BlackBook Exclusive: See the New Poster & Official Website for Zal Batmanglij’s ‘The East’

“Your beliefs are always coming into question; it’s a hallmark of our time; it’s very hard to believe fully in something,” said director Zal Batmanglij, who in the last year has emerged as one of the most exciting and innovative voices in a new wave of American film. With a style that blends both intimate drama with high-concept thrill, his evocative debut Sound of My Voicea film that mixed science fiction, psychological drama, and ethnographic study—left us eagerly awaiting just what he would have in store for us next. And to our delight, we didn’t have to wait long. His sophomore feature The East premiered this January at Sundance to a warm reception and, thanks to Fox Searchlight, his wholly important eco-thriller will be hitting theaters this May.

Penned by Batmangij and Brit Marling, his collaborator and star, the film explores similar themes as Sound of My Voice, with investigation of identity, the allure of charismatic leaders, and questions of personal belief. Batmangij and Marling seem to share a cinematic language; while Batmanglij has a knack for exploring the anxieties that plague our modern age, harkening back to a bygone era of political and social thrillers, Marling possesses an ineffable grace and intelligence that’s as fierce in her writing as it is in performance, both capturing the metaphysical nature inherent in human connection.

And with The East, we follow Marling as Sarah, a young ex-FBI agent now working for an elite private intelligence firm who is hired to infiltrate an anarchist collective that is rumored to be attacking big corporate CEOs and forcing them to come in contact with the harm they’ve inflicted on the masses. But in her time spent with the collective known as The East, her beliefs begin to waver as she starts to sympathize with the group’s leaders and opens her eyes to the wrong doings that so easily go unnoticed.

But what makes the film so exciting is that Batmanglij has made something totally important to our generation that speaks to where we’re at and where we’re going in a way that hasn’t been touched on in modern cinema. The East feels like the first film to breathe a young voice into an issue so embedded in our current society, but in a way that’s more personal than polemic. There’s an emotional authenticity behind the thrill, making it something you can feel as well as enjoy.

“We’re not trying to hit anyone over the head with these ideas,” Batmanglij told me. “We’re trying to plant these seeds so they will grow, because I think it’s much more important that these ideas grow inside of people than it is that they come out changed. A film shouldn’t be too intellectual in the making of or the watching of, but much later they can be—little seeds that just pop up and make you question things.” 

And today we’re pleased to share the new poster for The East highlighting Marling as well as her striking co-stars Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgård. In addition, you can now explore the film’s awesome official website here at WeAreTheEast.com.

 east 

The East will premiere in Austin this weekend as the closing night film of this year’s SXSW Film Festival. Batmanglij, Marling, Page, and Skarsgard will all be in attendence when the the film screens at 8pm at the Paramount Theater on Sunday, March 16th.

Watch the First Trailer for ‘What Maisie Knew’

We all know trailers tend to be a little emotionally manipulative. But hopefully, that sense of passion carries over into the actual film and those emotions you’re feeling aren’t just a matter of good editing. And with the new trailer for Scott McGehee & David Siegel’s upcoming family-relationship drama What Maisie Knew, we’re given a healthy serving of torn and tender feeling.

After an appearance at TIFF last year, What Maisie Knew is headed for its theatrical release and now there is a first trailer for the film featuring a likeable and talented cast of Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård, Steve Coogan, and child-actor Onata Aprile. As a contemporary adaptation of Henry James’ novel, the movie tells the story of a family broken apart and their young daughter who must adjust to their new lives, loves, and losses.

From what we see in this first trailer, the film has the potentially to be pretty emotionally devistating and showcase some great performances from the cast all around. And yes, you are hearing "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" by Stars in the second half of the clip. We’ll be keeping an eye on this one.

Is Johnny Depp Hollywood’s Sexiest Vampire?

The latest Tim Burton-Johnny Depp collaboration, Dark Shadows, won’t open until May 11, but today a featurette on the film hit the web, showing off some never-before-seen footage and giving us a glimpse into Collinwood, the mansion Depp’s movie family, and the characters played by a supporting cast that includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Moretz, Eva Green, and Jonny Lee Miller.

But despite the excitement another Burton-Depp collaboration — the pair’s eighth — brings, this isn’t the first time we’ve all been to the sexy vampire rodeo. Take a walk down memory lane with us, will you?

There’s, of course, Alexander Skarsgard’s Eric Northman on HBO’s True Blood, perhaps the hottest bloodsucker—sorry, Vampire Bill—to ever cower from the sun.

And naturally, we have Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen in the Twilight films, if you’re into that sort of thing. If not, he has enough brothers, sisters and fake vampire parents that one of them has got to get your blood boiling.

Whether it’s Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt who’s your favorite, it was impossible to walk out of Interview with the Vampire without hoping to end up with one of these fangers clamped onto your neck.

Wesley Snipes’ titular character in Blade might have only been half vampire, but he was all hunk.

