01/14/2011 12:08 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Interview: Stellan Skarsgard as a Gentle Man

Yes, Stellan Skarsgard says, he's in the midst of filming David Fincher's version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the biggest export Sweden has produced since Abba.

No, Skarsgard admits, he hasn't read the best-selling Stieg Larsson novel upon which the much-discussed Hollywood version is based: "I read other things," Skarsgard, 59, says by telephone from Los Angeles.

Sharp-eyed American movie-goers with long memories may remember Skarsgard from performances in The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) or The Hunt for Red October (1990). For most, however, he first wandered into view in Lars von Trier's 1996 Breaking the Waves and then 1997's Good Will Hunting.

Since then, Skarsgard, who got his start acting on Swedish television as a teen, has become a staple of both Hollywood and European films. He moves effortlessly between the two worlds, making his home in Sweden and traveling to the work, whether it's in Hollywood (Mamma Mia or the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise) or, for his most recent film, A Somewhat Gentle Man, Norway.

In A Somewhat Gentle Man, which opens today (1/14/11) in limited release, Skarsgard plays a man released from prison after serving 12 years for murder, who finds the world is a very different place from the one he left. Skarsgard talked about it in a recent telephone interview.

Q: You're Swedish but you work frequently in Norwegian films, such as A Somewhat Gentle Man. Do the Swedes accuse you of being a traitor?
A: Yes, they call me a turncoat. I say, well, you only make police thrillers in Sweden. But this is my third time working with this director. I still live in Sweden. That's my base. When I'm not working, I'm there.