Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård is known to millions as the Viking vampire Eric Northman from the hit HBO series True Blood, and the dastardly husband of Nicole Kidman in the 2018 phenomenon, Big Little Lies. Since starting his career as a child actor in his native Sweden, Alexander has built a hugely successful, internationally acclaimed career in both film and TV. With more awards than his mantle-piece can handle, a place in history as one of the few actors to have trekked the South Pole, an upcoming role in the hugely anticipated Godzilla vs. Kong, and a few famous ex-girlfriends for good measure, the talented Swede just seems to go from strength to strength. Find out more about the rising star with these 20 fast facts.
1. He’s the son of a famous actor
Alexander Skarsgård was born in Stockholm, Sweden on 25 August 1976. His mother was My Skarsgård, a physician, while his father is actor Stellan Skarsgård. By the time of Alexander’s birth, Stellan had already achieved a considerable level of fame in his native Sweden, with his performances in films such as Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg earning him both critical and popular acclaim. Stellan has since achieved stellar success on an international stage and is particularly renowned for his work with controversial director, Lars Von Trier. More recently, his work has come to the attention of a new generation of fans, courtesy of roles in The Avengers (2012), Thor (2011), Thor: The Dark World (2013) and Cinderella (2015).
2. His started acting at the age of 7
Thanks to his father’s industry connections, Alexander managed to get a head start on his peers by landing his first job at the age of 7 years old in Åke och hans värld (Åke and His World), Alexander would follow up the role just a few years later with the part of Jojjo in his second feature, Hunden som log (The Dog That Smiled). The production proved massively successful in his native Sweden… so much so, in fact, that the young Alexander felt overwhelmed with the attention and retreated from the spotlight for several years. “I was really self-conscious and I wasn’t comfortable with all the attention,” he explained to News Week.
3. He served in the Swedish Military
After withdrawing from acting, Alexander started to pursue other ventures. At the age of 19, he signed up for his national service with the Swedish Military, serving 18 months with the “protect and hunt” unit covering the islands of Stockholm. After completing his military stint, Alexander enrolled at Leeds Beckett University. However, within just 6 months, he would end up dropping out of university, moving to New York, and enrolling in a theater course at Marymount Manhattan College… clearly, the siren call of acting was just too hard to resist.
4. His first big break was in Generation Kill
Despite already being a recognized name in Sweden, Alexander didn’t find an international audience until he was cast in Generation Kill. The HBO series, which would go on to win 11 Emmy nominations, followed the story of a group of US Marines during the early part of the Iraq War. Alexander played the role of team leader Marine Sgt. Brad Colbert. According to co-star (and real life Marine) Rudy Reyes, Alexander was born to pay the role of the charismatic Colbert, even if he didn’t necessarily look the part at first. “In walks this skinny guy that looked like a really tall Kurt Cobain,” he told News Week. “But once the cameras started rolling, Skarsgård became Colbert.”
5. He’s a football fan
Outside of acting, Alexander is a football fanatic, and one of Stockholm’s Hammerby IF’s most loyal supporters. “Soccer in Sweden is like a religion,” Skarsgård told Goal, “Growing up in Sweden, in the south of Stockholm, we supported Hammerby.” Love them though he does, Alexander is realistic about the team’s capabilities “They’re terrible. We don’t really have any good players. We don’t have any money. We almost always lose. It’s not a lot of fun.” Despite being “awful”, Hammerby don’t have to worry about losing Alexander’s support any time soon…in 2010, he proved his devotion by donating a number of signed items to raise funds for the beleaguered team.
6. He’s trekked to the South Pole
In 2013, Alexander joined Prince Harry in a fundraising trek to the South Pole. The trek formed part of Alexander’s duties as Ambassador to Walking with the Wounded, a non-profit organization that helps former service men and women transition to civilian life. The conditions during the four-week, 200-mile trek were extremely hazardous, but Alexander battled on to the bitter end, finally making it to the earth’s most southerly extremity on 13 December 2013.
7. He’s a feminist
Gender bias in the film industry is something Alexander has taken a firm stance on in recent years. “There is a double standard [in the film industry]. I notice that with actress friends of mine. And it’s disgusting”, he told Elle. Alexander credits his pro-feminist stance on his Swedish routes, telling Elle that in term of equal rights between the genders, Sweden is leaps and bounds ahead of many other countries.
8. He’s not a fan of social media
For most players in the entertainment industry, an active social media presence is a vital ingredient in getting, keeping, and increasing their fan-base… a constant stream of tweets and Instagram posts is therefore seen as par for the course for most actors and actresses. Not so Alexander, though, who sees social media as a barrier to creativity. ‘Sometimes I think it’s good to be bored, because that’s when your mind wanders; creativity is born this way”, he shared with Elle. “But we don’t allow for those moments anymore, because if there are three seconds of downtime, you are on your phone or you’re checking your Insta-feed or Twitter.’
9. He worries women only want him because he’s famous
It may be hard to believe, but the handsome actor sometimes thinks women are only interested in him for his fame. The actor started to question the intentions of his admirers as a teen, and despite several high- profile, long- term relationships, continues to do so to this day. “If a girl looked at me, I thought she was only interested because she had seen me in the movie. It made me feel worthless.’ he revealed. ‘I wanted girls to like me because I was funny or cute or interesting. That’s what you want isn’t it, when you’re 13? And I guess when you’re 40 as well.”
