Mads Mikkelsen Source
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Interview: 10 Questions for Mads Mikkelsen

Date: June 13, 2012

Given that you’re playing a real historical figure, how much do you like to research the real person versus creating the character yourself?
Well, the very fact that this guy was originally 240 pounds, and very short, I’ve lost that battle already! But having said that, we’re trying to at least give him the inner life that we believe he had, to a certain degree. We will never know exactly what happened behind closed doors, but from letters and from diaries, we can see that the relationships are true, and we know what happened, we know he got killed, we know he made 3000 rule changes in one year.

What’s your opinion on the monarchy?
I’m a big fan of the monarchy – unlike Nikolaj [Arcel, the film’s director] who is not, I believe. I’m from an old family of left-wing communists, but I like the monarchy! They can’t touch our democracy at all, there’s no fear of that, but I think there’s something beautiful and dramatic about their history, not to mention the fact that they make an enormous amount of money for us. And in Denmark, we’re fortunate to have some very smart people on the throne, smart enough to know their place. That’s one of the reasons they’ve never been beheaded, I guess…

You’ve maintained a balance between American studio blockbusters and smaller foreign language projects – how different are the experiences in terms of shooting?
If this were an American film, it would be shot in six months. We did it in two months. I like to have a certain energy and speed when I work – it is quite tough to spend a week on one scene. American films could probably save a lot of money if they were a little more efficient, and we were extremely efficient. But having said that, it’s also a luxury to go into a set that was built by 500 men on an American film, where you’re genuinely like, “Okay, we are in a Greek palace now”. That’s a luxury too. If I were just dealing with dark, deep dramas, constantly, I’d be fed up with that. If I were only running around in sandals with a sword, I’d be fed up with that. But going from one to the other is just energising.

After Casino Royale, were you inundated with offers for villain roles?
No, I was offered surprisingly few. I got offered a huge amount of dramas from all over Europe, very interesting, crazy films, radical stuff, and a lot of shit as well! I didn’t have to consciously avoid being typecast as a villain, and I actually wouldn’t have said no to a villain right after [Casino Royale], if the film was something I found interesting. I think you should be careful with planning your career too much, because at the end of the day if you do that you’ll just be disappointed. You’ll do your work as stepping stones, and not really be in the work.

How would you describe your working relationship with Nicolas Winding Refn?
It’s interesting – we started out together but we’re very, very different people. He can literally only talk about film. And I rarely talk about film, I love sports, and he has no interest in sports. So in terms of being friends, you would not say that we have mutual interests. But as working friends, it’s a very different thing. I find myself as his translator, I’m sort of translating what he has in his head, and he likes the way that I do that, so it’s been a successful collaboration. He’s very radical in the way that he works, but he won’t ever push you to do something you don’t want to – you can just say “no, I find this stupid or pretentious”, and you find a solution. But I also believe that he does find actors that he knows are radical themselves, he can expect that they will probably not back down. I’ve done some really crazy things with him, obviously.

And how does he compare to Susanne Bier, who you’ve also collaborated with again?
She’s also a very radical woman, she’s also pushing her limits a lot. She’s very, very different from Nicolas, they’re very different people, but she’s a tough cookie. You can have a lot of laughs on the set, but you can also go very far with a scene, she’s very open for your suggestions about taking scenes further than is on the page, just trying things.

If you had to choose just one of your films to play to someone who had no familiarity with your work, which would you pick?
Oh, that’s very hard. Especially because of where we’re at with A Royal Affair, because we’re very emotional about this film. It was a very un-Danish film we did, in many ways, and I think we achieved something very beautiful with it, and emotional, so this would definitely be a film I’d be proud of people watching. In terms of character work, I’d also mention the second Pusher film, because I think that was a radical film in its own little universe. So those two, for now. And then I’ll probably change my mind tomorrow!