Mads Mikkelsen Source
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My Life – Portrait of Mads Mikkelsen

Source: Arte and translated by funkiestdope
Date: 2011

(interview 0:00)

Mads: I can see it in people’s eyes how excited they are, when they want an autograph. It’s very strange for me. I’m just Jenny from the block. (laughs) My life has changed – I didn’t. It’s still just my job and I’m just as nice and annoying as always. Nothing has changed.

(Casino Royale clip (orig. audio) – German subtitles)

(Over Mad’s face – My life: Mads Mikkelsen)

(Footage of Casino Royale Premiere 1:02)

M: I’m not an easy man to impress – from celebrities and such. But having said that, the scale of the premiere was ridiculous. There were like forty, fifty thousand people on the Lester Square. It did surprise me – I was like “This is fucking crazy”.

(Queen gets out of the car 1:48)

M: Then we had to meet the queen. And we were given two lists on what not do, how not to call her. We were taught on how to say “Madam” (it rhymed on lamb), and we weren’t allowed to call her Mom. We were given mints to put in our mouths before we greeted her, and the rules were: no questions, just quick easy answers. Everybody thought “This is funny”.

(Queen greeting the cast (Hanne is behind Mads, by the way) 2:14)

M: My wife had practised the curtsy all night long – and when the Queen came, she had to stand two metres behind me and wasn’t allowed to say a word. It was funny.

(2:22 Mads and Lars (brother) are in Norrebro, Copenhagen)

(German Subtitles)

Lars: There are a lot of kebab shops around here.

M: That’s just unreal. There is nothing else. Back there – down the street there’s a lot going on.

L: The small clock shop is still there.

(interview 3:06)

M: My brother and I know this place like the back of our hands. Norrebro was a typical working class neighbourhood. The atmosphere is still noticeable, but apparantly it has changed into something else. You’ll see this in every city – Berlin, London. Everywhere neighbourhoods are changing – it’s always the romantic working class neighbourhoods that are being replaced by super-expensive upscale neighbourhoods.


M: Our area was from the lake down there 200 metres up to the cemetry – that was it. If you passed that you were a dead man.


M: I say we should go on and have a look at where we lived. Every shop you see here – these were all pubs once.

L: Pubs, pubs, pubs. Everybody drank back then. That time’s gone. Now they’re cafés. Caffè Latté. It’s good – that’s good.

M: And all these entrances were connected – you could climb over the fences in the back. It’s all open now, I think. We probably can see our courtyard.

(interview 4:17)

M: I don’t feel like a stranger, not at all. But neither do I see myself as the working class hero anymore – I’m kind of past that. That’s over. I don’t have to be that anymore, because my life has changed. I’m glad my children could see this – but I wouldn’t like living here with them anymore.

(4:45 – German subtitles)

L: You’re still here, how crazy!

Shop owner: Yeah, I’m still here. Nice to see you.

M: Hi!Is this the youngest? (to young kid in the back)

Shop owner: No, that’s the trainee. The construction work around here is annoying.

L+M: Yeah, that’s bad.

Shop owner: They’re building penthouses in the back.

L: If that’s the case, we should move back here. (laughs)

Shop owner: Very exclusive.

M: They did a lot to our backyard as well.

Shop owner: They took away the brick walls. You can look over there now. If you want to, you can come through here …

(interview 5:28)

M: It all starts out with the childhood, I guess. You think about what you did as a child and why you did it. That’s why I go back to my childhood. I don’t believe that people are born to do something or that you’re destined to go one way. Your childhood is the base for what you might experience later on in life.

M: Right here, I was standing every Sunday and I was screaming my friend’s name Paula (?), that she should come down and play. She lived up there. Paula and I were born on the same day. We played here constantly.

We lived up there, on the fourth floor, then the second floor, and we also lived back there, in the cheap house.

L: At first we were here, second floor.

M: And right here lived a really tall guy, who hanged himself.

L: Our friend Alan from the upper floor acted like he was Tarzan. I’m Tarzan! Then he jumped on the rope – and it just went POOM.


L: BOOM. To the ground.

M: Hurt his foot, went up and did it again.