Like your vampires more New Wave? Keifer Sutherland and company, in 1987’s The Lost Boys offer eternal evil and Wayfarers. It’s a winning combo.

He might not be the megastar he once was, but Colin Farrell’s flesh-eating neighbor from the recent Fright Night reboot can come over and borrow a cup of sugar from us any time.

Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, & Alexander Skarsgard Talk ‘Melancholia’

Unfortunately, Melancholia is known as “The Lars von Trier Nazi comments film,” after the misguided remarks the director made at last summer’s Cannes film festival. It’s unfortunate, too, because it’s his best film in years. Billed as a “Beautiful movie about the end of the world,” Melancholia is exhausting and intimate, a psychological drama under the guise of a disaster flick. Kirsten Dunst, who won best actress at Cannes for her performance, plays Justine, who is estranged from her sister Claire, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg. Alexander Skarsgard, making a departure from the dangerous men he’s embodied as of late,  plays Michael, who’s set to marry Justine. All the while, a rogue planet is on a collision course with Earth. The film finally opens in New York this weekend. We recently caught up with Dunst, Gainsbourg, and Skarsgard, who traveled deep into the land of von Trier and lived to tell about it.  

How did you get involved with the film?
Kirsten Dunst: For me, I just got an email that was like, read this script. Lars wants to talk to you tomorrow and he’s really interested in your for this movie. I know that two directors had recommended me because it was supposed to be Penelope Cruz in the film at first. So two friends of his mentioned me for the role, and we barely even talked about the script. We just talked about The Night Porter and Charlotte Rampling. It was really simple for me.

Did you have any reservations about working with Lars?
KD: I didn’t. I knew that whatever journey I was going on it would be an interesting one and I’m always up for a challenge.

A lot changes from the page to the screen took place. Did you have any idea how massive the film would actually be?
KD:
I know it’s a Lars film. I didn’t think, stylistically, how it would look until we were getting to these homes.
Charlotte Gainsbourg: Visually, I didn’t even see it as being America or that castle. It was his atmosphere.

How does working with Lars differ from working with other filmmakers?
Alex Skarsgard:
It’s very unconventional and it was such an interesting vibe and atmosphere. We all kind of lived together in the middle of nowhere in southern Sweden. Usually, when you work, it’s like you block a scene and then you have tape marks and then you have a master. Then you show up and the director’s like, “Alright! Let’s see what happens.” But Lars doesn’t care about continuity and he wants to be surprised. He wants to be like, “Oh, that was interesting, I didn’t expect that to happen.” You do whatever you want and then he’ll come in and he knows. You feel like he’s editing it in his head as he’s watching it, and then if there’s something he needs, he’ll come in and whisper something. It was really one of the most amazing experiences of my career.

Did you rehearse before you shot the film?
AS:
He shoots it as we rehearse, and it’s usually a disaster. There were these big scenes with cars coming and going, and he’s like, “Alright, let’s shoot!” and we’re like, “What’s my cue? When do I drive?” But I get it, because there are these moments that will happen. Most of it will be a disaster, but then something will happen in that rehearsal, some little moment or something awkward or something that’s real, and you won’t be able to recreate that. He’ll be there with a camera and he’ll capture that, and then you’ll do it again and fix what didn’t work, but then you’ll have these little moments you can put in.
CG: He tries to push you a bit off of your grounds and it’s very helpful. Now I find it’s very difficult to work in a different way because you feel so free. Now when someone says, “Okay, we’re going to rehearse,” and you’re feeling that you’re missing stuff, it’s very difficult.

With a film so heavy, did you have to keep the atmosphere light on set in order to not fully sink into your own depression?
AS:
That’s the thing, we partied weekends and had fun because you need that. You can’t spend two months in that darkness.
KD: Everyone was always cooking or we’d meet for a meal.

Charlotte, how was the experience on Melancholia different than Antichrist?
CG:
Antichrist felt so intimate, with a tiny crew who went to extremes. And with this character everything was more subtle and more difficult for me to understand, and to know where I was going because it was less extreme. And the crew felt different, the whole thing was nearly the opposite which was nice. I was nervous before I started this film because I enjoyed myself so much on the first, that I was worried it wouldn’t be as good. I enjoyed Antichrist very much in a troubled way. That’s why we do this job, not to go in easy places.

Was Lars a different director or person while working on this film opposed to Antichrist?
CG:
Very different. I think he was not well when we shot Antichrist and came up saying he didn’t know if he’d be able to finish the film. And so we suffered looking at him and not being able to cope with everything. For this, he was good and was saying how happy he felt. So that was nice to see him recover.

It seems like even though Lars has some of the most challenging roles for women, people seem to misconstrue them as misogynistic, which is crazy, no?
KD:
He’s one of the only people writing roles and women are the leads.
CG: But there is a cruelty and a darkness and that’s what makes a character.

