10 Things You Never Knew About Alexander Skarsgård
(Photo: Getty Images)
Alexander Skarsgård has just been cast in Succession: the latest in a series of prestige TV roles for the Swedish actor following Generation Kill, True Blood, Big Little Lies, The Stand, and AMC's The Little Drummer Girl. To whet your appetite, here are some things you might not know about this charismatic, Emmy and Golden Globe-winning performer.
1. He's from a family of actors and doctors.
His father is Swedish acting great Stellan Skarsgård, while his mother My Skarsgård is a physician. Alexander is the eldest of six siblings: his brothers Bill, Gustav, and Valter are all actors too; his sister Eija is a model; and his brother Sam is a doctor.
Each of the brothers is well over 6' tall, with Alexander standing at a statuesque 6'4.
2. He made his first movie, the Swedish drama Åke and His World, when he was just seven years old.
Skarsgård took on child acting roles in Sweden for the next six years before deciding to leave the industry when a movie called The Dog That Smiled made him famous. "It was tough. I was 13, growing from a boy to a man and trying to figure out what was going on with my body and mind," he told IFC in 2010. "I couldn’t deal with people recognizing me, or reading about myself in magazines, or watching people talk about me on television and who I was because I had no idea myself. It made me very insecure. So I quit and for the rest of my teenage years, got as far away from acting as possible."
3. He grew up in a bohemian household.
"I was raised by this whole community of artists. It was pretty wild," Skarsgård told Elle. "Illegal substances floating around. People were drunk. I was born in the late '70s. There was so much love there."
Skarsgård also said that his dad "was always walking around naked with a glass of red wine in his hand," pointing out that culturally, there is a different attitude toward nudity in his homeland. "There's such a taboo here [in the U.S.] with nudity," he added. "In some people's eyes, nudity is so much more dangerous than violence. I never really understood that. If a kid sees a nipple on television, how is that more damaging than watching someone bash someone else's head in with a baseball bat?"
4. When he was 19, he applied to perform national service in the Swedish military – something that's technically compulsory there, but relatively easy to get out of.
Skarsgård completed his service in an anti-terrorist and anti-sabotage unit. "I come from a family of pacifists so it's not like I was going to join the war," he told The Sun. "Sweden is not like the States or England where you might get sent to Afghanistan. Our last war was 200 years ago. For me it was just a personal challenge. I'm very happy I did it, but it was tough."
He also admitted that "the [military] mentality sometimes got a bit too testosterone-fueled for my tastes."
"A lot of the guys I served with wanted to be James Bond whereas I was a hippy," he added. "Most of my friends didn't do military service. But they spent those 15 months hanging out drinking and smoking pot. I wanted the challenge. I was curious."
5. After completing his national service, he studied at Leeds Metropolitan University in Northern England for six months.
He went there with a friend from Sweden, and admits that they "didn't study much" and "just had a blast." "We went there and studied, but it was basically just hanging out and having fun," he told The Sun. "We lived in this basement with no heating, used sleeping bags, and shared a bathroom with a drug dealer who was obsessed with the Queen of Sweden for some reason. It was kind of scary. I know that seems weird to come to the U.K. and not go to London, but I wanted to see the real England, and I saw it in Leeds."
"I recommend The Headingley Run [pub crawl] — have a pint in every pub on Otley Road," he added. "That's how you entertain yourself. Lots of pound-a-pint nights. Then I knew I had to decide what I wanted to do with my life."
Though he dropped out before he completed his studies, Skarsgård was later given an honorary degree by Leeds Metropolitan University in 2011.
6. He originally auditioned to play Bill Compton, Stephen Moyer's role in True Blood, before being cast as Eric Northman.
"Alex wasn't quite right for Bill," showrunner Alan Ball told Details, "but I remember that he was giant and also beautiful. So when it came time to cast Eric, I thought of him. He's got the most amazing eyes. Because of their color – they're an amazing greenish blue – he's able to do this thing with them where he loses focus but remains totally focused."
7. He was in the running to play Thor.
Skarsgård told MTV that he met with director Kenneth Branagh and Marvel boss Kevin Feige about the role, but ultimately lost out to Chris Hemsworth. His father was later cast in the superhero movie as scientist Erik Selvig.
8. In 2015, he rocked up to the San Francisco premiere of his latest movie, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, in full drag.
"Some of my dear friends are drag queens and they were hosting the screening. I just felt like if we're going to do this, can I please join," he told Allure. "There were a bunch of drag queens in the movie. And [drag queen] Lady Bear was the casting director for the extras. And they were hosting the cast and friends screening at this legendary theater just filled with friends. They were having so much fun – I didn't want to be excluded from that."
Skarsgård definitely committed to the drag transformation process, revealing that he spent four hours getting ready for the premiere.
9. He says he's "100 percent feminist."
Discussing the gender-based "double standard" in the movie industry, he told Elle in 2018: "I notice that with actress friends of mine. And it's disgusting. It's not a problem that's specific to Hollywood. I think you see this in many professions, where men in power think they're entitled. So these women are very brave to talk about it, and I do believe it will fundamentally change things."
10. In 2013, he took part in a charitable trek to the South Pole with Prince Harry and Dominic West, among others.
The Walking with the Wounded South Pole Challenge was organized to raise money for wounded soldiers. Originally it was envisaged as a race between three teams – with Skarsgård serving as the Ambassador for the American team – but the competitive element was suspended due to treacherous weather. Despite the hazardous conditions, they all made it to the finishing line.
Do you have a favorite Alexander Skarsgård performance to date?