) and Steven Spielberg’s Amistad (1997), both for which he won the Outstanding European Achievement in World Cinema at the European Film Awards in 1998, and John Frankenheimer’s Ronin (1998). Other leading role credits in American and international cinema include Erik Skjoldbjaerg’s Insomnia; Renny Harlin’s Deep Blue Sea; Hans Petter Moland’s Aberdeen, for which he received a Best Actor nomination at the European Film Awards in 2000; Mike Figgis’ Timecode; Stewart Sugg’s Kiss Kiss (Bang Bang); Daniel Sackheim’s The Glass House; and István Szabó’s Taking Sides, for which he received another Best Actor nomination at the European Film Awards in 2001 and won Best Actor at the Mar del Plata Film Festival.
More recently, Skarsgård played Father Merrin in Renny Harlin’s Exorcist: The Beginning; Cerdic in Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur, opposite Clive Owen; Father Merrin, again in Paul Schrader’s Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist; King Hrothgar in Sturla Gunnarsson’s Beowulf & Grendel; and, most notably, Bootstrap Bill, a compassionate and interesting portrait of a man losing himself bit by bit, in Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, opposite Johnny Depp. He was also seen as the painter Goya in Milos Forman’s Goya’s Ghosts, with Javier Bardem and Natalie Portman.
Skarsgård recently completed filming Duncan Ward’s Boogie Woogie, opposite Gillian Anderson, Heather Graham and Amanda Seyfried.