Mads Mikkelsen Source
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L’Officiel Hommes

Source: L’Officiel Hommes. Translation by Peggy
Date: Fall 2013

L´Officiel Hommes: The serial killer Hannibal Lecter you are playing in the series “Hannibal“, is currently one of the best-dressed men of television. How did it feel to wear the massive three-part suits?
Mads Mikkelsen: Usually I hardly notice the difference between my normal clothes and a costume. With “Hannibal” it was different. I came to the set with my adidas sneakers and normal street clothes and put on these solemn suits, gel my hair back and transform outwardly very strongly. Hannibal´s dress style is so far from my own, that has helped me get into the role. For me it´s as if
I´d make a historical movie or a western. Hannibal is someone, who doesn´t take anything for granted. Every day is special for him and he is celebrating it outwardly.

You have talked about the sophistication of Hannibal´s style in many interviews. Is it also a sign of power?
No, I don´t think so. In this respect he is an ordinary man. He loves everything that is distinguished. Whether it comes to clothing, food or music. And he hates everything banal. Why would he wear a cheap suit, if he can have the most exclusive one? Life is short and he wants to make the best of it.

Do you think, that clothing basically says something about the one wearing them?
Sure. Though I don´t pay too much attention to what I´m wearing in my private life. But of course the dress style says a lot about a person, about his social position for instance. In case of Hannibal I think, however, it´s not about status or the like. He wants to indicate nothing outwards. He wears his clothing, because it gives him joy. That’s different from many people. They express power or intelligence. Whatever, some succeed, but some don´t.

You had to take a great heritage and step into Anthony Hopkins´ shoes. In such cases are there any rivalries between actors? Did you want to challenge Anthony Hopkins with your Hannibal Lecter?
Well, there can be no rivalry. Hopkins has done that perfectly. He won an Oscar for “The Silence of the Lambs”. I can´t keep up with that. The good thing was, that in our case Hannibal is not in jail yet, but at large. He practises his job as a psychiatrist. He tries to find friends. There are other preconditions. Therefore I don´t compare myself.

Not only Hannibal, but also other roles you´ve been playing lately, have a dark, sometimes desperate site. What draws you towards these characters?
I don´t know which movies you have seen of me, but before Hannibal I have played a teacher in “The Hunt”, who is accused of pedophilia. The movie has won at Cannes. Then I have played a doctor in “A Royal Affair”, a period film- a figure of Enlightenment. So it depends in which movie you see me. I like different roles, not all of them are dark. But if I´m mostly attracted to dark characters, it is because a lot of drama lies in them.

How do you choose your roles? Are you looking for movies you yourself would like to see?
The story has to fascinate me. Most important to me is that the director and the author have something to say. If that´s so, then this may be a good reason for me to assume a role. If I don´t feel anything and don´t find the story interesting or I have seen the character that I´m supposed to play a thousand times before, then I reject it. But basically I follow my intuition.

Strategic considerations don´t matter?
No, never. I also like to assume a role that is similar to one I´ve just played. It´s especially important to me that the result is worth watching. To me it´s not about challenging myself. However, for some actors this is the case. They change the whole concept of a project, because they want to play a role the way you haven´t seen it yet. It then goes to vanities and quickly comes to a battle of egos. I´m not ambitious in terms of myself, but only in terms of my work.

It´s surprising that right after school at the beginning of your career you started as a dancer. What connects dancing with your current work?
With me one thing leads to another. That was always the case. I never had a great plan. I was always going with the flow. Firstly, I was a gymnast, then a dancer and then an actor. There is certainly a connection, but I can´t tell you how it looks like.

To be a dancer is not common for a man shortly after puberty. How did that come about?
Back then I was asked if I wanted to play in a musical with other gymnasts. There were a couple of spectacular acrobatic scenes. For the role I learnt a few dance steps. That was a lot of fun. The choreographer has seen a talent in me and asked me if I´d like to learn dancing properly. Well, and I did. But you´re right, there weren´t many boys who were dancing. But I had nothing else to do. So I took the offer. Oh well, that much is clear: At dancing, one encounters only a few boys and is surrounded by many girls, which can be a big advantage.

How did your pals react back then? Weren´t they irritated?
Sure, they were. But as I have explained to them what it was about, they wanted to be dancers too, which didn´t work out of course. It was much easier for me to get women as for them in the clubs at the weekend. I also never had a problem with that dancing was perceived as feminine. I even believe that dancing is a form of masculine culture. That this is often not seen as, has nothing to do with the discipline, but with the people who are dancers.

Did you have role models at that time? Actors, who inspired you?
I was Bruce Lee fan. I’ve seen all the movies with him and read books about him. I was obsessed with Bruce Lee. He is my big teen idol. Frankly, I admire him even to this day.

Has it affected your film career? Your first movie was “Pusher” by Nicolas Winding Refn, an innovative gangster drama, but also a B-movie and genre film, like Bruce Lee has shot.
No, to play with the conventions of the genre, is Nicolas´ way of telling a story. It has little to do with me. “Pusher” was considered stylish, almost a documentary film. We were only three real actors and none of us was known. The rest of the cast really came from the gangland of Copenhagen. So you’ve played in some way themselves. This has made the film quite authentic. “Pusher” was a real innovation. Bruce Lee actually appeared in the second “Pusher” film, because my character is a big Bruce Lee fan.

