Mads Mikkelsen Source
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Mads Mikkelsen – About clothes, sports stars, westerns and family

Source: Kaufmann, via hannibal-cannibal-lecter.tumblr.com (translation and transcript)
Date: Winter 2013

He’s scarily precise – and attributes it to the GPS: “I’ve driven all the way from Als (1) and it said I would be here two minutes past the hour.”

He’s a bit faster than the electronic device and is there right on the scheduled time.Just needs to have shaken his shoulders back in place after a trip to the photo shoot stylist, and he’s ready to take the role as interview victim.

Mads Mikkelsen is Denmark’s big international star, and his career have long ago become more international than he could ever have dreamed. He is a Bond-villain and last year he won an award in Cannes for best actor in his role in Thomas Vinterbergs “The Hunt”. This year he received remarkable praise for his leading role in the the movie “Michael Kohlhaas” by french instructor Arnaud de Pallière, a film adaption of the novel of the same name from 1811, by german writer Heinrich Von Kleist. And now he’s on his way to Canada to film season 2 of the TV-series Hannibal, about the psychiatrist and cannibal Hannibal Lecter, which can be seen in Denmark on Channel 5.

Mads Mikkelsen has played the role as a villain a lot and is famous and acknowledged for his great talent in playing bad-ass. But the role as Hannibal goes further beyond that, it handles one of the biggest taboos we know; the love of human meat, and it’s a great challenge.

“I think most actors try to find something recognizable in the bad guys we play. But you can’t try to understand what goes on inside of Hannibal, it would be too strange. To play him, I had to find something I can recognize in myself. So I try to make a parallel universe where I tell myself: What if it wasn’t people? What if it was something else? Hannibal is excited about classical music, he is a connoisseur. I like sitting with a nice glass of wine and eating lots of delicious foie gras. Unfortunately, Hannibal happens to prefer human meat instead of foie gras…..”

There are many things that helps build a character and one of them is the clothing. The costume helps Mads Mikkelsen become Hannibal during the shoot and he acknowledges the significance of the clothing – both on the big screen and in private.

Clothing creates people (2) – and movie roles

The photographer who’s taking the pictures for the interview is getting ready. Mads Mikkelsen is peeling off the red jacket that he has worn all the way from Als and is trying on a sharp black turtleneck shirt. It changes his appearance drastically, and he knows it.“I don’t think I’ve worn one of these since I was a kid. But if I had to play an architect, I would probably want to wear one. Or if I were to play a movie critic. I am incredibly observant of what people are wearing. There really is something about the saying that clothing creates people and I use that when it comes to the characters I play.”

There is, of course, always a costumer who decides what the actors in a movie are going to be wearing but Mads Mikkelsen have also got an opinion about it.

“I meddle a lot when it comes to what I’m wearing. It has to feel right for the character I’m playing. I would never dream of telling the costumer that I wouldn’t wear specific clothes because I don’t personally like it. But I would say that I simply don’t think the character would wear it.”

Generally he likes the whole costume-part of being an actor. “I get to run around in clothes I would never dream about wearing in my own life. That way, I get to play – it’s great.”

Mostly into casual

The turtleneck he tried on in the beginning of our talk looks nice on him, and as time progresses he becomes friendly with it, and can suddenly see himself wearing it. When in private though, he prefers something more casual.
“I’m probably mostly into something sporty. I always wear clothes I can move around in, because what if someone suddenly had a ball or something… I enjoy sports and I love football (3) and I just can’t let a ball lie there.”

He thinks about the clothes he’s wearing when he’s playing a role and he is also very conscious about the choices he makes about his clothes in private.
“There’s signal-value in all clothing. Also in what I wear. I chose things I think looks good.
My favorite jacket is a red Adidas with black stripes. It’s a kind of mix between a running jacket and an every-day jacket. I really love that jacket, even though I think most people are tired of seeing me in it.”
He admits that he is vain.

“When I walk out the door, I need to look relaxed and casual. But I have to do it in that way, where it just looks right and where you can’t see that a lot of thought went into it. Though I am much more vain on behalf of the roles I play.”

As most would probably expect, there is a lot of black in the king of villains roles’ wardrobe. But even though he is a “man in black”, there are also dots of color here and there.
“I really like red. And bottle green. And I also really like orange. Orange with black. I think it comes from back when I got my first handball shirt. I played in a club called Viben and I got a shirt in orange and black. And somehow that color combination stuck.”
Mads Mikkelsen buys all of his clothes himself. He doesn’t do it very often, and doesn’t buy much at a time.
“However I wear my clothes out entirely. If you see me in a pair of pants with holes in it, you can be certain that they’re NOT bought that way, they’re worn out to be that way.”

Loves suits

His life as a famous actor, every now and then requires for him to wear a more formal attire, and that suits him fine.
“I love suits. I use them at official functions – and if it’s even more official, it’s a tux. And I’ve really grown to like it. I think suits are great but if I was wearing them every day, it would probably loose its value for me. To me, it’s something very special to wear a suit; I think it’s totally awesome. No matter what clothes it is, it does something to you. If I’m wearing sporty clothing, I have a tendency to run around more and if I’m wearing a suit, it does something to my posture and manners.”

Mads Mikkelsen grew up on Nørrebro (4) and there weren’t many suits in his childhood. “I am not confirmated (5) so I didn’t get that suit when I was 14-15 years old. To me, that didn’t come until I grew up.”

