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We both liked Leeds United, so we thought, let's go there. 'I thought I owed it to myself to check it out, because the reason I quit when I was 13 had nothing to do with acting per se.' He applied for a theatre course at Marymount Manhattan College in New York by sending them videotapes of himself performing monologues, filmed by his friend.

Family life, he says, was 'pretty chaotic', the atmosphere 'very liberal'. I was very much part of the chaos but I also had my room, and in there, when I was four or five, I would organise my cars and my action figures.

I needed some kind of structure, I think, because it was so chaotic in the rest of the apartment.' His father was performing in repertory theatre at the time, and would often be rehearsing one play during the day and performing in another in the evening.

I would have tried, and I would have done it for a few more years probably, but I'm absolutely sure I wouldn't be acting today.

I would have crashed and burned after a while.' He briefly considered becoming an architect – 'I spent a lot of time drawing buildings, even entire towns' – but changed his mind.

to another former girlfriend from this period in Sweden, whom he dated on and off for three years. If I feel a connection with someone, I'm willing to go there.' Is he attracted to extreme situations?

'It was very passionate,' he says, 'but we just couldn't get from the passion stage to the nice relationship phase.' I ask him how such an impulsive, emotional person came to be known for playing two characters who are so outwardly cool as Brad Colbert and Eric Northman. 'Sometimes, yeah, but I also know I have to be careful because there is something destructive within me, I think, and I can have a tendency to just search for the kicks.He is buzzing from the experience of acting with his father that day for the first time ever. It was a lot of fun.' At 33, he is the oldest of Stellan's six children from his first marriage: three of his brothers – Gustav, 29, Bill, 20, and Valter, 14, have established acting careers. His sister, Eija, 18, is a model; his mother, My, a doctor. On any given night, there would be 10 to 15 people around the dinner table.He grew up in Stockholm, on the island of Södermalm. It was very loud, very crazy, there was a lot of food, a lot of alcohol, but it was also very loving.But after just six months he flew home to Stockholm. She broke up with me because it wasn't working out, and I was heart-broken. I spent six months creating her in my mind.' Skarsgård stayed in Sweden and began to pick up acting jobs there.'I had met this girl in Sweden three weeks before I went to New York. I thought, I can't do this, I miss her so much, I've got to go home. I got back and we hung out for a little while, but we were just too young and too different. He starred in soap operas and theatrical productions, as well as films.Sweden used to be known for peace, Abba and long hours of daylight.

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