L: There was a roof. And pipes. You could balance on the pipes and jump on the roof with tires on it, which fell to the ground when we jumped over them.

M: And the mothers sat here, watching the kids, and going fucking ballistic whenever they jumped around. It must have been a nightmare for them. (looks up) Hi, we were just taking a look around where we lived. I once broke your window.

Guy: Really funny.

M: Not with a ball, but with a slingshot.

M: I can show you something. Follow me. So, when you were hiding from the big guys – this is funny. (continues to climb up) And then you could hide down here.

L: Of course, we were much smaller back then.

M: Shit, my butt is too fat. And then you were gone and they couldn’t find you. Unless this happened. (door swings open) But the door was usually locked.

L: This sucked while playing hide-and-seek, because nobody could find you.

M: How did I get out of here? There was something here I could step on.

L: (laughs)

M: Watch it, I’m coming. Man – I was way smaller then. It was difficult to get out again. (jumps) And then we ran off. Phew – beautiful.

(slideshow at 8:45)

M: I was four and he was six when we moved here.

L: And with 18 we were gone again. That was about thirty years ago, right? Wow.

M: On our first day I walked to the man, who jumped off the roof (Tarzan). I came up to him the first day, remember?

L: The first day after our move? Yeah.

M: I was four.

L: We went down to play and Mads walked over to him and told him: “I’m the strongest guy where I come from.”

M: He was seven and I was four.

L: He just went BOOM.

M: He smacked my nose in. “Welcome to Norrebro.” We never became friends. That was the wrong line. I always thought I was taller than I really was. My whole life. Still do.

L: It was a nice neighbourhood.

M: Of course we didn’t smoke back then.

(at the dance studio 10:10)

M: That was really bad. It should have been four turns and balanced.

Woman: That was a long time ago.

M: (spins again) Yup, the balance is gone. (Woman points at his leg) Yeah, that was my good leg, wasn’t it?

Woman: Try modern, then it’ll work.

M: So, that’s, uh, at least two. Not bad for an old man. I’m sure I can do four again, with a little training.


Mads: I started dancing when I was 17 and I retired with 26 – a fast career. And I was fortunate; I had many performances, I even got paid for them. Dancing opened the door for me to something new, something more graphic, more dramatic, which I didn’t have in my life, in my world, before. I probably would have never gotten into acting if I hadn’t started dancing.


Woman: What are some of the things we remember?
M: Legwarmers.
W: Legwarmers.
M: Smoking.
W: Yes, cigarettes.
M: All together.
W: That was very 80s. Nice.
M: Like a family. Always together, all the time.
M: This is good stuff. This was one of the biggest performances we did. This is a very young version of me. That’s my wife. We met here, both started studying here, and then we formed a dance company. Here is one of Charlotte’s dance numbers – Penthesilea (?). It’s a cool picture.
M: And if we are lucky, we will see me as a Chinese girl in here. That was me – the Chinese version of me, in a nightgown, dressed as a girl. It was a really cool musical. We had three girls in the show, the rest were boys. The audience got confused. (points at picture) Is that me? It’s a nice photo. That was twenty years ago, maybe even more – twenty-five?

W: We should have taken more pictures.
M: Yeah, just snap.
M: I love doing the physical stuff, I love sports. But I didn’t find it very interesting to see people move around with grace, beauty, elegance and all that. I found it more interesting when people expressed something, and obviously drama is all about expression. So, acting was the next logical step for me. I hoped to find something, that would fill the space in me.

(Pusher clip, orig. Audio – German subtitles)

M: Take this. And now a sidekick with a spin. Stay here, dude. Come back.
Dude: If you hit me …
M: Aah! Shit!
Dude: What’s the problem?
M: What’s the problem, dude?
Dude: Take these now, we don’t have any time.
M: Take them yourself. Seriously.

(interview 3:48)
M: Yeah, Pusher is a street movie, filmed like a documentary about drug addicts and dealers. I loved the film from the very beginning. I was in my third year at drama school and actually wasn’t allowed to make films. But I did and I got kicked out. Later, they took me back in.
M: I got the part in a strange way, because the director was looking for people who filled his characters with life. And one of his people said that there’s this guy at the drama school (that was me) who might be great for this role, but they have been instructing him since three years to talk in a way that people understand what he says.

