Alexander Skarsgard isn’t the first acting hunk to be compared to Brad Pitt.
But the Swede might be one of the few who’s up to the task. Known as “True Blood‘s” icy-hot Viking vampire, Eric, he is preparing to take a bite out of the box office with Columbia Pictures‘ new suspense thriller “Straw Dogs.”
The film transplants the chilling 1971 Dustin Hoffman-led movie into the sweaty, close-knit Deep South. Skarsgard, 35, plays local football hero Charlie, whose lust for actress ex-girlfriend Amy (Kate Bosworth) turns violent once she returns home with writer husband David (James Marsden).
“From an acting point of view, he reminds me of Paul Newman in `Hud.’ And from a charisma point of view, he reminds me of Brad Pitt in `Thelma and Louise,'” says director Rod Lurie. Like the 1971 “Straw Dogs” original, Charlie assists in a violent siege on David and Amy’s home, but because of Skarsgard, “you understand finally what she saw in the guy in the first place,” says Lurie.
Skarsgard has come a long way. As a child actor in Sweden (his parents are actor Stellan Skarsgard and his first wife, My, a doctor), he quit the business at 13, uneasy with fame. Instead, Skarsgard finished school, spent time in the Swedish Navy, attended college in England and moved to New York at 21 to begin theater training. After returning to Sweden to launch his acting career as an adult, he visited Los Angeles, where his father’s manager suggested that he audition for a film for “fun.” That movie was 2001’s “Zoolander.”
The small part led to others, including his breakthrough role in HBO mini-series “Generation Kill.” The rest is shirtless, fang-induced history.
Lurie told him he’d have to beef up to play Charlie. Skarsgard promised he’d eat a lot of red meat. “I didn’t realize the Adonis-like nature of what I was going to see,” Lurie says. On location in Louisiana., “women were driving down from as far away as St. Louis just to sit in the lobby and watch him walk out. “
But under the veneer of the film’s good looks is an emotional rape scene, which Skarsgard says is a stark difference between the modern film and its predecessor. To his character, Charlie, the violent act is not a rape but rather ” a love scene,” Skarsgard says.
In December, Skarsgard returns to the “True Blood” set to begin Season 5. With fans, Skarsgard has only one rule: “No, I don’t bite,” he says with a laugh. “If I do that once and there’s a picture of me biting a fan, then I’m going to end up doing that for 30 years.”