Source: Vancouver Observer
Date: January 29, 2011
Michael Nyqvist, 50, the Swedish actor who became world
famous after portraying the Blomqvist character in the
Millennium Trilogy movies, is spending some time in
Vancouver while shooting scenes for the next "Mission
Impossible" movie with Tom Cruise. I have followed
Michael's movie career over the years in Sweden, and
when I heard he was in Vancouver, I contacted his agents
and inquired if it was possible to meet him for an
interview. I wanted to hear Michael's impressions of
Vancouver, to hear him talk about his vast career and to
find out if he really is such a nice and down-to-earth
guy as he is in the movies. However, the agents were not
sure if he would have the time to meet with me due to
his busy schedule.
So, when I received a casual email from Michael himself
one morning, I was both stunned and surprised. The email
said: "I hear you want to interview me. I'm in town so
give me a call." I dialed his number with a bit of
hesitation and introduced myself.
"Hey, sorry I'm mumbling a bit. I'm eating sausage," he
said. I bursted out laughing.
"How typically Swedish," I replied, and we both laughed.
We Swedes love sausage and liquorice.
"So, you want to meet me for an interview?" he asked,
straight to the point.
We agreed to meet the next day for dinner. He asked me
to pick him up in the lobby of the hotel he was staying
at and to "take him somewhere." But where do you take a
movie star for dinner? And what do you wear? These were
the questions I only had time to ponder for a day. I
received a lot of suggestions from friends. But as
usual, I ignored all the advice, and decided to play it
by ear. From our casual phone conversation, I could tell
that Michael is not the kind of guy who expects to be
wined and dined at the fanciest restaurants in town.
As I was waiting for Michael in the lobby of the fancy
hotel he was staying at, I chatted with the concierge
and asked him if he knew that Michael was a major movie
star and absolutely everyone knows who he is in
Scandinavia. After his performance in the Millennium
Trilogy movies, he has become a household name all over
the world. The concierge smiled politely and told me
that Michael is one of the most down-to-earth actors who
has ever stayed at the hotel and that it's been a
pleasure getting to know him.
I turned around to see Michael step out of the elevator.
He looked a bit tired. His dark hair was tousled and he
was dressed in all green. He was wearing big brown
hiking boots and army pants with a matching long jacket
with fake fur around the collar. He was so much taller
and muscular than I had expected. He exuded confidence,
tranquility and a certain star quality.
"How nice to meet you, Michael," I said, and we shook
hands the way we always do in Sweden when meeting a
stranger. I must have looked him up and down, because he
said with a smile: "I wasn't supposed to dress up in a
suit, was I? You're not taking me anywhere fancy, I
I laughed and assured him we would go somewhere casual.
"Good, I prefer casual," he said, as we left the hotel
and walked towards Robson street.
I decided to take him to Earls on Top. I remember when I
first moved to Canada years ago, and how much I enjoyed
going to big chain restaurants, as I was not used to
that from back home. His first remark when we came
inside was that it seemed like a nice restaurant, and he
asked the waitress for a quiet table with a view over
Robson street. We ordered a couple of beers and studied
the menus. He seemed a bit lost with all the choices and
when I told him I was going to have chicken quesadillas,
he quickly ordered the same thing.
"What are these? Swedish pancakes?" he said with a laugh
when we got our plates. After his first bite, he
announced that it was "absolutely delicious." For some
reason, I had expected him to order steak and lobster,
and perhaps champagne. Instead, he was perfectly happy
with a pint of Stella Artois beer, quesadillas and a
green salad. I really liked his style. The waitress and
the manager kept coming up to our table throughout the
meal, asking if everything was okay. They were pleased
to hear Michael answer each time that the food was just
delicious. I wondered if they recognized him, and I
asked Michael if he usually gets approached in
"I was surprised to be met by paparazzi at Vancouver
airport, but generally everyone respects my privacy
here, and I get to enjoy some anonymity. I really
appreciate that. I stayed in Paris for half a year
before coming here, and I was constantly approached on
the streets there. The Vancouverites are very gentle and
polite. Vancouver is such a majestic city. I love that
it is surrounded by the ocean and the mountains. It is
stunningly beautiful, and, compared to a lot of North
American cities, it is quite cultured.
Michael is on a strict daily workout schedule with a
personal trainer in order to prepare for some of the
stunt scenes he is performing in the "Mission Impossible
– Ghost Protocol" movie. A professional stunt man
performs the high risk stunts.
"It feels a bit like being in boot camp, but I really
enjoy getting in shape. Shooting this movie is so much
fun, and it is completely different than anything else I
have done before."
Michael has spent a few weeks in Vancouver and will be
here for another couple of months. In between working
out and doing film shoots, he has been busy discovering
the city and enjoying some of the local sports culture.
"I went to a Canucks game recently and met the Sedin
twins as well as the other Scandinavian players. I
really enjoy hockey, and Mats Sundin is a good friend of
mine. I would love to do some skiing while I am here,
but, due to insurance clauses in my movie contract, I
cannot do any sport with a high risk of injury. I did a
lot of skiing when I was younger and I miss it. And not
cross country skiing. That is only for grandmothers,"
said Michael with a laugh. "I like fast downhill skiing,
slalom as we call it in Swedish."
