<b>Alexander Skarsgard</b>
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PHOTOS: Swedish stars in popular culture

<b>Alexander Skarsgard</b>
“True Blood” Season 4 kicks off June 26 with vampire Eric Northman front and center (with a few witches too). The blood-sucking bad boy is played by Alexander Skarsgard, one of many Swedish faces to hit the pop-culture zeitgeist recently.

Skarsgard, who gained ground in Hollywood with his role in “Generation Kill,” was born in Stockholm in 1976. (Alexander is the son of actor Stellan Skarsgard, the only actual Swedish person in the main cast of the movie “Mamma Mia!,” the musical comedy centered around ABBA’s music.) In addition to “True Blood,” look for the giant 6-foot-4 actor in the thriller “Straw Dogs,” due out in September, and the sci-fi flick “Battleship” coming in 2012.

But Skarsgard is not alone, here are some of the other Swedes gaining popularity in the U.S.

-- Whitney Friedlander and Christie D’Zurilla  (Matt Sayles / Associated Press)
<b>ABBA</b>
Think this pop-music quartet from Stockholm is Sweden’s only major contribution to pop culture? Think again.

Sure, their fun, infectious lyrics have been used as the basis of the Broadway show “Mamma Mia” and a movie musical based on the show and have been part of countless other movies and singalongs. (True story: One of us spent some of her formative years thinking the band was Australian, thanks to “Muriel’s Wedding” and “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”)  ()
<b>"Let the Right One In"</b>
Speaking of Swedish vampires: Tomas Alfredson’s 2008 horror film (starring Lina Leandersson, above) is described as “both startling and somehow stately in its wintry tale of vampire appetite and the sweet yearnings of human heart” by Geoff Boucher at The Times’ Hero Complex blog He adds that this is almost always on directors’ must-watch lists. So, of course, it got the Hollywood treatment too. The 2010 remake, “Let Me In,” starring Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee was a pleaser too, earning an impressive 90 percent rating on Rottentomatoes.com.  (Magnet Releasing)
<b>Ann-Margret</b>
“Viva ... Stockholm?” The Swedish-born actress/singer/dancer received her sixth Emmy nomination in July 2010 -- this one for her guest spot on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” That honor turned into her first win later that summer. (NBC)
<b>Ulla Inka Hanson Benson Yanson Tallen Hallen Swadon Swanson</b>
OK, she’s a character in “The Producers” and is probably more a figment of Mel Brooks’ imagination than one actual person. She was played by Lee Meredith in the 1968 film, Cady Huffman in the original Broadway musical production and Uma Thurman (pictured with Nathan Lane, left, and Matthew Broderick) in the musical’s film version -- all Yankees. (Andrew Schwartz)
cathyse97 via Flickr"><b>Swedish Fish</b>
These little guys, originally made by Swedish confectioner Malaco, swam over to the U.S. in 1958 and lived happily for decades in bulk candy bins at places like Sears and specialty candy stores. The company was acquired by Leaf and then by Cadbury, and now the fish -- littler than they used to be -- are available en masse at movie-theater concession stands. Few treats say “Sweden” more than these fish, whose list of ingredients includes sugar, corn syrup, white mineral oil, carnauba wax and FD&C Red 40 food coloring. (cathyse97 via Flickr)
<b>Stieg Larsson</b>
So there’s this book. Well, three books really. Maybe there’s a fourth. They center around this computer hacker with a photographic memory and a wicked dragon tattoo named Lisbeth Salander and her buddy journalist Mikael Blomqvist. And together, the two solve crimes. Stieg Larsson didn’t live to see them published, dying suddenly at age 50, from a heart attack in 2004.

The first book, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” was released in 2005, with the Swedish film adaptation released in 2009, followed by films of the other two books. Eventually, they all made their way over to the States.

As with “Let the Right One In,” there’s a U.S. film version in the works -- this one directed by David Fincher and starring Rooney Mara. The film trailer touts it as the “feel bad movie of Christmas.” Surely, “Dragon” fans are hoping that’s the case.  (Jan Collsiöö / Associated Press)
<b>Noomi Rapace</b>
The actress plays Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish film version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and the other two Swedish films based on novelist Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.

Although an American film adaptation of the three books is in the works with a new Lisbeth, Times staff writer John Horn writes “it’s difficult to picture anyone surpassing Rapace’s performance, an intrepid combination of physical, sexual and emotional truthfulness,” adding that Times film critic Betsy Sharkey wrote “watching Rapace burrow deep inside Lisbeth’s damaged mind, body and soul is its own sort of twisted pleasure.”

Fans will get a taste of Noomi’s talents once again, this time in the Robert Downey Jr.-starring “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” when it opens in December 2011.  (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
<b>Malin Akerman</b>
Sure she spent most of her childhood in Canada, but the “Watchmen” star was born in Stockholm in 1978. (Michael Buckner / Getty Images for Maui Film Festival)
<b>Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Prince Daniel, Duke of Vastergotland </b>
When the Swedes think “go big,” they’re not just talking about their height: In the biggest royal wedding since Chuck and Di tied the knot in 1981, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden married her former personal trainer Daniel Westling in June 2010. Her cream gown had a 16 1/2-foot train, plus she wore custom shoes and the same tiara and earrings that her mother, Queen Silvia, wore at her own wedding 30 years ago. Of course another royal couple - the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - quickly stole the spotlight as they prepared for their April 2011 nuptials.  (Jonas Ekstromer / Pool / Getty Images)
<b>Robin Soderling</b>
Showing good sportsmanship, Swedish tennis player Robin Soderling even asked the trainer to take care of opponent Rafael Nadal‘s blistered feet when the two squared off at Wimbledon in June. Presumably, this was before Nadal beat him with a score of 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-1 -- and a lot of what Times writer Diane Pucin described as “guttural grunts ... cries of ‘Vamos’ accompanied by chest-thumping that seemed to make the seats rattle, and most of all his groundstrokes engineered to do nothing except hit the grass with a thunderous thud.”  (Glyn Kirk / AFP / Getty Images)
<b>IKEA </b>
Retailer IKEA, founded in Sweden in 1943, is known for affordable home furnishings and an abundance of Allen wrenches. In 2008, the company solicited 20 couples to participate in a special “Mamma Mia!”-themed group wedding and commitment ceremony, on its dime. The “IKEA ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’ Want to Get Married at the Mamma Mia! Wedding Event” was a joint effort with Universal Pictures. Entrants had to tell, in 250 words or less, why they should be selected -- and winners had to bring their own marriage license.

The ceremony took place on July 17, 2008, at the Burbank store, with a reception that included ABBA tunes and Swedish meatballs. We happen to know personally that at least one couple married at the event is still living happily ever after. (David Pierson / Los Angeles Times])
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