The Danish directors who have become world famous in recent years, like Nicolas Winding Refn, Lars von Trier or Thomas Vinterberg, often tell very dark stories. Why is that? Denmark is a very peaceful country.
You´ll also find romantic comedies here, as everywhere in the world. But they don´t make it beyond the country´s border, because they are already everywhere. There is nothing new in them. Boy meets girls. It goes a bit rough at first, and then they fall in love and the movie is over. An unrealistic view of life. That’s okay and entertaining. But the dark side I often find more realistic and dramatic. Therefore, we often deal with it. And when we do something dramatic, we like to go the unconventional way. That´s why the directors that you mentioned, have become so well known worldwide.

When you have completed a movie, is there something that will stay with you from the role?
This is a difficult question. I try to immerse quickly into the character, but also to leave it quickly behind me when a movie is filmed and finished. Of course you always take something along. Roles can be milestones in life. There always remains an experience. The success or failure. The theme of the film. I’m not aware of it, but something of that will certainly also become a part of me.

I’ve read that you started playing poker after you’ve starred in the James Bond film “Casino Royale”.
That’s not true. I’ve been playing poker since I was eleven years old. So I knew a lot about it and what was helpful for the film. But yes, by my job I sometimes come across something which I would otherwise probably never come in contact with. I probably could not ride if I had not acted in movies in which this has been important. You learn a little piano or saxophone playing, a bit of French or Russian. You learn a little bit of everything. But usually no time remains to pursue it further. That’s the weird thing about my job.

How can you stand constantly slipping into new roles? I can imagine that this can be very stressful for certain roles.
I think if you’re a reasonably healthy person, then this job is wonderful. You get the chance to blow off steam through your work. But if you’re not quite at peace with yourself, then the acting can be a bit of a psycho-job. Then you believe everything you’re doing. You cannot create the characters that you want, because in the end you always play yourself. I feel reasonably healthy. For me, it’s not hard to put myself in this world and also to leave. It inspires me and hopefully I inspire the world in return.

Is that also a reason why you didn´t move to Hollywood?
No. Even in Hollywood, you can normally do your job without going insane. But of course Hollywood is a jungle. Especially when you’re not working. But there are many who are great actors and yet are pleasant people. The reason why I didn´t move there is because there is not enough work for me. Most American films that I did were shot in Europe. To live in Los Angeles and still work in Europe seems to me to be a little stupid. Also, in Europe I’m much closer to my family in Copenhagen.

And your motorcycle. Do you still have it?
Yes, it´s 1937 model. A Danish model of the brand Nimbus. I haven´t moved it yet this summer. I had no time to make it roadworthy again. But I’m trying to get it fixed in the coming months.

Do you do that yourself?
To some extent. But I also have a mechanic. It is a simple motorcycle. I can disassemble it and reassemble. There’s always a few parts left over, of which I do not know where they belong. But it works and that’s the important thing.

Do you spend much time in the garage?
I used to. Today, most important to me is being with my family.

Recently you´ve been in the film “Clash of the Titans”. Was it shot in Los Angeles?
No, in London and Tenerife.

“Clash of the Titans” is bacically a ridiculous costume drama. Do you sometimes have to laugh at yourself on such a film shooting?
Men in tiny skirts, fighting with swords against giant scorpions – this is of course laughable. But it also was a lot of fun to shoot the film. We all have seen such films as kids and loved it. And even today, it is great for me, if you give me the opportunity to do crazy stunts and jumping around in the area. This is also part of my job which I very much enjoy. But between us: The film would of course be much better if the script would have been better. But hey, there were cool giant scorpions and we killed them. (laughs)

Your movie “Michael Kohlhaas” is playing in cinemas now. It is based on a novella by Heinrich von Kleist and is about a man who is taking the law into his own hands. Do you know that feeling of wanting to stand up for justice against the law?
Of course. If I didn´t know that feeling, then the film wouldn´t interest me. Many know that, I think. I was never someone who completely followed the rules. I have always questioned authorities. Almost every day I think: How do politicians and corporations get away with it? It’s like stealing in broad daylight. One can say that about almost any government. It is certainly not an easy job to be a politician, but I think we are still far from the ideal system found as people. Again and again we need to ask the question: How can we make this world better? How can it be better? What is fair, what is not?

Even your movie “The Hunt” deals with the topic justice. In the film, a village rashly and wrongly accused a man of sexual abuse of a young girl.
Yes, that´s interesting. It is a very complicated topic and one which will probably never be solved. Michael Kohlhaas thinks he is right. But that also makes him a self-centered guy. He does not care about universal justice, but only his own. It’s more of a story that is about how great the love for one’s own children can become. And how this love leads to fear and end up in hatred and irrational. Both films show: people think they are right. And it has fatal consequences.