How did you feel when you saw the completed film for the first time?
AS:
It’s always weird when you watch yourself, especially the first time, because you’re always critical. I wasn’t able to go to Cannes, so I went back to Sweden in May, and it was in theaters then, or in June, and I thought it was amazing.
KD: The sound was crazy at the end. I laughed at Cannes. I turned to my friend and was like, “What is going on?” Not because I thought it was funny, but because it was so intense. I thought it was amazing. I thought the end was so cool when I saw it done for the first time. I haven’t seen an ending in a theater like that, and it is so unexpected because it’s so intimate.

Did Lars give you any advice when going into the film?
CG:
He asked us to watch Persona.
KD: And he told me to watch Philadelphia Story. I think because it takes place at a wedding and it’s charming and funny, and he didn’t want to lose that essence even though it was a film about depression.

How would you react to the end of the world?
KD:
I’d be sad if I never had kids and it was the end of the world. If it was the end of the world tomorrow, I’d probably just be with my friends or something.
AS: I’d go hang out with my family.
CG: I just want it to be quick and not know about it.

The Reawakening of Kate Bosworth

She’ll never admit it, but Kate Bosworth is in the middle of a reawakening. You can hear the excitement in her voice, which trembles when she tells me about the movie she just finished shooting in Italy. “I got back yesterday after spending four weeks on this renegade production of a film on the island of Ischia,” she says from her home in Hollywood on a blistering afternoon in late July. “There were only six people in the crew, including myself. We’d mike ourselves at the hotel before going outside to steal shots all over the place. It’s a really interesting position to be in because you have to try to control the chaos while at the same time letting it reign.” Her longtime friend Kat Coiro directed the still-untitled project, which follows Bosworth’s character, a married writer, as she embarks on an affair with a younger man. It might never get a distributor, but that’s exactly the type of chaos Bosworth intends to embrace. “We just wanted to make something of our own.”

To observe her recent performances is to feel like you’re witnessing a defining moment in the 28-year-old actor’s career. Alexander Skarsgård, her boyfriend of two years until their split in July—and her costar in this month’s remake of the Sam Peckinpah classic Straw Dogs—couldn’t agree more. “She’s working really hard at changing her career, steering it in a new direction,” he says. James Marsden, who plays the other male lead in the film and who shared the screen with Bosworth in 2006’s Superman Returns, isn’t so sure. “I don’t necessarily think Kate’s undergoing any sort of reinvention,” he says. “She’s never had a rule book. It doesn’t matter if a film is being directed by Martin Scorsese or a first-time filmmaker, and it doesn’t matter if its budget is $100 million or $500,000—the role is the only thing she cares about.” For her part, Bosworth, whose earlier films have seen her bring to life Sandra Dee in Beyond the Sea and Lois Lane in Superman Returns, insists there’s nothing calculated about the projects she’s chosen. “God, I started this so young—I was 14 when I got my first role,” she says of playing an equestrian opposite Scarlett Johansson in 1998’s The Horse Whisperer. “I barely knew myself back then. I did the best I could to navigate a career while also just growing up, and it wasn’t until three years ago, when I turned 25, that something in me grounded. I wanted to explore. I wanted to be challenged. I started riding emotional roller-coasters I wouldn’t have even lined up for in the past.”

The first of those rides to barrel into theaters is Rod Lurie’s update of Straw Dogs. In it, Bosworth plays a once-successful American television actor named Amy Sumner, a role inhabited by a coquettish Susan George in the 1971 original. Marsden plays her screenwriter husband David, and together they relocate from Los Angeles to her hometown of Blackwater, Louisiana, where the welcome wagon derails almost as soon as they arrive. The film was shot two summers ago in Shreveport, Louisiana, amid what Bosworth describes as “insufferable heat,” which added to the overall intensity of filming the movie’s graphic scenes of extended torture, rape, and murder. “The pavement was practically melting,” she says, her words practically melting at the memory. “It felt dangerous. People there keep rifles in their cars. There’s a dark history to the area, and like any place that’s endured a certain amount of pain, you can feel it all around you.”

Whereas George played Amy, a British sexpot and second-wave feminist, with one-dimensional, braless flirtation, Bosworth knew her interpretation of the character—a struggling, slightly defeated actor who uses her sex appeal as currency—needed more than a nice rack and a Brigitte Bardot pout. “I’m really interested in how we, as women, use our sexuality. But I also believe there’s a fine line between the exploration of misogyny and its glorification, so I wanted to make sure that Amy was also intelligent and interesting—so much more than just David Sumner’s wife.” image

That a beautiful actor, especially one whose big break came in the 2002 babes-in-bikinis surfer movie Blue Crush, vehemently condemns Hollywood’s exploitation of women is fraught with complicated irony. When, for example, Bosworth describes the scene in which Skarsgård’s Charlie, an aggressive farmhand and Amy’s high school sweetheart, rapes her, she says, “I told Alex not to worry about me, to just go for it. I said, I need you to lose yourself in this moment. And it was actually violent. He’s a huge guy. When he was ripping off my clothes in front of a room filled with men, even though I knew it was make-believe, it was still incredibly violating and terrifying. The panic you see flooding me in that rape scene is real.” Marsden remembers how tense things became leading up to that moment. “They’d definitely marked it on their calendars,” he says. “Earlier that week, they both kind of dropped off the map. They had vacant expressions on their faces—not in their scenes but socially. You could tell it was looming over them.” And afterward? Laughing, he says, “Afterward it was beers again.”

