As Pennywise in It, Skarsgård is so menacingly chilling that he makes the child actors on set cry when they first saw him emerge, in character. Since the movie’s release, Skarsgård finds himself thrust into the spotlight, as the newest IT boy in Hollywood. In reality, the 27-year-old Swedish actor has followed in his famous father’s footsteps, Stellan Skarsgård, since he was nine.
Movie-making is in his blood
Skarsgård spent most of his youth travelling to far-flung places with his father, hopping from one film set to another. His first acting stint was in the Swedish thriller White Water Fury in 2000, and played the younger brother to real-life brother Alexander’s character.
Out of eight Skarsgård siblings, four have gone into acting. Alexander is best known for his character as vampire Eric Northman on the HBO series True Blood, Gustav is of course, linked to his role as Floki in the History Channel series Vikings and Valter’s acting works stay mainly in Sweden.
Skarsgård then appeared in a handful of shows, mainly confined to his native Sweden, and gained recognition for his performance in Simple Simon (2010), where he portrayed a young man with Asperger’s syndrome. In fact, he won the European Film Academy's Shooting Stars Award in 2012 for the role. Other Shooting Stars Award recipients include Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Maisie Williams.
Making a move to Hollywood
Turning his sights Stateside, Skarsgård made his American debut in a small part in Anna Karenina (2012), starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law. His first major appearance in an American film is in the science fiction thriller The Divergent Series: Allegiant (2016).
Among all his American projects, it was in the Netflix series Hemlock Grove (2013) that Skarsgård leaves the deepest impression. Based on a novel by Brian McGreevy, Skarsgård stars as Roman Godfrey, where he plays a chilling yet charismatic half-human, half-vampire that turned from evil to good.
Avoiding the mainstream
With his father a famous actor, it seems odd that the actor took a rather late and roundabout route to get Hollywood, choosing to act in small, quirky projects, but that is exactly how Skarsgård had planned it. He shared, "The main reason why I didn't really pursue acting early was because I thought people would say, 'Yeah OK, here comes another one, he's been fed on a silver plate of course he's an actor,'" He added, "You know as well as anybody else you don't just 'get to' play parts, you need to prove yourself."
And prove himself, he certainly did in It. His performance sent chills down audiences’ back, the way Pennywise moves in that alarming, slow, contorted way, the creepy, controlled smile, and that intimidating stare. Fully committed to bringing Pennywise to life, Skarsgård spent months prepping for the role, watching Tim Curry’s version and keeping to himself on set. In fact, he was so into the character that he had nightmares about Pennywise even after filming wrapped.
A Bright Future
With a great year in 2017 with It and Atomic Blonde (Charlize Theron), the future continues to look bright for Skarsgård, he’ll be appearing as a cast regular in the series Castle Rock and in 2019, he will return to creep us out as he reprises his role in Chapter 2 of It. And we can’t wait.