Bill Skarsgård Says Playing Nosferatu’s Vampire Felt Like He Was ‘Conjuring Pure Evil’

Bill Skarsgård Says Playing Nosferatu’s Vampire Felt Like He Was ‘Conjuring Pure Evil’

Most moviegoers’ first impression of Bill Skarsgård came courtesy of his performance as Pennywise the Dancing Clown in 2017’s It and its 2019 sequel. He’s a good-looking dude, yeah, but he also has the ability to twist his charisma into something dark and terrifying. That’s been a recurring motif in the characters he’s played so far, and it sounds like Nosferatu might raise the bar even more.

In a new interview with Esquire in which he talks about two upcoming movies in which he plays an undead character—The Crow, out June 7, is the other one—Skarsgård says becoming Nosferatu’s title vampire presented some unique challenges. The film, directed by Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse, The Northman), reimagines the 1922 silent classic of the same name, itself a riff on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Skarsgård has been friends with Eggers since 2015 and was actually considered for multiple different roles in Nosferatu as the long-in-the-works project shuffled toward production.

But then Eggers decided Skarsgård could make a perfect Count Orlock, despite initial worries he might be too young for the part. According to the magazine, “Skarsgård read for the role multiple times. By self-tape. Over Zoom. In the studio with his hair slicked back and fake nails glued on. He tested out voices and sent them over piecemeal in voice notes. He did one makeup test, and then another.” At last, Eggers told Esquire, “I was like, ‘He’s become the character.’ It was eerie to see in the footage. Anything he did, anywhere he turned or looked, you were like, ‘He’s got it.’”

Then, when the movie was finally being made, Skarsgård had to undergo further transformations, getting opera-singer guidance on lowering his voice and enduring hours of prosthetics and make-up every day (he claims he is unrecognizable as the character, and also calls his Orlock “gross… [but] very sexualized”). It kept him apart from the rest of the ensemble, which includes Nicholas Hoult, Lily-Rose Depp, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Emma Corrin, Willem Dafoe, Simon McBurney, and Ralph Ineson, but he tells Esquire he cultivated that isolation. “It took its toll … It was like conjuring pure evil. It took a while for me to shake off the demon that had been conjured inside of me.”

Even Eggers was impressed with his star’s dedication: “I remember early on, him trying to talk to me about what it meant to be a dead sorcerer—and I’m into some pretty heavy occult shit, but he was on a different level,” the director said.

Nosferatu hits theaters December 25. You can read the full Skarsgård profile over at Esquire.

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