Even though they filmed the scene well before becoming a real-life couple—at that point she and Skarsgård, along with the rest of the cast, were still getting acquainted over drinks at the Stray Cat, a Shreveport dive they frequented—Bosworth felt comfortable enough in the arms of her on-screen assailant to endure the two days that were required to capture the simulated rape. “Alex is so kind and so dedicated and so incredibly professional,” she says. “He’s got this rare, wonderful control and stillness that you notice in a lot of old movie stars. He looks you in the eye. I feel incredibly lucky to have had that type of man on this movie.”

Another man she credits with helping her to submerge into the deeper recesses of her psyche is first-time director Sam Levinson (son of acclaimed filmmaker Barry), who coached her through an equally grueling performance in Another Happy Day, which also stars Ellen Barkin, Ezra Miller, and Demi Moore, and is set for a November release. In that film, Bosworth plays Alice, a college student who reunites with her absentee father (Thomas Haden Church) at her brother’s wedding, and is met with cynical derision from her extended family regarding the latticework of straight-razor marks across her arms. Played woodenly, she’d be an unsympathetic cliché, the archetype of a poor little rich girl. “Dude, I know exactly what you mean!” says Bosworth, whose guy’s-gal lexicon every now and again rushes to the surface of her feminine exterior. “To be totally honest with you, I had that same fear. I remember continually telling Sam, I don’t want her to be this whining heap of a wreck. But it goes so beyond her feeling victimized. Watching her is to watch someone struggling with her own survival.”

Bosworth took care not to trivialize Alice’s self-harm. “It’s almost like that type of pain has become hip these days: ‘This is where we’ll introduce the drug addict. And this is where we’ll introduce the cutter!’ The last thing I wanted to do was treat Alice’s disease like it was a trend.” Although she’s never dealt with that particular demon, Bosworth has endured her share of anxiety. “I’ve always been sensitive, and sometimes I don’t know how to handle that sensitivity, but I’m learning to manage it better,” she says. “As an artist, my job is to indulge in emotion. The artistic process is thrilling and joyous, but it can also be extremely painful.”

Most recently, Bosworth capped off her trifecta of harrowing films with Michael Polish’s Big Sur, which recounts Jack Kerouac’s several trips to a cabin on California’s central coast. As Billie, she plays a mother who pines after Neal Cassady (Josh Lucas), the Beat poet who was immortalized as Dean Moriarty in Kerouac’s On the Road. “Blue Crush was one of the most physically challenging things I’ve ever done, but this one, well, it’s up there in terms of emotional difficulty,” she says. In particular, there’s a scene that has Billie entertaining the idea of killing herself and her child. “The thought of one day killing my own child is so far removed from the intensity of sadness I’ve ever known, but in the moment I became her, and I let go of control and really allowed myself to take off.” image

Bosworth is driving through the Hollywood Hills, running a few errands, when she calls me later that afternoon. She’s given some thought to being typecast, a concern we touched on during our earlier conversation. “I feel like I’m always battling people’s perceptions of me, but it’s a losing battle,” she says. “I pick projects because they’re interesting, not to prove anyone wrong.” Oddly, given that she’s often perceived as the all-American girlfriend, Bosworth has rarely played that role, with the exception of her work in Remember the Titans and Win A Date with Tad Hamilton!. What’s more, for every plain vanilla beauty she’s played, Bosworth has tackled a handful of more savory parts, from a porn star’s main squeeze (Wonderland) and a card-counting MIT student (21), to an itinerant sociopath (The Girl in the Park). Aside from her golden locks (which, yes, appear to have been spun by an assembly line of little angels), she doesn’t even look like the girl next door. Her two different-colored eyes—the left is blue and the right is a blue-hazel hybrid—are more reminiscent of David Bowie than Mary Jane.

She insists she’s never much cared what other people think. “I was a real loner in high school, even though people assume I was the head cheerleader,” says Bosworth, an only child who was raised by her retailer father Harold and her homemaker mother Patricia in the affluent town of Cohasset, Massachusetts. “My head was always in books. I felt uncomfortable in cliques. I wasn’t a social butterfly at all.” After graduating from high school she was granted admission to Princeton University, but deferred her acceptance and instead moved, at 18, to Los Angeles. “Talk about anxiety!” she says. “That was a really stressful time for me. I look back now and think, How did I ever do that? I lived there, in a tiny studio apartment, on my own.”