(Pusher clip 4:33 – German subtitles)

M: Are you in love with her?
D: No.
M: Of course you are – or you wouldn’t be like “None of your fucking business!”
D: You know who moans? Mette.
M: Mette, who?
D: No, not Mette. Luise, the girlfriend of Vic.
M: They were looking for people who looked and seemed like they were from the streets, not actors who were trying too hard.

(Pusher clip 4:59 – German subtitles)

D: You’re lying.
M: No.
D: Did you ever get a blowjob?
M: Yes.
M: I graduated from school and the film had its premiere at the same time. Instead of having to knock on all the doors to get to know people, they saw the film and thus, this very film has opened every door for me.

(5:20 Kromeriz, Czech Republic)

M: It’s very interesting – five years ago we had to dye my hair grey whenever I had to play an older character. Today it’s not necessary. I’m playing a 34-year old and my hair is too grey now, so we just cheat a little. I have absolutely no problem with that. I like to be forty-something.
(…) And then you become much younger as you can see.
M: My character is called Johann Friedrich Struensee. It’s the famous history about a German doctor, who becomes the royal physician of the Danish king, starts an affair with the queen and then takes over the power. He was the villain in the eyes of the Danish.

(Subtitles 7:37)

Director: Are you going to say your line at the end? Don’t bother too much with the fighting. Can I see it one more time?
M: Fencing is fun. It’s a little like you’re on the playground. Everytime there are weapons involved, the people try them out on the set. I trained a little and could not wait to start filming.

(…) Roman is the choreographer. I’ve worked with him for six months during the making of The Three Musketeers and we did a lot of elaborate fighting. So this was just a little piece of cake.

M: It’s the teamwork that decides if and how we are filming that day. The Danish hierarchy of filming is different. There’s a great tradition of working all together.

(…) When I was a kid, I definitely identified with the guys on television, who fought with swords and epees. We did it in our backyard as well – I didn’t want to become an actor back then, I only wanted to be a pirate. End of story.
Roman: Mads is a master of dancing, he knows the timing and knows which muscles to move, he knows the movements. Which makes everything a lot easier.

(Subtitles 10:02)

Director: Don’t do the same over and over again, like you did in the last take.
M: I think I’m a little scared of the king.
Roman: In the story the king is the better fighter. He may be younger and less experienced in fighting, but he’s supposed to be superior. That’s why Mads takes more steps than usual, struggles and steps back more often.
M: They want me to be worse than him. He’s the king, he’s the master. It’s very hard for me. I hate it.
(…) I’m not a good loser, but I’m also not a good winner. It’s a really nice mix. I lost this fight, it was in the contract – I couldn’t do anything against it. (…) Yeah, it’s still like that. I hate losing. What’s the point of playing if I don’t care about winning or losing the game? The game is worthless, if you don’t care about that. You have to be a bad loser and a really annoying winner. That’s the whole thing.


Mads: It’s a little strange that we had to drive to the Czech Republic to make a Danish movie in Danish with Danish people. We feel like a strong, little unit, as if we were on vacation. The only reason we’re filming here is because back home there are no such places anymore. It’s unbelievable, I have never been to a place like this before. It makes you feel royal.
M: It is a team thing – filming is a team thing. Even though at the end of the day you’re alone in your role. I find myself very often on the set, waiting for my next scene. I think I’m pretty much a team player. I may not be very sociable, but I can quickly find people to talk to and bond with them somehow. It’s really important that you feel safe and comfortable on set.

(Open Hearts clip 02:16)

M: After all you have to sometimes deal with scenes that can be a little risky. You have to feel secure to give it your best. And do that in a room with many people around you.
(Open Hearts clip 02:39 – German Subtitles)
Woman: Did you often cheat on Marie?
M: No, I didn’t. Why?
W: (chewing loudly) Were you unfaithful?
M: No.
W: Before.
M: Before what?
W: Before this.
Wife: If you are finished, you better come back home or you’ll make a lot of people very unhappy.
M: Okay.
W: If she gets close to my children I’ll beat her to death. Do you understand?
M: What do you want? Do you want to kiss me? Hug me?

