Probably the most renowned Swedish actor working onscreen today (next to the venerable Max von Sydow), Stellan Skarsgård is a reliably solid presence in any film, big or small. And he's done it all, from obscure, harsh dramas like Juanita Wilson's recent 'As If I Am Not There' to big, fluffy musicals like 'Mamma Mia!' (granted, that was his only fluffy musical). A major part of the American movie-going public knows him as Bootstrap Bill from the last two 'Pirates of the Caribbean' movies; a smaller segment recognizes him mainly from Lars von Trier films, and then there's Verner Vollstedt, his crazily overbearing director character on HBO's 'Entourage.'
Opening Friday is 'Frankie and Alice,' in which Skarsgård plays a psychiatrist to Halle Berry's multiple personalities. Most recently he gave a wonderful performance in dark Norwegian (redundant?) crime comedy 'A Somewhat Gentle Man' -- unfortunately in very limited U.S. release -- as a murderer just sprung from prison. It's definitely one of his best characters. But looking over the man's long career, 1997's 'Insomnia,' in which he played a sleep-deprived, guilt-ridden cop, stands out as his breakthrough role. (Though Christopher Nolan's remake with Al Pacino was also excellent, Skarsgård really owned that part.)