It’s her outsider sensibility (and not, as some might expect, her sample-size frame) that first drew Bosworth, now a go-to muse for design luminaries such as Francisco Costa and Phillip Lim, to the world of fashion. Although she insists she’s not a high-maintenance style hound (“I never wear stilettos during the day”), she’s often photographed in what appears to be an endless series of outfits designed by everyone from Valentino to Alexander Wang. “I’ve always seen fashion as embracing the individual, although yes, I understand that there are parts of the industry that aren’t so welcoming. But look at the Proenza Schouler boys,” she says, referring to the womenswear and accessories label’s co-designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez. “They’re so kind and they make such brilliant designs. The Rodarte sisters, too. It may be idealistic, but I like to think that goodness rises to the top.”

If the success of her own accessories line is any indication, Bosworth—who shares Skarsgård’s down-to-earth approachability—is right. It’ll be a year in October since she and Cher Coulter, her close friend and personal stylist, launched http://jmnt.co/nqXwg5” title=”JewelMint”>JewelMint, their successful internet retail venture, which exists under the umbrella of BeachMint, itself owned by MySpace co-founder Josh Berman. Frustrated by their inability to find interesting accessories online, Bosworth and Coulter conceived of a test whereby participants can narrow the scope of their bauble preferences and sign up to receive, based on the results of that quiz—questions involve picking favorites between Chanel and Dior, Kate Moss and Alexa Chung—a monthly design for $29.99. Bosworth, whose father worked at Zegna and Talbot’s before retiring, says her decision to dip her toe rings into the world of fashion was an easy one. “My first Bring Your Daughter to Work Day was spent understanding the difference in quality and texture between various fabrics. I’ve had an appreciation for good workmanship from a young age,” she says. “I had no interest in signing a contract that would force me to curate pieces I found horrendous.”

According to the results of my JewelMint quiz, I “like to play up [my] inner wild child.” Bosworth responds to this news by laughing. “You’d probably like Cher’s favorite pieces then. She’s a London girl and I love her for it, but I like to keep things simple,” she says. “Keeping it simple,” however, means something very different for Kate Bosworth than it does for the average American. With mock-defiance, as if challenging me to prove her wrong, she says, “Oh, really? You’d be surprised by how creative I can get with my sweatpants look.”

KATE LIKES: Joan’s on Third, Los Angeles.

Photography by Andrew MacPherson. Styling by Cher Coulter.

First a Vampire, Now a Leading Man: Alexander Skarsgård Can’t Be Tamed

“Use your phone and shine a light over here,” says Alexander Skarsgård, whose indefinitely appropriated Southern twang echoes off the walls inside one of the many vast stages at Hollywood Center Studios in Los Angeles. It’s True Blood’s final day of production before the show’s annual hiatus (they’ll reconvene in November for season five), and the near-empty lot we’ve been wandering feels like a schoolhouse abandoned by its students for the summer. Most of the cast and crew have driven out to Malibu this afternoon to film the pyre-heavy final scene of the HBO series’ fourth season, but Skarsgård and his costar Stephen Moyer have been directed here to re-shoot a close-up. “Follow me,” he says as we edge closer to the darkest part of the hangar-size room.

“I wish I could find a fucking light switch,” he adds, before eventually flipping one. The chamber we’re in—done up like a dank basement with black columns and intimations of evil—suddenly becomes awash in the glow of overhead lights. “This is where I tortured Lafayette,” he says with a satisfied grin, referring to the show’s second season, in which his character Eric Northman, the sheriff of Area 5, chained Nelsan Ellis’ drug-abusing, cross-dressing fry cook to a post. He waves me through another door into what looks like a nightclub filled with barstools, dusty liquor bottles, and a poster of a vampiric George W. Bush. “Welcome,” he says with exaggerated gravitas, “to Fangtasia!”

For the past four years, Skarsgård’s spot-on portrayal of a seemingly cold-blooded exsanguinist—who this season upended expectations by betraying more than a little amnesia-induced emotion for Anna Paquin’s Sookie Stackhouse—has turned the 35-year-old Swedish actor into an object of desire for men and women around the world. Still, the alpha male label doesn’t fit, at least not entirely. “In most of the projects I’m recognized for, I’ve played leaders,” he says. “And so, of course, that’s how people want to pigeonhole me. You’d be shocked by the number of offers I get to play Eric Northman under a different name.”

Skarsgård’s latest role in this month’s remake of the ultra-violent Sam Peckinpah film Straw Dogs won’t do much to change the public perception of the 6’4″ actor as a man with testosterone to spare. In director Rod Lurie’s adaptation of the 1971 cult thriller, Skarsgård plays Charlie, a small-town football hero whose emasculation at the hands of his high school sweetheart, Amy, and her new husband, David—played by Kate Bosworth and James Marsden—results in a simmering rage, which inevitably boils over into a symphony of wildly ungovernable carnage. “Humans are animals,” he says resolutely. “And like other animals we struggle between instinct and rationality. Of course I believe we’ve evolved, but I think it’d be naïve to claim we’re nothing like the rest of the animals with whom we share the planet. At the end of the day, we’re nothing but frappuccino-sipping savages.”

