Politicians use nationalism, religion to unite people for wrong reasons: Stellan Skarsgard

Stellan Skarsgard

By Sugandha Rawal,

New Delhi : Stellan Skarsgard doesn’t want to enter the political world thanks to US President Donald Trump. The Swedish actor, who has been part of films like “Good Will Hunting”, “Thor”, “Avengers” and “Mamma Mia!”, says politicians unite people for all the wrong reasons.


He feels there is a wave of religious nationalism around the world, and that it will lead to more bloodshed.

Skarsgard has always been vocal about everything, including politics. He has said on several occasions that his perspective about the world changed after reading the Bible and the Quran after the 9/11 tragedy.

“For decades since the Second World War, the West had become a developed democracy… developed an idea that everybody is equal, values of humanism and tolerance. Now, in the last 10 years, there has been a backlash… And there is religious nationalism all over the world,” Skarsgard told IANS over the phone from Scotland.

“I believe everybody should have the right to have their own religion. But that doesn’t mean that they should forget everybody else’s right to have their own religion… The idea of nationalism is excluding, not including.”

Skarsgard pointed out that “nationalism and religion are always used by strong politicians to unite people for the wrong reasons”.

Skarsgard looked back at the time when work brought him to India, and he saw a world embracing diversity in its true sense.

“When I was working in Mumbai, it was in the 1980s… What I loved about the city and India was that it was not very violent. You could walk in the middle of the night and didn’t have to fear of getting attacked or robbed or anything.

“There were a multitude of different approaches of religion and approaches of life and they were all tolerated. And I must say that the current religious nationalism is encouraging the opposite. They are encouraging fight and there has been a lot of bloodshed and more will come.”

As a child, Skarsgard wanted to become a diplomat and travel the world with the message of harmony and peace. But instead found his way into showbiz and went on to do iconic roles like Jan Nyman in “Breaking the Waves”, Professor Gerald Lambeau in “Good Will Hunting”, Bootstrap Bill Turner in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, Bill Anderson in “Mamma Mia!”, Dr. Erik Selvig in the “Thor” and “The Avengers” franchise.

The actor turned 67 last month. Indian channel Sony Pix had a special screening session and aired some of his iconic films as part of the birthday celebrations.

Does he think he is spreading the message of peace as an actor?

“No, I don’t… I wanted to become a diplomat as a child and I thought it would be a great idea… I don’t believe actors have the power to change reality.”

For a lot of fans, Skarsgard, who has dabbled in all the mediums — be it films or small screen or theatre — will be an inspiring politician. But he wants to stay away from politics.

“No, because in this, if I know more about the world than Trump, then I don’t know enough.”

His opinions have created trouble for him in the past, but that doesn’t deter him from calling a spade a spade.

Recalling an incident, he said: “I always say what I have on my mind. And it is not always appreciated. I did an American horror film and on the premiere at the red carpet somebody asked me ‘What scares you?’, and it was at the time of George W. Bush. I said the reign of this country scares me and that had repercussions… But you still have to express (yourself).”

On the work front, he will soon be seen in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”, “Music, War and Love”, “Out Stealing Horses”, “Chernobyl” and “The Painted Bird”.

(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at sugandha.r@ians.in)



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