How did you feel having to pack on all the muscles?
I had to buy a new wardrobe, actually.
How did you feel about it? Did you move differently? What was it like?
Well, so we did it in different phases. I wanted to put on weight in the beginning so for the first three months while wrapping up True Blood in L.A., I was on a 7,000 calorie a day diet which meant that I basically walked around on set holding Tupperware with steak and potatoes just eating constantly and lifting weights. The goal wasn’t just to get bigger, I wanted to increase a bit in volume but I didn’t want Tarzan to look like a bodybuilder in the jungle. I did yoga and Pilates as well to get more athletic. I also didn’t have a social life for nine months so it wasn’t like I needed a lot of clothes. I basically wore sweat pants because I was either on set, at the gym or in bed for nine months.
That doesn’t sound very exciting.
I always make it sound worse than it was because it really wasn’t fun. I didn’t have a social life because I couldn’t drink and I was on a very strict diet.
Who was the character of Tarzan in your head?
It was all Johnny Weissmuller (laughs). My father loved Tarzan when he was a kid. Every Saturday they would play these old Johnny Weissmuller movies in his local town in Stockholm at the local movie theatre and he would save up his money and go see these movies. When he had a son he wanted to introduce his son to his biggest idol and I fell in love with Tarzan too.
Tarzan goes to great lengths for his love, Jane. What have you done in your life along those lines?
I’ll tell you the most stupid thing I’ve done for love. I was in New York and I went to college there, I studied theatre. I met a girl in Sweden a couple of weeks before going to New York and I was 20, she was 18 and going to New York was a great opportunity. But then I felt, ‘I’ve got to drop out, I’ve got to move back to Sweden for this lady.’ So I left everything, moved out of my apartment, dropped out of college, moved back to Sweden and I think it lasted for 14 days maybe (laughs) and then we broke up. Very romantic huh? I didn’t really know her and I put the relationship up here like on a pedestal and I guess, yeah.
So you want back to New York to finish your education?
Oh, that’s what I should have done! (Laughter). I didn’t. I started working in a coffee shop in Stockholm. Isn’t that idiotic? I could have gone back, but no, I didn’t.
Your Jane, Margot Robbie, was much stronger and more independent than Johnny’s Jane, Maureen O’Sullivan.
Yes. You have to do it differently in 2016 and when you have someone like Margot Robbie play Jane it’s very easy, because she is so independent, so strong and so tough and it made for a more interesting story and a more interesting relationship between John and Jane.
It you felt that he needed her as much as she needed him. And Tarzan is such a hero and such an iconic tough guy, you have to feel a vulnerability there because you want people to relate to the character. When he charges through the jungle to get back to Jane it’s more than just to save the girl. He needs her and I think it makes for more of a beautiful love story that way.
Speaking of Margot Robbie, what do you think makes her a star?
Margot’s name came up and we happened to be in L.A. at the same time so we met up for dinner one night. It took three seconds to realise she’d be perfect because she’s just so disarming. She’s just the loveliest, warmest human being, so open, so sweet, so loving but at the same time incredibly strong and intelligent and independent and had all those qualities that we needed in a Jane to make it modern. They’re on an equal level like he’s not the boss of her in any way and I don’t think you feel that with Margot.
Were there any injuries on the set?
A few scratches during the love scene with Margot (laughs)
We shot the sex scene right and it’s the first real sex scene of the movie and David, the director, said to us, it needs to be animalistic. We need to feel the intensity. Come on! It’s Tarzan and Jane having sex. It can’t just be like missionary position! (laughs). It’s got to be intense and Margot again is very sweet so she didn’t want to hurt me but David wanted like to feel like she’s really into it and it gets primal so he was just egging her on behind the camera going like beat him, scratch him, hit him (laughs) so Margot started scratching my back. Very traumatic experience (Laughter). Yeah. My job sucks, doesn’t it? (Laughs)