Or beer-chugging savages, a more accurate description of Charlie, who David, a Hollywood screenwriter, commissions to renovate his isolated property’s farmhouse. Tensions build throughout the film as Charlie and David try to out-brute each other, each time with greater consequences. “There were times when Alex really did beat the shit out of me,” says Marsden of the film’s many physically demanding scenes. “There was a moment when he launched me into a wall, smacked me right in the face, and pressed a gun into my forehead. He pressed it so hard you could see the ring of the barrel on my forehead afterward. But the second they cut the scene, he’d go right back to his compassionate, considerate self: ‘Are you okay, Jimmy? Everything fine?’”

While David is out hunting one afternoon—a display of barbarism into which he’s been pressured by Charlie and his crew—Charlie drops by the house, where he corners and attacks Amy. The rape scene, which caused a stentorian uproar when the original Straw Dogs first screened four decades ago, is no less difficult to watch in the remake. After violating Amy, whose mix of pleasure and pain while being assaulted lends the scene a layer of uncomfortable ambiguity, Charlie sits back and watches as one his hulking cronies follows suit. “It fucking breaks his heart, watching her get raped by someone else,” says Skarsgård, the gaze of his piercing greenish-blue eyes difficult to match in this moment. “It’s not like he ever says, ‘Yeah, fuck her!’ In a way, he feels like she’s his territory. He thinks, ‘You’re my woman. I offered to protect you for the rest of my life, but you didn’t want that, did you? If you don’t feel this passion, this real thing we share, then fine, you’re on your own.’ It’s definitely more complicated than him fucking her because he can’t have her.” image

The set of Straw Dogs, the production of which Skarsgård admits was “exhausting on an emotional level,” seems an unlikely place for romance to blossom—nonetheless, it’s where he met Bosworth, whom he dated for two years until they broke up in July. “Kate is such a great actress, and she’s so much more than a good-looking Hollywood starlet. We were just really good friends at the time,” says Skarsgård, who lives on his own in a rented house in the Hollywood Hills. “But we shared a really special experience on that film.” (Although I didn’t know it at the time, Skarsgård was safeguarding a secret—the dissolution of his relationship with Bosworth had yet to become public fodder—which partly explains why our easy banter atrophied into guarded responses so quickly when the subject was broached. It didn’t last long. A downright neighborly guy, he generously explained, “I make it a rule not to talk about myself and Kate. I so desperately try to keep my private life out of the tabloids because becoming a celebrity rather than an actor can really get in the way of a good performance.”)

Skarsgård and I are now in his dressing room waiting for him to be called into hair and makeup. He strips down to a pair of black briefs, consulting a rack of clothes he’s meant to wear for today’s shoot: tattered military pants, a dark, ripped shirt, and “WWI–style” combat boots. There’s not much by way of interior design except for a couch and a wooden desk, on which sits a set of True Blood posters awaiting his autograph (they’re for the family members of two of the show’s head accountants), a second pair of folded black underwear, and a white box decorated with a crimson bow. “Aw, look how sweet this is,” he says, holding the contents of the box up to the light. “It’s a hand-painted vampire!”

After he gets dressed, we move to a similarly barren room, where Moyer, who plays his nemesis Bill Compton, is wearing a costume almost identical to Skarsgård’s, his hair being parted by a doting stylist. Skarsgård sits down next to him and, almost immediately, a makeup artist begins applying dots of red corn syrup to his cheeks, chin, neck, and chest. “Don’t you want to know why Eric’s face is all bloody?” Moyer says in a surprisingly thick British accent given the seeming authenticity of his Southern drawl on the show. Skarsgård nods at Moyer to continue. “He rips somebody’s heart out and then drinks blood from the aorta like it’s a straw. It’s so fucking cool!” Skarsgård, who’s been known to deliver some of the show’s wittiest one-liners, says, “When I’m finished, I just look into the camera and burp. It’s so gross.” Perched next to one another like the Bobbsey Twins as imagined by Quentin Tarantino, True Blood’s two greatest adversaries catch each other’s gaze and erupt with laughter.

