Peter Stormare Talks About Lockout… And Doesn’t Stop!

The actor expresses his disappointment in modern filmmakers and reminisces about his mentor, Ingmar Bergman.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


At the press junket for Lockout, we planned to ask Peter Stormare a few questions and put his answers together in a cool little article about the prolific actor. Then we met Peter Stormare. Peter Stormare had some philosophy to drop as to whether it was about the space prison movie or not. We decided to bring you the entirety of Peter Stormare’s thoughts because they’re so in depth, metaphysical and just random. He plays a guy who doesn’t like the hero (Guy Pearce) but needs him to save the president’s daughter. That’s not important. Stormare’s talking about opening a movie theater just to show colors on a screen, and how he found out The Blues Brothers is Ingmar Bergman’s favorite movie of all time! This stuff needs to be preserved for eternity. Some of the questions are ours, some are shared with others, but this is the guy from Fargo spewing his ideas.


This is quite an interesting role for you.

Peter Stormare: Yeah, why not? Why not?


And you play it so we’re never quite sure what side of the fence you’re on.

No, the sequel will be out next year. [Laughs] No, it’s a nice part. It was a beautiful script to get in your hands. Sometimes scripts are a little bit all over the place. But, I think Mr. [producer Luc] Besson is quite an extraordinary visionary and he’s sort of the old school.  When I read the script, it was like he’s almost flirting a little bit with the movies of the past. He always gives the characters some room. I’m not trashing the Hollywood action formula, but sometimes it becomes like one person and maybe a female lead. She is somewhere there. But usually it’s one guy all the time and the rest are shoot ‘em ups. There’s an old saying when they did movies in the good old days. You have to allow the audience to be part of the script, to write the script. Give the audience 60 percent and they’re going to fill in 40 percent. If you shove it down the throats, they’re just going to feel full and then want to throw up. But, if they’re part of the writing, they’re going to remember the movie and each person is going to have different opinions about the movie. That is like the old fairy tale, the old way of telling a movie, which I like, and some directors do that in Hollywood still. Some directors are daring, but we see, in my opinion, too much of boom, crash, bang, things blowing up, falling from the sky or tumbling around and you get bored because you’re denied to use your fantasy. I love to fantasize still, as I did as a little boy. If I see a movie, I want to fantasize about what it’s all about. This movie invites the audience. It doesn’t kick the audience out. It says to the audience “Come, be part of this journey.”


Is the sense of humor important also? That’s often not a part of the sorts of movies you do.

Humor? Yes, absolutely. We changed a couple of lines, I think, in the beginning and there was also discussion with the director and Mr. Besson before we started shooting. We had a couple of days of rehearsals and we found some golden pieces in the opening segment that sets the tone. It feels like it could’ve been The Big Easy or whatever. For me, it feels like Humphrey Bogart is Guy [Pearce]’s character.


Does that make you Claude Rains?

[Laughs] Yeah, I wish. There’s also an old saying when you show a character for the first time. When you introduce a character, don’t show him fully lit. Don’t show him 100% to the audience. Show maybe 50 percent or 60 percent so the audience can fill in the dark spots. Sometimes it’s cool to have one light hanging. They did that in the good old days. We forget sometimes about telling a story for an audience. Storytelling is all about using the imagination. For me at least it is. That’s why I’m bored sometimes to see movies. I’m bored to see TV. I never see TV. I see news sometimes. I’m sorry to say, I work in this business and I love working in it but I haven’t seen a movie in so many years. I don’t see TV. I have a lot of TVs at home, but if I see something, it’s an art channel or an opera maybe or some news and the Lakers. They don’t give me a single minute to use my own fantasy. Thank God our kids can watch an old Peter Pan or some old Disney and then I’m just sucked in again, instead of the Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers. When I was a little kid growing up in Sweden in a small village, we had a tradition like now and then we had someone elderly telling a story and it was always late afternoon and it was sort of dark and somebody told the story. It was so beautiful to hear the story and you used your own fantasy. I’m sitting here dissing moviemaking of today and that’s my livelihood.


Do you think that Lockout can give the audience this kind of fantasy?

