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'He worked a lot,' Skarsgård says, 'so I would hang out backstage at the theatre and just play there because it was pretty much the only chance I got to spend time with my dad. " – the movie I did was because the director was a friend of my dad's.A lot of the plays were Ingmar Bergman-directed, but I didn't care about him. 'They came to say "Hi", or get an autograph, but it made me kind of paranoid and very insecure. 'I wasn't like a Hollywood child actor – "I'm five! I told my parents, I don't want to do this any more.I would have tried, and I would have done it for a few more years probably, but I'm absolutely sure I wouldn't be acting today.I would have crashed and burned after a while.' He briefly considered becoming an architect – 'I spent a lot of time drawing buildings, even entire towns' – but changed his mind.It was more fun to play around in the costume department.' As a young boy he also acted in a number of films, including one, The Dog That Smiled, that brought him stardom at the age of 13. My dad said, "You have to love it, if you don't feel that way, do the other thing, whatever it is." I'm very grateful that he did that.I would have listened to him if he'd said, "Keep going".And he is currently shooting Lars von Trier's new sci-fi film Melancholia alongside Kirsten Dunst, John Hurt and Kiefer Sutherland, as well his father, Stellan Skarsgård, best known for his roles in Breaking the Waves and Mamma Mia! They are filming in Trollhättan – or Trollywood as it is sometimes known – where von Trier has made three previous films.
We are going to see a lot more of him in the second series. He also starred as Brad 'Iceman' Colbert in Generation Kill, HBO's acclaimed drama series about the US invasion of Iraq.
'I come from a family of pacifists, so it's not like I was going to join the war. There were a lot of really cool guys, but the mentality sometimes got a little too testosterone-fuelled for my tastes.' After he finished his national service in 1996, he and a friend left Sweden for Leeds Metropolitan University, where he studied English for six months.
Sweden is not like the States or England where you might get sent to Afghanistan next month. 'We wanted to see the real England, so we just looked at a map. I still support Leeds United.' Ever since his national service, though, Skarsgård had been thinking about trying to act again.
It seems an appropriate location for an interview with the vampire. It is not long before Skarsgård bounds up the steps to the lobby, showered and dressed in a simple grey T-shirt and jeans, looking very tall – he is 6ft 4in – and glowingly healthy.
At the gates of the 15th-century manor house where the cast are staying, a small group of Swedish autograph hunters tell me that Skarsgård went out for a run an hour ago and has only just returned. The contrast with Eric, whose deathly pallor projects cold menace, is heightened by his friendliness, but common to both are the most striking pale-blue eyes.
We both liked Leeds United, so we thought, let's go there. 'I thought I owed it to myself to check it out, because the reason I quit when I was 13 had nothing to do with acting per se.' He applied for a theatre course at Marymount Manhattan College in New York by sending them videotapes of himself performing monologues, filmed by his friend.