Interview with Mads Mikkelsen (Actor)
It’s been almost 15 years since this movie. How do you think your acting has evolved since then?
I don’t know. I remember it was a very risky thing we did. Even though this was a comedy like Flickering Lights, the characters were more extreme. It was almost like putting theatre on film. We were all very nervous but we loved the story and the characters so much that we kept on doing it. This is one of the films I’m most proud of doing in my entire career!
We did it and we got away with it. My character is a fantastic, pathetic, egomaniac narcissist that is so hard not to like. It’s an achievement for this story.
How did you prepare for such a complex character?
It’s always in Anders Thomas’ stories. The script is there and then we work a little more on it. I tend to go also a little more extreme than the script sometimes does. So if there’s any line where somebody could say what he’s saying, I don’t find it interesting. It has to be very specific in his way of saying things. Then we work on his manners. He was a martyr, always offended by anything that happened.
Physically, we cut my hair in a completely stupid way. I remember Anders Thomas was there.
So you actually cut your hair in that silly way? It wasn’t a prosthetic forehead or a wig?
Yes. We cut it because I found it difficult. First of all, I hate wearing wigs ― it’s always annoying.
They are very difficult to wear. You would always have to stop;something is wrong, the wig is not sitting in the right way and so on. I just decided let’s cut it off because it’s much easier to handle.
Then I had to wear hats for like three months because I looked like an idiot. When the film was finished, I had to take down all the hair.
This character somehow links to your Hannibal in the terms of cannibalism;did you use some of your experience of this character for Hannibal?
You can always find a link. It’s a total coincidence I never thought about. Hannibal is obviously doing it for other reasons;he’s twisted the world upside down ― he sees beauty where the rest of us see horror. Instead,Svend has no cravingfor human flesh at all. He’s not a killer but sees success coming and that’s his egomaniac side coming.
How do you make the jump from these local films to Casino Royale and now Hollywood?
It was always my choice. Before Hollywood called me, I did not have a choice ― it was just me working in Denmark. And mine is a small country;if you do a film a year, people start getting tired of watching you. So it was a lucky break that I got a chance in Hollywood and no, I can go back and forth.
I can still pick the stuff I find interesting. It’s always very important that you like what you do, whether it’s a small or big film.
And how did you get the part in Casino Royale, a role that changed your career internationally?
I was not expecting it at all. I got a phone call about an audition and I couldn’t make it because I had a meeting and so on. But eventually I got the job because one of the producers, Barbara Broccoli, loved the film Susanne Bier’s Open Hearts and she would love to have me on Casino Royale.
It has been my Danish work that opened the doors inHollywood. I hadn’tbeen there knocking on doors.
When you first had this experience in a big production, what did you think were the main differences between those and that local Danish productions you took part in before?
I think the biggest difference is the enormous budget. And when you have that budget, you have many producers, many chefs that want to cook the film. So the process when you and the director come up with ideas to make the film better is not as fast as in Danish productions because it has to go around a lot of important people.
But having said that, I was still surprised that even though there are 500 people on set, we would still sit down in a small group ― maybe me and Daniel (Craig) and the director― to discuss the scene to make it work.
Did you feel more pressure when filming Casino Royale? This was a time of changing the face of James Bond and Daniel Craig’s first as the agent, which received plenty of critiques before filming started.
I always feel pressure. I want to do the best I can do ― the best film in the world. But I didn’t feel it was bigger in Casino Royale.I actually think that there was much more pressure in The Green Butchers because we were out on a limb.
I’m sure Daniel felt a lot of pressure because he was the new Bond and he would always be judged for it. He did the only right thing ― he dug into the work and concentrated to do as best as he could. Now he turned out to be the best Bond ever!
Who are your inspirations when it comes to acting?
I always think I don’t want to copy anyone. Inspiration you can get from everything in your life. When I was a kid, my biggest heroes were Bruce Lee and Buster Keaton. Looking back now, I understand why. They had a tremendous charisma.
What do you think are the main challenges for Danish cinema to gain more attention worldwide?
We made a lot of changes in the past. We made cinema more realistic, hyper-realistic. It was the people doing the films they wanted to make. It was out of necessity that we changed and wanted it to happen.
In this generation, they have nothing to change. It’s not as easy for them to do it. But they have to find their own stories. If they do it, we’ll continue to enjoy success in Danish films. If they just copy, it wouldn’t work.
Why do you think of the Scandinavian TV series that are gaining more popularity now (Borgen, Fortitude, TheKilling)?
I think it’s due to the success Danish films have had. There is a certain amount of attention on Danish TV because there’s been a lot of attention on Danish films. They have brought a lot of the tradition of the filmmaking into television.
Also, the people working on television are very professional ― actors and directors alike.
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