“We’re busy fighting humans,” Alexander Skarsgard told me when I asked him what was happening in season six of “True Blood.”
Skarsgard, who stars in the new film “Disconnect,” a thriller directed by Henry-Alex Rubin, was on the red carpet at a special screening at the SVA Theater in Chelsea Monday evening to talk about the film.
He plays the sexy Nordic vampire Eric Northman in the popular HBO series “True Blood,“ and I asked him about his character. The Swedish actor is very tall, at least 6’5”. My neck hurt from looking up at him so long. (Not that I’m complaining; he’s incredibly handsome.)
“There’s a full on war going on between vampires and humans,” he told me. He hinted that humans have a fighting chance against the thirsty bloodsuckers because they have discovered their weak spot. “So that’s what’s going on. I’m not going to reveal more.”
“Disconnect” is a suspense thriller that follows characters in three stories as they navigate through today’s cyber jungle and find themselves drawn into dangerous circumstances through social media and modern technology. Tweets, e-mails and Skype lead these jittery people to find themselves in tragic and dangerous situations.
Skarsgard plays Derek, a former soldier, who tries to salvage his marriage to Cindy (Paula Patton) after their baby’s death. Later they also discover their bank account is wiped out by online predators.
But Skarsgard said the movie is not about the evils of the Internet. “If you look at the problems that Derek and Cindy are having, they’re not related to the Internet. It’s because of what he went through when he was in Iraq and Afghanistan, coming home with that, not getting help,” Skarsgard said.
“He’s a proud man and instead just swallowing that and going to a job that he hates, putting the lid on. It’s just like a way for him to escape and numb himself instead of dealing with the real issues. And then in a weird way, that becomes like a blessing in disguise because when they lose everything, finally he has a mission again. He can go out and go after this guy, which gets him excited. Suddenly she sees a spark in his eyes. Oh he’s back!”
When I asked about the film’s message, the actor, who doesn’t tweet or do Facebook told me, “I don’t want to get preachy. It’s about people who are trying to connect with each other, and sometimes they fail and sometimes they succeed,” he said. “I thought it was a very brilliant, intelligent script because it wasn’t didactic. It wasn’t telling me how to feel.”
The actor is very busy, with a slew of projects.
Next up is “What Maisie Knew,” a modern-day adaptation of the Henry James novel set in New York. Skarsgard, who gets to show his squishy romantic side, co-stars with Julianne Moore as her younger man love interest. The actor is appealing and shows a very soft side that is the polar opposite of vampire Eric.
Skarsgard is a top contender for the role of Tarzan in a Warner Bros. film to be directed by David Yates, if they can find funding, so I told him: You look like you should play Tarzan.
“Oh do I?” he replied slyly. “I don’t know. I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Other stars of “Disconnect” who were at the screening included Jason Bateman, Paula Patton, Andrea Riseborough and director Henry-Alex Rubin.
It was also a starry guest list: I spotted Elizabeth Olsen, dressed down in jeans and a grey blazer, chatting with Patton, who was in a slinky white backless Gucci gown with coral-stone accents. And at the after party I stood in back of Glenn Close, who stood in line at the buffet table like everyone else.
Andrea Riseborough, who appears in the juiciest storyline in “Disconnect,” plays a television reporter (Nina), who investigates a sex chat site involving underage teenagers, and told me on the red carpet she did research for her role.
“One of the interesting things about playing Nina was that I really had no idea about the extent of how many children were exploited on the Internet in the adult entertainment industry,” she said. “That was a real surprise.”
She based her role on five different journalists and then drew on “illusion and imagination,” she said. “And in this story my character slightly loses sight of what she’s trying to achieve, but then the most unlikely character, a 17-year-old boy (Max Thieriot) on an Internet porno site, is the one who brings up that ground to having her find a connection with herself again and with somebody else, and she hasn’t had that such a long time.”
The fashion designer Marc Jacobs appears in the film as the sleazy den father to the teenagers on the porno site, which explained the presence of Grace Coddington, the creative director of American Vogue, and the armies of gorgeous 6 feet tall models swarming around the event.
Riesborough is in the Tom Cruise blockbuster “Oblivion,” and said she was on her way to the L.A. premiere. “I’m so proud of it,” she told me of the film.
In another thread of the film, Jason Bateman and Hope Davis play the parents of a lonely teenager (Jonah Bobo), who gets cyber-bullied by class mates and is duped into e-mailing an embarrassing photo of himself.
The film is a change of pace for Bateman. “I don’t get asked to do a lot of dramatic work so I jumped at it,” he said. “When you’re asked to so something that’s high quality you say yes immediately, and the fact that it was dramatic was another plus. I do mostly comedy work so it was nice to be asked to do something different.”
“Disconnect” is the first fiction film by Henry-Alex Rubin, who directed the terrific 2006 documentary “Murderball.” (One of the stars of “Murderball” has a cameo in “Disconnect.”)
I asked the director about the challenge of capturing emotion when characters are texting or surfing and there are letters on a screen.
“There are only a few scenes in this movie that really are all texting, and they’re instant messaging scenes,” Rubin said. “I discovered if you just film the actor’s faces in close-ups and then you leave a little negative space for what they’re writing and reading, it can actually be riveting because you’re just watching their faces.”
“You’re watching them react and think and write all at the same time. Whereas, in a normal conversation you’re only cutting to the person who’s talking, so it’s actually kind of engrossing to me to watch those scenes, and I hope it’s for other people too.”
After the screening, a man came up and congratulated the ebullient director.
“Were you moved?” Rubin asked. “That’s all that matters to me.”