10. He was awarded an honorary degree from Leeds Beckett University
Despite dropping out of Leeds Beckett University after only 6 months of study, Alexander still managed to wangle a degree out of the university… even if it took him over 15 years to do so. In July 2017, the British institution recognized their former student’s contributions to entertainment with an honorary degree. Alexander was clearly delighted with the accolade, telling the Yorkshire Post “I am delighted to receive this award today and am honored to be back here in Leeds. I received great support here 14 years ago when I was studying a language course and great support from the university when I decided to reignite my passion for acting.”
11. He dated Alexandra Chung
Alexander started dating IT girl Alexandra Chung in 2015. The pair were notoriously private about their on-off relationship, but couldn’t resist occasionally spilling the beans on their partnership. In a 2017 interview with Porter, Chung took the rare opportunity to sing her other- half’s praises. “He’s an amazing man, very structured, responsible and supportive,” she said. “He’s very good at, not making me more grown up, per se, but at making me take myself more seriously”. The pair spit in 2017, citing the usual reason of overloaded work schedules, but have remained on good terms, even sparking the occasional reconciliation rumors with their continued closeness.
12. He appeared in a Lady Gaga video
In 2009, Alexander made his music video debut in Lady’s Gaga’s “Paparazzi”. The video was directed by fellow Swede, Jonas Akerlund, who until that point was best-known for his work with artists such as U2, Madonna and The Smashing Pumpkins. The video, which Gaga has likened to a short film, see’s Alexander playing the singer’s untrustworthy boyfriend; after making unscrupulous deals with the Paparazzi behind Gaga’s back, he finally gets his comeuppance after the singer poisons his drink. The music video received widespread praise on its release, with Daniel Kreps of Rolling Stone describing it as “brimming with cinematic style [so] that it’s hard to take your eyes off it. It (deserves) a red carpet”.
13. He’s the first Tarzan not to wear a loincloth
Tarzan is as well known for his skimpy clothing as he is for beating his chest and yelling Jane. In every reworking of the classic tale so far, Tarzan has been seen swinging from the trees in the scantiest of loincloths… or he was, that is, until Alexander came along. The Legend of Tarzan saw Alexander become the first actor in the title role to drop the loincloth (although not literally, to the disappointment of some fans). Alexander spend 4 months in training beefing up for the role, but his efforts where somewhat in vain… the feature received a decidedly mixed reception on release, with some critics calling it “turgid” and “sluggish”. … maybe it would have done better if he’d been wearing his lucky loincloth.
14. He likes fishing and fine wine
According to IMDB, Alexander likes nothing more than fishing, boating, lying in front of a fire and drinking red wine (although not all at the same time, for obvious reasons). However, you’re unlikely to find him unwinding with a crafty cigarette. “I have never smoked and I think it smells like a b****”, he’s revealed… although you may find him inhaling the occasion whiff of cigar smoke, a smell he says is reminiscent of his grandfather.
15. He was surprised at the success of True Blood
When Alexander first read the script of True Blood, he had no idea the show would be so successful: “When they called me and said: ‘Oh, do you want to audition for this vampire Viking thing?’ I didn’t expect that show to last for seven years. Never thought that would happen,” the actor revealed to The Guardian. But last it did- its 7-season run between 2008-2014 would see it earn nominations and awards aplenty (including 2 Emmy’s and a Golden Globe) and capitulate Alexander and co-stars Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer to international stardom.
16. He doesn’t take fame too seriously
Alexander may have had a good run of success, but he’s not counting his chickens just yet. The savvy Swede is well aware fame can be all too fleeting, and is fully prepared, and not too concerned, should his moment in the sun not last. “It’s here today, gone tomorrow,” he’s said. “I don’t expect this ride to last forever and maybe I don’t want it to. Definitely I’m not taking it too seriously.”
17. He’s directed a short film
Not content with restricting his talents to acting, Alexander has tried his hand at directing. His first (and to date, only) effort behind the lens was in 2003, when he wrote and directed the Swedish short film, To Kill a Child. The feature, which is based on Stig Dagerman’s novella Att döda ett barn, was a decidedly family affair, with Alexander’s younger brother Valler taking on the lead role of The Child, and his father Stellan assuming narrating duties. The film premiered on Swedish television on 7 February 2003 to critical acclaim, even managing to pick up 2 awards at that year’s Odense International Film Festival.
18. He’s a multi-award winner
Alexander started racking up the awards in 2003 and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. His first award success came for his directorial debut To Kill a Child, which saw him claim 2 awards at the Odense International Film Festival. Alexander went on to win multiple awards and nominations for True Blood, and almost as many for Big Little Lies, including a prestigious Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor.
19. He’s officially “sexy’
Since coming to international attention, Alexander has been consistently ranked as one of the world’s sexiest men. His good lucks first saw him voted Sexiest Man in Sweden in 1999; a title he would go onto to claim a staggering 4 times. In 2013, his sex-symbol status was cemented when he placed number 30 on Empire Online’ s list of the 100 Sexiest Movie Stars.
20. He’s lost out on some key roles
Like any other actor with an ounce of experience and a nugget of sense, Alexander knows that not all auditions have a happy ending. Despite his roll call of successes, Alexander has been on the brunt end of an equal amount of rejection. Notable rebuffs included his try-out’s for Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Thor (2011). He does at least have the consolation of knowing Thor wasn’t completely Swede-free: his father, Stellan, managed to do what his son couldn’t by landing a starring role in both the 2011 original and its 2013 sequel.