Interview: Peter Stormare Talks Clown and Remembers 8MM

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Revered Swedish actor Peter Stormare on how his character in Eli Roth’s Clown is linked to the malevolent Dino Velvet in 8MM

The Eli Roth-produced, John Watts-directed body horror flick Clown is now on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD and it’s more than worth a look. The film is a solid, emotional and just plain odd bit of high-concept genre-bending with more than a few deranged twists.

Clown sees actor Andy Powers putting on a clown suit for his son’s birthday and then, inexplicably, unable to take it off. Slowly and surely the evil suit begins to act like a parasite and turns its host into a very unfunny funnyman. Meanwhile, as he tries to find ways to save himself and his family, he meets Cancer specialist Dr. Herbert Karlsson (the amazing Peter Stormare from films like Fargo, Constantine, the upcoming series American Gods and, well, tons and tons of other entertainments), a man who knows more about the ancient demonic clown suit that anyone and whose intentions in helping the afflicted patriarch might be something less than noble.

We spoke to  the beloved, Swedish-born Stormare recently about Clown and his work as the raving, anti-heroic Karlsson, a conversation that veered off the rails and went to what this writer considers one of his greatest roles, that of malevolent, megalomaniacal porno kingpin Dino Velvet in Joel Schumacher’s cult noir thriller 8MM.

Here’s Peter…

RELATED: Read Our Exclusive Interview with Roth About Clown Here

CS: Clown could have been a tongue-in-cheek romp but it’s a rather serious, clever film. And your version of Karlsson has real humanity at his core. Was Karlsson like that on page or was he more of a cartoon?

STORMARE: Well, I always try to not make my characters cartoons, no matter what. I came on board Clown because it was a very simple story and it was a very nice script and a very refreshing  take on a kind of The Brothers Grimm fable, you know? But whatever is on page, no matter how out there, when you make it to  a move, you have to make it a bit more real. I saw Karlsson being like someone who you don’t know who he is or what he knows and what his background is and you initially wonder, is he a villain?  Did he plant this mask? What’s his connection?

CS: Yes and there’s a bit of a mythology here too…

STORMARE: There is and a bit of mystery, too. In most horror and even mainstream thrillers today, there’s just so much splatter and shock that I get turned off. There’s no ambiguity. These movies try to dictate to you exactly how you are supposed to feel. I like to reach my own conclusions and just go with the flow of the story and the emotion. So with Karlsson, there’s a mythology, a mystery. You know, with my characters,  I prefer to not say too much and in fact I tend to cut down some of the lines in most scripts I get. But this was a really good script and the character was really well written. I didn’t have to adjust it very much.

CS: You’ve played so many diverse roles and so many dangerous eccentrics. Do you ever carry over some of their traits from film to film?

STORMARE: I hope not. If I did, I’d be in the nuthouse…

CS: With Karlsson, I detected elements of Jeff in Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark and Dino Velvet in 8MM…

STORMARE: Interesting. I like to create characters that are larger than life. But it’s funny because I do a lot of bad guys and it’s because being European, I usually get cast as bad guys, it’s just how it is. But in my career, I’ve been lucky to do the bad guys that are more interesting, where the audience wants to spend more time with them and get to know them. That’s what I’m always looking for and trying to do. Even with Dino Velvet, who is evil, I wanted to him to be theatrical; an almost Shakespearean villain, like he comes from another century and yet is here making hard porn. Because you know, you’ve seen these porn directors, they’re just boring, sitting there, they’re usually from Jersey or LA, smoking their cigars. But here,  we dressed Dino in velvet and he’s almost aristocratic…

CS: I always saw Dino Velvet as a vampire, actually…this immortal porn producer…

STORMARE: Yeah, more like a vampire, yeah, exactly. You know, I wanted to have him escape at the end and come back in another movie, but they said, no, it wasn’t in the script. And later, (director) Joel Schumacher told me it was the biggest mistake he made to kill me off. I said that I could come back with a band-aid over my throat, I mean why not, right? I mean, in all the great horror movies, the bad guy always comes back. Dino Velvet was a vampire. He was Dracula.

CS: And on that tip, Karlsson is a bit of an amalgam of Van Helsing and Renfield…

STORMARE: Yeah he absolutely is and hopefully they make a sequel to Clown because there’s so many more places we can take him…