A Swedish actor who has become known to American audiences thanks to roles in Breaking the Waves and Good Will Hunting, Stellan Skarsgård is one of Scandinavia's best-known and most well-respected performers. Renowned for giving measured characterizations that draw their strength from a delicate complexity, Skarsgård is one of those rare actors who is able to do strong work regardless of the quality of the material he is in, displaying the sort of quiet fortitude that allows him to survive even the worst screen fiascos.
Born in Gothenburg on June 13, 1951, Skarsgård became a star in his country, when, as a teenager, he was cast on the TV series Bombi Bitt och jag. After his film debut in 1972, he did years of stage work with Stockholm's Royal Dramatic and made a number of dramas with the director Hans Alfredson, the most notable of which, Den Enfaldige Mordaren, featured Skarsgård in a Silver Berlin Bear-winning performance as a misunderstood man with a deformity. In 1988, Skarsgård got a tentative introduction to a transatlantic audience with a small role in Philip Kaufman's The Unbearable Lightness of Being; two years later, he had a similarly minor role in another international hit, The Hunt for Red October.