Peter Stormare is one of the busiest and most successful character actors working today. He is exceptionally versatile, having taken on roles across all genres and is always looking for diversity in the roles he chooses as well as career longevity. He has been in hundreds of films; including Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Bad Milo, Fargo, Constantine, and 2001 Maniacs. His latest feature, Autumn Blood (review) is arriving on DVD October 21st.
We had a chance to speak with Peter Stormare about Autumn Blood and why he was so eager to work on a film with next to no dialogue. We also talked about why he gravitates toward darker roles and thinks that most actors would do the same if given the choice.
Peter Stormare’s latest film, Autumn Blood follows a brother and sister as they fight for their very survival in the Tirolian Mountains. The pair previously lost their father at the hands of the mayor of their small town (Stormare) and have just recently lost their mother as well. Now that the children are orphaned, the young woman has become the focus of the mayor’s son’s unwanted advances. When the girl declines the mayor’s son’s invitation to fornicate, he returns with a band of hunters and proceeds to violate and brutalize the young woman. From there, the brother and sister take to the wilderness and prepare to stand up to those that have wronged them.
Wicked Horror: Autumn Blood is a film with nearly no dialogue. What kind of direction did you receive from Markus Blunder on set?
Peter Stormare: I grew up in a very, very small village in Northern Sweden – 2,000 people. One of my first experiences with the movies was watching Clint Eastwood films. I just loved the simplicity in those movies, the sparseness in the facial expressions and the sparseness in dialogue. I would fantasize about being there with the characters and would wonder what he was thinking about. I’m a dreamer. I love poetry. I love artsy movies. I love to use my imagination and go on an unknown journey. But most movies today have so much dialogue and so much expedition. I knew Markus [before the film] because he’s pretty big in Europe as a commercial director and music video director. This script was exactly like an old western to me. It could be taking place 100 years ago in the midwest or the south. Then, he said that he wanted to shoot it in English, up in the Alps up at 8,000 meters. I was even more enticed at that point. It was a joy to live in a small village with 150 people and rough it in the mountains while shooting this movie. There are more important than the actual paycheck. I’m a simple person. I come from a very simple background. My aim has not been to do a lot of movies to make myself a millionaire. My goal is longevity. I’ve had a chance in my life to play the same character over and over again after Fargo. But I chose not to go that route. I would rather have longevity and do supporting parts where I can play characters all the time. Where I don’t have to have the same hairdo or the same look on my face like Brad Pitt or Julia Roberts. I’ve taken another route and for me it has paid off. I’m a happy human being. I am happy in my soul. I love to do movies like this – independent films that are a little bit daring. Not mega blockbusters. But we need these kind of movies. We need people to do something different than paint by numbers. Unfortunately, most of what comes out of the movie industry is paint by numbers. It’s the same shit. It’s rarely good movies these days.
Peter Stormare: It is rare. I’m surprised by how rare it is. A lot of people here see the dollar signs and they want to make as much money as they can. But when their TV show or movies flops, they have all of these bills to pay and are wondering how they are going to pay them. I always think that they shouldn’t have taken the role in the first place.
WH: You play a pretty dark role in Autumn Blood. It seems that you gravitate towards darker roles. What is it about darker roles that appeals to you as a performer?
Peter Stormare: I think that it appeals to most actors. If you lined up a group of stage and film actors, you will find that people want to do Macbeth. They don’t want to play Prince Charming. Maybe in your own life, you’re a normal human being but you still want to do those weird and dark characters on stage and in movies. And I always try to put a bit of humor into my characters. Just a hair of humor. Something a little bit charming so that the audience is lured in. There’s an old thing that I think of all the time. I try to be a question mark because a question mark becomes a hook when it is turned upside down. I try to be a little enigmatic and make the audience wonder what I am doing. It’s just small adjustments that you aren’t really allowed to do if you want to be a big movie star. If you want to be a big movie star, you have to do the same thing over and over in movie after movie after movie until you are dead and gone. I love to create characters. They may not be in the movie for more than ten minutes but I want to be part of what the audience remembers two years later. I get that a lot from Constantine and The Big Lebowski, which I’m not in that much but people really remember me from those movies. People quote lines from those movies all the time and that makes me happy that a character can make that kind of impact.
WH: Speaking of Constantine, I thought you were great in that. You played The Devil but you made Hell seem like fun.
Peter Stormare: Yeah. I had to fight for that. They wanted me to be dressed in leather pants and bare chested with CGI tattoos moving around on my chest. And I told them that I wanted to be in an off white linen suit because if I came in looking like a Christmas tree with all the bells and whistles, no one is going to hear what I am saying. They are just going to look at all the fucking shit that goes on. Finally, the director and one of the producers backed me up. Then, I asked why I needed to come up from the ground. So I suggested that the devil could be descending from above and have tar dripping off of him. We all agreed and it turned out to be a good decision.
WH: Going back to taking on dark roles, do you think that most actors enjoy that because it’s easier to draw on personal experience than it is to do so in roles where the characters are way to upbeat and unrealistically happy.
Peter Stormare: Going back to Clint Eastwood, who inspired me a lot, even as Dirty Harry or in his Spaghetti Westerns, he is a dark character. Even if he is looked on as a hero, he kills a lot of people [laughs]. He smokes and he drinks. He’s sort of a dirty character that we tend to love. That is very hard to do. He has a gift from God to be able to do that with his characters. A lot of actors can’t be dirty and at the same time be likable. In Die Hard, Bruce Willis tried very, very hard but was not that successful. Many have tried. I talked to Harrison Ford many years ago and he said that wanted to do dark characters and that he hates playing these clean guys. But he did two movies where he played dark characters and both flopped. He was very unhappy because people want to see him as this clean cut American guy. I think that if you lined up 100 actors, 99 of them want to dark, crazy characters. Maybe their lives are boring and tedious like most people are so it’s a luxury to play those kind of roles. If you get to play roles like that maybe six or seven times a year, it’s a luxury. And I am able to do that and I am a very happy fella. Instead of just taking lead parts with B-directors and B-scripts, you can do supporting parts with A-directors and A-list casts and then go in there and try to steal the show.
WH: I think you’ve been really successful in doing that. It’s been a great pleasure to chat with you today.
Peter Stormare: I hope to do it again sometime. It’s great to hear that.