Michael, who is the top earning actor in Sweden, has
spent the last few years travelling all over the world
from one movie set to another.
"I am tired, and I could use a break, but it is hard to
say no to a great role. I review every single script
that is sent to me and I generally like everything. My
agents always have to try and talk some sense into me."
Michael compares making a movie to being on a big ship.
There are different levels: action, seriousness,
playfulness, sadness. And no matter what happens, the
ship has to reach its port.
"There is such a thrill in that challenge. I could
afford to take a few years off work and just relax, but
I know I would get bored. I enjoy being busy."
Talking to Michael was a unique experience. Throughout
the conversation, which was colorfully blended with
jokes and stories from his adventures around the globe,
I kept thinking that he was a real artist. He is
extremely well-read and cites quotes and lines from
poetry, literature and movies. And yet he is down to
earth, approachable and quick-witted.
"Friends tell me I should try stand up comedy, but I am
too scared. What if the audience would not laugh at my
jokes? I would just jump out the window," he said, and
gestured expressively with his hands.
Michael found out at an early age that he was adopted
from an orphanage, and his heritage is part Italian,
part Swedish. As a young child, he embraced the Italian
culture, and it is apparent in his dark good looks and
lively manner that he has some Latin blood.
"I love everything Italian. Food, movies, history and
culture. After connecting with my Italian side of the
family, I have had the opportunity to spend more time in
Italy and it is been just wonderful. We are one happy La
Familia," he said and fired one of his trademark smiles.
"I spend a lot of time in hotel rooms, waiting for the
next shoot, and I relax by either cooking up a great
meal or writing something. There were a lot of rumours
circulating about me and my childhood, and I felt I
needed to set the record straight. It was a great sense
of relief to write this book. I am extremely proud of
Michael does not know if he will write another book, but
since childhood he has followed the motto Not a day
without a line. He recently got his own column in a new
Swedish magazine called Yourlife. His fascinating
columns recount his personal memories, travel stories,
exotic experiences and discoveries while working on
"I love reading all kinds of books, from main stream
literature to the classics by Shakespeare and Oscar
Wilde. The English language is so beautiful. History was
one of my favorite subjects in school, and I could have
easily become a history professor. I spent a lot of time
travelling through Greece and Italy as a teenager,
visiting all the famous ancient sites."
Michael met his wife, Catharina, a movie set designer,
at film school in Sweden, 17 years ago. He still
remembers, vividly, when he first saw Catharina and how
beautiful he thought she was. She came over to him,
handed him a movie script and asked his opinion of it.
"I was so taken with her that I did not notice I was
holding the script upside down. When I told her that I
thought the script was great, she hissed at me and said,
'Really, this piece of garbage?'" Michael laughed
"I thought she was hilarious and I loved her from that
first moment we met. I appreciate that she always speaks
her mind, and I value her opinion about everything."
It is apparent that Michael misses his family when he is
away from them, and it is touching to hear him talk so
fondly of his wife, and their two children: Arthur, 14,
and Ellen, 20.
"I love spending time with my wife, and she is my best
friend. She is the one I tell everything to: my thoughts
and ideas, everything that goes through my mind. I am
still amazed every morning when I wake up and find her
beside me. She is so perfect and I sometimes wonder what
she sees in me," said Michael, and then he smiled,
"I miss my family terribly when I am away on location. I
am thrilled when they come to visit me and so miserable
when they leave. It is wonderful to be able to travel so
much in this profession, but it can be a very lonely
Michael is thrilled that there will be an American
version of the "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and
thinks that Daniel Craig is a great choice for the
"I'm really curious to see how the movie will turn out.
The American movie industry is like a dream factory, and
very different to the European style. American movies
explain how life should be whereas European movies try
to explain life."
Michael's favorite actors are Robert DeNiro, James Woods
and Marcello Mastroianni. Some of his favourite movies
are "1900," "Fanny and Alexander" and all the
"But I also enjoy softer types of movies like "Notting
Hill," and "Love Actually" is my absolute favorite
Michael estimates that he has acted in 80 movies (for
cinema and TV) and his own personal favorite is
"Together," a Swedish movie about a commune set in the
70s and directed by Lukas Moodysson. The movie was shown
at the Vancouver Film Festival a few years ago.
"I love performing in theatre and I am still employed at
the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. I will never
forget the play called "If This Is a Man," which is
based on a book by Primo Levi and accounts of his
experience as a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration
camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. I was alone on stage and
recited 150 pages of monologue. It was such a challenge
learning the lines, and I remember reading them over and
over again until they became a part of me, and I was
completely immersed in it. It was an intense and
unforgettable experience," said Michael, as he gazed out
reflectively on Robson Street.
"My life still feels unreal to me sometimes. I marvel at
having reached this type of success: to be able to
travel all over the world, meet so many interesting
people, stay in wonderful places and perform my craft in
great movies. I never expected all of this to happen to
me. I am grateful, and I want to make sure I stay
grounded. I don't want to lose my perspective of reality
or lose myself in this crazy business. I strive to stay
real, curious and, to some degree, naive."
"There is a great line by a Finnish poet called
Saarikoski: A day with a new thought is a great day. I
truly believe that," said Michael with a gentle smile.