Skarsgård grew up in Södermalm (a district in central Stockholm that he says has the same artsy vibe as Lower Manhattan), the oldest of seven children. Despite the fact that his father, Stellan Skarsgård, is one of Sweden’s most revered actors, he insists theirs was a normal life. At 13, he lived for six months in Budapest, where his father was filming Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg. While there, he attended a school run mostly by American teachers. He attributes this experience and the short time he spent studying theater at New York’s Marymount Manhattan College in 1997 with the almost total evisceration of his Swedish accent. (Although he looks like a Norse god, Skarsgård talks like a Texan rancher, an incongruity he says came from working with his Straw Dogs dialect coach. “This slight twang will stick,” he says, “until I work on the next thing.”) After six months at Marymount, he moved back to Sweden to chase after a girl he’d met only three weeks prior to his trip to New York. “This was before Skype, and it was really expensive to call,” he says. “She broke up with me after six months and I was devastated, very naïve—not old and bitter like I am now. After she dumped me, I was like, I’m coming home, baby! Please take me back! I rode into town on my white stallion thinking I was saving the most beautiful relationship in the history of mankind. She dumped me again a couple months later.” image

Heartbroken but still determined to pursue acting, Skarsgård bounced around a series of plays, the most demanding of them being a three-hour Swedish production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, in which he embodied Nick, an impotent overachiever, six days a week for nine months. (That and Generation Kill, the seven-episode HBO miniseries about the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, were, he says, the most challenging roles of his still-young career. Of Generation Kill, which first aired in 2008, he says, laughing, “It’s funny, I spent seven months in the African desert, putting my blood, sweat, and tears—my heart and my soul—into that project, and still, more often than not people want to talk about the six hours I spent filming the music video for Lady Gaga’s ‘Paparazzi.’”)

In 2000, Skarsgård took a trip to Los Angeles from Sweden, where he’d been working steadily in film and on stage, to visit his father. At the suggestion of Stellan’s manager, Skarsgård went to an audition on a whim. “I was just a tourist and it seemed like a fun adventure,” he says of the experience, which landed him his first American film role as a goofy, dumber-than-dirt male model named Meekus in Ben Stiller’s Zoolander. “I would love to do another comedy,” he says, although his upcoming film slate won’t do much to calcify his funny bone.

He’ll next appear in Lars Von Trier’s matrimony-and-Armaggedon drama Melancholia as the fiancé to Kirsten Dunst’s despondent bride-to-be (a performance that won her the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year), whom he can feel slipping away from him on their wedding day. “I’m so madly in love with her and this is supposed to be the best day of my life,” he says. “But I can’t seem to stop us from drifting apart.” The film, which will be released in November, also stars Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, and the elder Skarsgård, who plays his son’s friend and best man.

Although he’d worked with Von Trier in 2000 on a Danish miniseries called D-Day, he was “excited and nervous to explore such a vulnerable character.” Unfortunately, Von Trier’s knack for eliciting career-topping performances from his actors was overshadowed when he uttered three little words during a press conference at Cannes: “I understand Hitler.” Shaking his head at the foolishness of it all, Skarsgård says, “Lars isn’t a racist, but he likes to provoke people. It’s almost like he has Tourette’s. If he’d been drunk and yelled it at someone—if it had felt genuine—that would be one thing, but it’s just bullshit he says because he’s trying to be funny. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and it definitely didn’t this time.”

After Melancholia, he’ll return to alpha territory as the commanding officer of a US Navy destroyer in Peter Berg’s Battleship, a big-screen adaptation of the classic peg-and-grid game costarring a bunch of aliens, Liam Neeson, and a camouflage-wearing Rihanna, whom he insists seemed “like a natural—in the few scenes I shared with her, she was very good.” Despite his initial hesitation about starring in his first mega-budget movie—“I’ve heard they can become more about the explosions than the acting”—he says it was a great experience. Just then, a portly, headset-sporting man, wearing a polo shirt emblazoned with the True Blood logo, knocks on the door to Skarsgård’s dressing room and says, “They’re ready for you on set.” image

The Moon Goddess Emporium is relatively new to True Blood, as are those who frequent it, the witches who were introduced to the show this past June. Tibetan prayer flags hang from the room’s vaulted ceilings. It’s a cluttered space made all the more crowded by the 20-odd crew members anxious to film the scene and start their hiatus. Before the cameras begin rolling, Skarsgård walks up to his mark in the center of the room, Moyer kneels in front of him—his character is picking something up off the ground when the shot begins—and the director watches them from his chair in front of a camera monitor. While waiting in their places, Skarsgård looks down at his costar and says dryly, “It looks like he’s sucking me off,” to which Moyer responds by bobbing his head vigorously. Skarsgård closes his eyes and starts moaning with the intensity of a slash-fiction hero, after which Moyer stands up and wipes imaginary fluids from his mouth with the back of his hand. He scans the crowd and after taking a slight bow says, “And the Emmy goes to… ” A crew member whispers to no one in particular, “Now that’s what I call ‘Action.’”

Later that night, the fourth season of True Blood officially wrapped, Skarsgård returns home to shower before meeting me at the Hollywood Roosevelt for a burger and a few ice-cold bottles of IPA. Over two hours, he draws more than a few glances from a group of Australian tourists and even from social gadfly Rumer Willis, the daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. “It’s you, Eric, isn’t it?” says one particularly guileless man, as if testing the waters before introducing Skarsgård to his wife. “Would you please take a picture with her?” He graciously obliges, wrapping his arm around the woman’s waist and smiling for the camera. “Would you… bite her?” This he does not oblige. When the couple retreats back to a far corner of the restaurant, Skarsgård says, “That’s one thing I’ll never really understand. But the main reason I don’t ever do it is because if I do it just once, every single person will be like, ‘Bite me! Bite me! Bite me!’”