Looks up to the big sports stars

But sporty clothes is and will always be his favorite clothing. Like the sports world fascinates him more than his own actor world. We can easily become a bit starstruck when we’re talking to an international star like Mads Mikkelsen. He becomes starstruck when he meets one of the big sports stars.
“To me it was a boy’s dream to become something that had to do with sports. It was never a boy’s dream to become an actor. So meeting one of the really big stars strikes me with awe. If I’m standing right next to Messi or Michel Laudrup, it’s me who becomes starstruck.”

At the question about why he didn’t chose a sports career, the reply is prompt.
“I wasn’t good enough – or – as we boys used to say – I was just playing in the wrong club. No, I probably wasn’t determined enough – I’ve always just loved football, loved watching it. It was actually kind of coincidental I became an actor. But I’m extremely glad I did – that also means I haven’t retired yet – which I would have already if I was a sports star.”Mads Mikkelsen started his career as a dancer and danced for 8 years before he became an actor.
“While I was still dancing, I realized that I preferred the drama part of dancing over the aesthetics. And then I had the idea of dedicating myself to drama and apply for a spot at drama school. And yes, then I became an actor. I’ve never regretted it, I love my profession, I’m very ambitious about it and it has become my dream. It just wasn’t my dream when I was a kid.”

Reciprocated love

Mads Mikkelsen have been doing theatre, but right from the beginning, he preferred movies.
“I can’t rule out the possibility that I might do theatre again one day, but I’m probably a bit more in love with movies than I am with theatre.”

And movies are in love with Mads Mikkelsen, not just here in Denmark where he started as an actor at the time when Danish movies evolved and made its mark on the international market. As did he – without even having planned it.
“I didn’t dream about going to Hollywood. It just came out of nowhere. They called me up and asked me if I could be at a casting for the movie King Arthur – they had seen me, so I got the job and that was the beginning of it.”

The rest is history. Mads Mikkelsen have got success. He is conscious about his stardom, but he modestly attributes it to him being at the right place at the right time. When you pressure him a bit and ask him why all Danish actors from that time aren’t on the big international screens then, he concedes with a crooked Mads Mikkelsen-smile: “Well, it’s probably because somebody thinks I’m good…”

In westerns

Lately Mads Mikkelsen has shoot a western with the danish director Kristian Levring as the director. The movie, that was recorded in South Africa, takes place in 19th century USA where many danes immigrated to, to find happiness on the new continent. Mads Mikkelsen and swedish Mikael Persbrandt plays brothers who gets a new life with new challenges in the land of opportunity.
“It was really cool to do, also because of the clothing. It would actually have been really hard to take it seriously if it wasn’t for the clothing. We were all running around in boots with a gun at our sides. The costume is a huge help when it comes to making movies that takes place in another time. It gives one confidence to believe that we are allowed to be doing this because we look the part. You step into another universe, onto the set and then when you’re wearing the clothes, that’s where it works.”

Real cowboys ride and so does Mads Mikkelsen in this movie, but horses are something relatively new to the actor who grew up in the middle of Nørrebro.
“I had simply never been really close to horses. I got to do that on “Michael Kohlhaas” where I had to ride a real stallion that was really hard to control. But I got the hang of it. Or rather: my character was better at riding than I was. When I was Michael Kohlhaas, I had control of the horse, when I was myself, the horse could feel that I didn’t entirely have control of the situation. And that’s when it started making trouble.”
The riding proficiency helped Mads Mikkelsen during the shooting of the western movie where he able to ride effortlessly – wearing boots, gun and hat.

Open towards most things – as long as it’s good

Mads Mikkelsen have played a lot of different roles, most of them picked with care.“I have said no to roles because I couldn’t see myself in them, even though I really thought it was a pretty nice project. And then I’ve said no to some because they were downright bad. But I have no moral or artistic limits, as long as it’s legal and as long as we want to say something important with it.”

He has worked together with a lot of directors but one of those he admires the most have yet to call. It is Scorsese. “I love the things he did in the 1970s and 80s and I still think he makes amazing stuff. So if he calls I probably wouldn’t hesitate saying yes.”

Half a year away from the family

Mads Mikkelsen will be in Toronto in Canada for the next six months to play Hannibal Lecter. And this time, he’s not bringing the family.
“Last year I brought them with me, but I’m not doing that this year. My son is doing something he has been looking forward to for years. He’s going to football folk high school (6) so I’m not dragging him abroad. So I must go back and forth as much as I can, and they’ll come to me as often as they can. Of course I miss them, but there are also advantages of doing it this way. Then maybe they’re with me one at a time and then you get an entirely different intensity when you’re together. And I am at home several months at a time where I’m not doing anything at all, and then we’re together a lot. The alternative would be me running around doing a lot of stuff at home and how much time would we then be having together?”

Despite being a star, he thinks he can still live a regular life. Of course he attracts attention when he’s walking down the street but he doesn’t see it as a big problem.“Actually I’m capable of forgetting it every day. When I get home and find out we need something from Brugsen (7), I hop on my bike and drive down there without giving it a second thought. It’s not until I stand there and people say ‘Hello Mads Mikkelsen’, that I think about it.”

(1) It’s a small island in Denmark, east of Jutland.

(2)The expression ‘clothing creates people’ basically means, that the clothes you wear, shapes who you are, or who people perceive you to be. Could be translated to the expression ‘fine feathers make fine birds’. I chose to stick with a direct translation for it to make sense in the context.

(3)Soccer, for you Americans.

(4)Neighbourhood in Copenhagen.

(5)Christian rite admitting a baptized person membership in church. Most kids are comfirmated when they’re 13-14 in Denmark.(6)Adult school where people live at the school. Sort of like an adult boarding school.(7) Danish grocery store.