Anton Glanzelius Unleashes a Fierce Talent in My Life as a Dog

updated 08/10/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/10/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

If he wanted to, 13-year-old Anton Glanzelius could make his living as an international movie star. In 1985 he became the youngest person ever to win Sweden's best actor award for his performance in My Life as a Dog, the story of a boy's coming of age in 1950s Sweden. This summer American audiences, though usually subtitle-shy, have made the film a surprise hit here too. The winning gleam in Anton's eye and his mischievous smile prompted one critic to call him "a new Jack Nicholson." My Life's director, Lasse Hallström, describes Anton, who was just 11 during filming, as "very intuitive. It was like working with an adult."

Glanzelius doesn't really like all the fuss. "In the beginning everybody recognized me from the movie," he says. "Many would even point at me with their whole arm outstretched and talk about me very loud. I would have to look at the ground. That was not fun." So Glanzelius has other career goals in mind. "Soccer is my number one priority," he says. "I hope to be a pro player in Brazil someday. I really love to play, and I think I can be what I want to be. It will be a natural for me."

It's not that Glanzelius dislikes acting. The son of journalist Ingmar Glanzelius and actress Margita Åhlin grew up in Gothenburg, a Swedish seaport with an active theater community. He got his first role in a TV movie at 8, "just to have some fun and try something new." Glanzelius didn't hesitate when recruited by Hallström for My Life. "Acting is not hard for me," he says. "I just play myself."

The job included some challenging moments nevertheless. For one scene Glanzelius had to spill a glass of milk into his own face—and it took 26 takes to get it right. Later, he had a boxing match with an older girl who, because the script called for her to win, received extra lessons ahead of time. "I really got slugged," he says. "A few times my eyes ran." Despite those indignities, Anton cheerfully entertained the crew with his on-target parodies of Swedish pop stars. Between takes, he once climbed up a ladder and belted out the song Sweden Is Fantastic so loud that it echoed through the countryside around the outdoor set.

An excellent student who speaks fluent English, seventh-grader Anton plays the piano and ice hockey in off time and practices for hours every day during the season with his hometown junior soccer team. But the screen could reclaim him yet. "If I suffered an injury and couldn't play, I might act in another movie," he concedes. "And sometimes, I want to go back and film My Life as a Dog over again." After all, acting did offer some pleasures he can't get offscreen. "I got to be close friends with the dog in the movie," he says. "We don't have a dog at home, just a 10-year-old cat."

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