Whereas he doesn’t at all begrudge a forward fan, he’s less patient with paparazzi who follow him to the gym and out to dinner. “They don’t care about you,” he says of the tabloid lensmen. “They just want their money. I’ll never get used to the fact that they camp out to get a picture of me eating a sandwich. It’s strange to me, and I want it to be strange—I don’t ever want to feel like that’s normal.” Which is why he’s excited to relocate for a few months to New York this fall, where he’ll film What Maisie Knew, a relationship drama costarring Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan. “LA is such a one-trick pony—80% of the people here talk exclusively about managers and agents—but New Yorkers don’t really care as much about ‘the industry.’”

Although he never says as much, it seems like this is why Skarsgård remains so connected to his Nordic homeland: Compared to Los Angeles (and New York to a lesser degree), where he’s become wildly famous for playing a pansexual, seldom fully-clothed, 1,000-year-old vampire living in a fictional backroads Petri dish for mutants and Louisianan bumpkins, Sweden seems downright normal. “All of my childhood friends are still in Stockholm,” he says. “Not a single one of them is impressed by me—they’re happy for me, but they don’t give a fuck about that shit. One guy’s a salesman, a couple others are unemployed, and they could care less that they’re hanging out with a ‘celebrity.’” I tell him that sounds like a healthy balance. Skarsgård empties his beer and smiles. “You have no idea, man. I’m so fucking balanced it’s ridiculous!”

ALEX LIKES: Paul & Andre, Los Angeles.

Photography by Andrew MacPherson. Styling by Annie Psaltiras.

Alexander Skarsgård & Kate Bosworth Cover BlackBook’s September Issue

Alexander Skarsgård and Kate Bosworth may have parted ways romantically, but they’re still burning up the double cover of our September issue, hitting newsstands next week. Did we mention this also marks BlackBook‘s 15th anniversary issue? Take a moment to dive through 15 years of our covers, with the opportunity to get up close and personal with Alex and Kate’s cover shots at the end. What else is going on in this issue, you might ask?

Of course, we have the rundown on who’s hot and getting hotter, such as the comely Amber Heard playing bold and Playboy Bunny as the situation requires. Indie darling Brit Marling goes intergalactic with Another Earth. Rising dude-star Joel Edgerton talks going bare-knuckle and bloody for Warrior. The astoundingly gorgeous Vera Farmiga steps behind the camera for Higher Ground while staying in front of it too. Paul Rudd and Adam Scott are happy to get stupid for Our Idiot Brother. Lenny Kravitz speaks of his formative years and formative influences, while indie-pop quintet Twin Sister speaks softly and carries no sticks. Max Minghella walks us through his favorite Los Angeles haunts. And Kat Dennings is prepared to describe all the ways you’ve annoyed her, so far.

Given that this is our birthday, we felt a few presents were in order. So we asked 15 past BlackBook cover stars to send us celebratory wishes, in whatever manner they deemed appropriate. Check out birthday cards from James Franco, Scarlett Johannson, Christina Ricci, Diddy, and more. We went a step further in the cover department, sending our all-black first issue cover to artists Adam Green, Curtis Kulig, David Shrigley, Eve Sussman, and Dustin Yellin so they could re-interpret BlackBook in their own distinctive styles. And then we came up with several takes on our 15 best moments of the past 15 years, as well some of our … less fine moments.

Of course, it’s fashion season, so we have amazing fashion features from two very different worlds: the put-together super-prepster on the new jack campus, and the decidedly un-preppy, unapologetic night-world of New York mistress of ceremonies Ladyfag. Not to mention the usual buffet of hot new nightspots, restaurants, hotels, shops, reviews, and more. We’ll be rolling out September magazine content right on this very website very soon, so stay tuned. And watch out for details on our big birthday bash on September 7 at the Dream Downtown.

Juliette Lewis and Alexander Skarsgård Do the Red Carpet Thing

For anyone who’s never had the opportunity to be on either side of the velvet rope at a red carpet, lucky you. Doing the red carpet—whether you’re conducting the interview or answering the question— has a tendency to be at once boring and unnerving. Basically, you don’t want to be asking folks the same questions the person next to you will ask. As the star, you are forced to listen to yourself answering the same question repeatedly to interviewers who are all perched side-by-side like open-mouthed baby birds. Here’s a video of our girl Juliette Lewis and our boy Alexander Skarsgård as they dole out some classic stock answers while repping their animated movie—the dark, dystopian Metropia at the Tribeca Film Festival. Enjoy! (Or don’t.)

Video: Elizabeth Glover