You’re playing the eponymous master in Goya’s Ghosts. Fan of the man’s work?
Oh, very much so. The first time I was in Madrid, I went to the Prado Museum and got stuck half a day in front of Goya. He’s an amazing painter, especially when you look at how he progressed from his early, pretty naïve paintings to the more modern ones that were like 100 years ahead of their time.
You’re a pretty accomplished painter in the film. Did you take any lessons?
I didn’t care much about the technique. It was more about getting close to Goya and what he felt and how he reacted to the society he lived in. The technical side? All the times you see my hand doing a real painting, it’s a real painter... I’m just not good enough. The guy who instructed me told me it would take 10 years to get the brush working in an appropriate way. So I gave that up.
With all the brutal torture in Goya’s Ghosts it’s fair to say it’s a rather political film, right?
When I read the script, I thought it was a political film. Torture is used today, as it was during the Inquisition. It’s even used by western democracies and everybody knows it and it doesn’t work. It’s bizarre.
From the sublime to Pirates 3... You enjoy mixing it up?
I’ve made about 65 films and I’m not bored yet, partly thanks to always trying something different. I have a varied diet and I’m very happy about that. It was fun once I got on set, but with so many hours of make-up before, it was kind of hard.
Finally, Milos Forman. What’s the old man like to work with?
Doesn’t say much. He keeps very quiet, then talks about where to eat in the evening. Occasionally he shouts. [Skarsgård shouts REALLY LOUDLY]: “That’s bad acting Stellan! Why are you acting so bad?”