Critics are raving about Bill Skarsgard's recent performance as the killer clown, Pennywise, in Stephen King's It. In the few moments that he was on screen, the actor was mesmerizing despite being terrifying.
Skarsgard has quite a filmography already
Of course horror roles are not new to Skarsgard. Many of us first saw him as an Upir (a vampire-like creature) in Netflix's series, Hemlock Grove, and we will see him next in another horror television series, Castlerock, which will also be based on some of Stephen King's stories. But way before he established himself in this genre in Hollywood. Bill Skarsgard was already an established star in his native country of Sweden.
He made his acting debut in 2000's White Water Fury which also starred his older brother, Alexander Skarsgard (Big Little Lies,The Legend Of Tarzan). This would be a recurring theme as he would later appear with other members of his family in Arn: The Knight Templar film series, wherein his father Stellan Skarsgard (The Avengers, Good Will Hunting) and Gustav Skarsgard (Vikings), played lead roles.
It would be a while before he stepped up and took on the main part in a film. But when he did, he did so brilliantly. He took on meaty and emotional roles in Swedish cinema, the kind that he seems not to get in Hollywood.
So if you really want to see his mettle as an actor, you have to watch this films to see how truly talented he is. And I have selected three of them for you to view later if you are interested as a fan, or you just want to see good foreign language films.
Here are the trailers for three of Skarsgard's best Swedish films
1. Behind Blue Skies
This is a very interesting coming-of-age film about a poor teenager named Martin (Bill Skarsgard) living in 1970's Sweden. His home life is pretty terrible since his father is alcoholic and abusive, so he longs to get out. Thankfully his best friend's father who is quite wealthy offers him a job at a Yacht club at a resort town where their family usually vacations. It is pretty amazing: he gets to make money, while going on vacation with his best friend.
But of course his pal is rich and is easily distracted so he leaves Martin alone at his job while he pursues girls and alcohol with the wealthier set. This puts him in the orbit of the manager of the club, who reels him into the world of drug running.
The film has its flaws. It can get a little dragging and there are Swedish norms that an international audience may not get. But Bill definitely carries this film; his performance is on point throughout.
P.S. This is European cinema, so members of the Skarsgard family are no stranger to stripping down on screen, and Bill is no exception to that family tradition. Early on in this movie, he shows everything.
2. Simon And The Oaks
This is an epic story set in World War II. Bill Skarsgard takes the lead role of Simon, a kid with a mysterious past and artistic tendencies living with his working class parents.
Simon feels like an outsider and his father thinks that he is not man enough and is strange. He eventually befriends the son of a wealthy Jewish bookseller, who encourages and even funds his artistic pursuits.
The view point is interesting because Sweden was not invaded by Nazi Germany, the government practiced neutrality. So we're seeing World War II from a radically different setting than what we are used to in film.
The story twists and turns with this historical background and Simon is somehow caught in the whirlwind of it. It has a lot to do with his past which will unravel in the end of course, so I won't spoil that for you.
Bill Skarsgard plays well with his character's frustration towards his world. This is also a coming of age story as Simon rebels from his constraining working class life, and as a young man, deals with love and lust.
The movie is also beautifully shot, has excellent cinematography, and endearing music, which plays a big role in the story. The visuals are on par with any Hollywood World War II epic.
3. Simple Simon
Now this is, in my opinion, the best performance that Bill Skarsgard has done in a film so far.
And yes he plays another Simon, though this one though suffers from Asperger's. This makes life miserable for his older brother Sam who has to take care of him. Things take to a head when his particular set of ways causes his brother to lose his girlfriend, so Simon decides to take matters into his own hands and decides to search for another girlfriend for his brother.
This one is funny and heartwarming. Bill as Simon I think is far better than The Big Bang Theory's Sheldon Cooper. I particularly love the amusing climax of the film, it was so funny but it delivered an emotional wallop, particularly in how it showed how much Simon truly loves his brother.
Bill Skarsgard was a delight through, as is everyone else in the cast. If there is only one of his Swedish movies you have to see, let it be this one.
So there it is, some of Bill Skarsgard's best works in Swedish Cinema. Get some popcorn and get your movie night started! Have you seen others that you'd recommend more than these three?