Yes. I think so because it’s set in the future. It doesn’t say a year. It says in the nearby future. It’s ordinary, regular people. One movie that did the same thing for me was the first Alien because I didn’t know anything about that movie and I went to an early screening where there was nobody in the audience. I sat in the front and I saw it from the beginning and I like science fiction. But, all of a sudden, they were regular people on a spaceship eating corn flakes and trying to open stuff. They were regular people so I could identify with these people. I think in this movie too, it’s not Star Trek with strange ears and we’re fighting monsters and giants and everything is CGI. It’s not all those monsters in Michael Bay’s Transformers. I just came back from doing a movie with him. I love him to death and he’s raising the bar in all the action, but it’s got to be boring. When I was a kid, at least they gave you a little bit. They told you, “Use your fantasy. Come with us on this journey. Use your head, use your soul, use your heart.” Now it’s just being slapped. “If you don’t like this, we’ll hate you.” As a kid, I was always invited to listen to stories. I was always invited to the movies that I loved. Maybe it’s because of my age that I don’t understand, but I think it’s kind of boring and this is a different kind of movie for me than the science fiction movies. But, I haven’t done my dream movie yet. I would really love to work with Terrence Malick. I would love to do just a poetic journey. It doesn’t have to have a story just as long as it’s beautiful and you can lean back. That’s why I love opera sometimes because you’re allowed to lean back and fall asleep.


Is Terrence Malick aware of the fact that you want to work with him?

I’m going to reach out because I would love to do that. We need it more and more I think in our world. We need more and more spas. There’s more and more candles being sold. There’s more and more people sitting at home trying to find peace and find space to rejuvenate. But I think as a society, if I had the money, I would love to open up a movie theater that just played images and colors and played beautiful music. I do that in my life and I feel healthy and happy, but I made that into a thing in my life that I need those hours sort of in the darkness where I was spending as a kid, sitting in a little closet in the darkness, listening to AM radio, having glowing paint that I illuminated, and just sitting there, dreaming about anything, not being disturbed for an hour or two, just alone in the dark. I’m still that little boy in my brain. It’s unfortunate that the body gets older but the brain stays the same if you want to. That’s why it’s wonderful to be part of a movie like this because it’s not the regular formula. It’s not the regular Hollywood paint by number action movie. It is a little bit one of the last outposts of old European movie directing in a way that Luc Besson represents. Slowly, slowly it’s going to die out, I think, unless people like me save up and open up a movie theater. [Laughs]


I had a chance to see You Said What? or the title that I prefer, Help, We’re in the Film Industry. Was that fun to play a spoofed version of yourself?

Yes, absolutely. I’m glad you saw that. That’s a funny little thing. But also, I love Japan. My wife is Japanese and there’s something called the Noh theater which is also funny that it’s no instead of yes. The Noh theater, if you know it, is very slow. You sit there on the floor sometimes and they act so slow. In the beginning, I didn’t understand. I mean, people are falling asleep here. Do they get upset? And then, I befriended some actors. I worked with actors there who said, “No. One of the main purposes of the Noh theater is to transcend you into another elevation.” The whole thing with Noh theater is to transcend you into another dimension. I think as human beings we need that. We need that in this country, too, to be elevated. I hope that people get a need and an urge to go and see movies in the future that are beautiful. I’ll make it up about poetic movies with beautiful colors, fragmented stories, and nice music. You lean back and you’re sort of half asleep but it’s something that you’re going to carry with you for the rest of your life. Also, my mentor, [Ingmar] Bergman, when we worked on stage, he said, “You can’t convince a thousand people at the big stage where we were working. You can’t convince everybody, but just pick one every night that you perform for and make sure that he or she will have an experience that alters their life in a more positive way.” So, just one every night. That’s worth all the struggle and screaming.


How does it feel for you when projects like that have taken on a life of their own such as with The Big Lebowski conventions?

I know, I played on two of them and it’s bigger than Rocky Horror Show now. It’s completely crazy and they’re going to go to Europe now and have conventions in Europe. They do magnificent work. Their artwork is fantastic. I must say, for me, to be born in a tiny village in the north of Sweden with a thousand people where we still have snow and to have done this journey over living in Africa and London and New York, working here and being on stage in New York, working with Bergman for ten years, being at his side, being adopted by him as his son, for me when I look back, it’s like wow, that’s quite a journey. I feel like I am blessed. Everyday, I must tell you, I thank whatever is up there or out there that I’m alive and that I get to do what I’m doing, and I think that sends off a lot of good vibrations in different directions. If what I think is God should come down today after our meeting and somebody is standing out there and says “I’m God, or the thing you call God, and you’re never going to do any more movies. You’re never going to do television. You’re never going to do theater again in your life.” I would just [say,] “What are we doing? What is the next step?” and that’s how I try to approach it. I feel so honored to be working with one of the best people in the world and the only thing I try to contribute is tap into my fantasy and not to do one dimensional characters. I still love Close Encounters because that’s also very enigmatic. It’s very enigmatic and it tapped right into my fantasy when I saw it as a teenager. But I was surprised when I asked Bergman and he said to me, “Hey, make a list of your ten top movies,” and I put Close Encounters among the top ones, and one of his movies, I haven’t seen all of them, but he had The Blues Brothers as his number one. It was funny. And he had Close Encounters as number three. I said “Blue Brothers?” “Yeah, absolutely, best movie.”