Mads Mikkelsen Source
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Mads Mikkelsen looks like the Scandinavian version of the Marlboro Man, and that really has nothing to do with the half-squashed pack of Marlboro Lights sticking out of his front pocket. Greeting me for our interview, the six-foot Danish star is wearing a brown leather jacket, a rugged plaid shirt, worn-in jeans, and all-terrain boots—the kind of footwear a cowboy might adopt if he were to trade America’s heartland for Denmark’s cooler, woodsier environment. The actor is also chatting, in Danish, with a soon-to-exit Thomas Vinterberg, director of The Hunt, Mikkelsen’s tense and intimate new drama. I pry and ask what was discussed. “We were actually talking about drinking our brains out tonight,” Mikkelsen says. “But then we realized we had another Q&A, so…”

Surely this can’t be the same slick-haired, impeccably suited, haute-cuisine-loving man who devilishly enticed viewers for 12 terrific hours on NBC’s Hannibal. A gruffly dressed smoker who’s ready to drink his brains out? As opposed to delicately sautéing someone else’s and serving them with salmon mousse and a red wine reduction? Naturally, this is all one big testament to Mikkelsen’s tremendous, transformative range, which is now, finally, blowing up stateside in a big way, with diverse leading roles that are either award-winning or award-worthy. To American viewers, Mikkelsen has largely been known as a muscular side player (King Arthur, Clash of the Titans), an enigmatic villain (Casino Royale), or the co-star of foreign art-house films that have caught Oscar’s eye (After the Wedding, A Royal Affair). But with Hannibal and The Hunt, he delivers two of 2013’s finest performances, clinching a bona fide breakthrough at the age of 47.

In The Hunt, Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a mild-mannered kindergarten teacher in a small Danish hunting town, who’s abruptly accused of sexual misconduct by a young student, Klara (Annika Wedderkopp). The charge spreads like wildfire and turns the whole town on one of its own, and Mikkelsen’s handling of the material is truly something to marvel at. The performance won him the Best Actor prize at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, and while it may be a departure from playing a cannibalistic mastermind, Mikkelsen’s new film and new series aren’t as unrelated as you might think. We talked about those connections, about Cannes, about Hannibal’s uniquely romantic relationship with Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham, and about how this on-fire star went from “hippie kid” to dancer to Denmark’s biggest sensation.

In the beginning of The Hunt, Klara asks Lucas what his favorite food is, and since we’re right on the heels of the first season of Hannibal, which is, ironically, very much a foodie show, I’m going to ask you the same question.
Well, my favorite food would be anything Thai. I’m definitely connected to Asian cuisine. So anything Thai, anything spicy—a spicy soup, or a crispy pork. Simple Thai food is definitely my favorite food.

From what I’ve seen of your work, the overarching link certainly seems to be a great deal of composure, but also a whole lot brewing underneath that. Do you consider yourself a very cerebral guy?
I do like to use my brain a lot when I prepare. When I sit down with [a director] and discuss things, I try to be the devil’s advocate, I try to be the scriptwriter, and I try to ask all the questions that I have inside. I try to be fairly intellectual about what we’re doing. But once we start shooting, we’ve been there, and we’ve done that, and I try to shut that out and go instinctively with the character, and see where it takes us. But that kind of fore-work is necessary for us both to be on the same page, and then we can start being creative, and fluid, and airy later on. And it depends on the character, of course. I mean, obviously, with [Lucas], there are a lot of things brewing underneath. A lot of it is private moments. I’ve done some more explicit characters, but when I’m doing private moments, I do insist on those moments remaining private, in the sense that there’s no reason for me to be aware that there’s an audience. That would ruin the whole experience for me.

Read the rest of the interview

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