(Interview 3:35)

M: Every actor wishes for complex roles and if they are not complex, then we try to make them a little bit more complex. That is what drama is all about. Drama is about seeing yourself like in a mirror – this is how I live my life, because I believe this is who I am, this is my point of view. And then there’s the viewer: “No, no, this is not you, you have to go right, don’t go left.”

(Back in Copenhague, Mads and Lars 4:30)

M: In fourth grade I was in love with a girl. She got pregnant by thirteen, not from me. From a tall guy with a motorcycle. She dropped out of school and had a baby by fourteen. Typical working class, but she wanted to be loved by the boys. Maybe she is doing fine today.
M: This is my school. Physics and chemistry was held up there, and my career as a gymnast started there on the middle floor. I didn’t do a lot of homework then, it was super easy for me to understand everything. In high school this was over – I had no idea of what I was doing. But I had a good time here.
Lars: That’s a lie.
M: I was talking about my grades. They were good – here. But not in high school. You don’t know, you were not here. (…) I would love to fulfill the cliché and become the working class hero, but actually I was pretty smart.


L: I can’t really remember much that I didn’t do with him. At some point I transferred to another school and he stayed here, started doing gymnastics. I played handball, basketball and I sang. The different interests did break us a little apart, but we always had the same friends. I think he must have been fourteen, when he joined my handball team and we played handball together. Most of our childhood was spend together, really.
M: That’s nice. They’re doing what we’ve done. It’s nice, it feels good. Here we played ball. Look at this – this is interesting. They’re always making the same mistake – building things to climb on where nobody wants to climb. Everybody climbs the fence instead. They’ll never understand it.
M: Honestly, I never dreamt of becoming an actor. If I had had the choice as a child, I would have become a soccer or handball professional. (…) I once was a hundred percent convinced that I was Bruce Lee after watching one of his movies. There was nothing that made me question it. Same when I watched Grease. I was Danny – I could dance on cars, slide on hoods just like him. I think as a child I strongly identified with everything. I often sat on the street, watching people who were passing me. And if they were strange, had a limp or were homeless or alcoholics, whichever, then I found myself walking like them. It looked like I was making fun of them, but it was never like that. I wanted to feel like them. If I walked like them, I thought I’d feel what they were feeling. Of course, they saw me sometimes and got angry, because they thought I was making fun of them. I was always curious and wanted to know what it felt like to walk in their shoes.
L: We grew up in times where we had the time to think about what we wanted to become. Me – personally, I would have never become an actor if it hadn’t been for those crazy years, in which I could try out things.
M: He hung around and tried to pick up cute girls. And in order to find cute girls he juggled on the streets. And I did the same in the dancing room.
L: Of course there was something in our childhood – listening to the radio, our mother singing songs with us, stuff like that.
M: My mother was a nurse, my father a unionist, working class. He did sports just like me and my brother. There was no connection to arts. I’ve never been to the theatre with my parents, didn’t even know they excisted. I had never seen ballet, never been to the opera. But my father loved the so-called radio theatre, audio drama. They were little thrillers or dramas on cassette and my brother and I loved them. On rainy days we closed our eyes and these voices started taking over and you would be in an old house in Copenhague, where a murder was committed. We’d flee through the universe.

(Copenhague 10:13)

M: Give me a cigarette.
L: Are you broke?
M: I’m not in the mood to search for one.
M: Carsten lived here, my classmate. The small fat one with the many toys nobody wanted to play with.
L: There was a shop here.
M: Hanne lived here. I banged her. The one from Hamburg.
L: There was a small man in the shop and he drank a lot. His belly was always on the counter.
M: Here? Yes, yes. But that was in the beginning, later he was gone again.
L: You’re right, he wasn’t around for a long time.

Lars: There was a barber shop down this street and the owner was always drunk. He cut our hair – back then we looked like The Beatles, as if it were done with a pot around our heads. We had to go there all the time.
Mads: Because our mother felt sorry for him. He was a nice guy, but an alcoholic. So she felt sorry for him.
L: He made three cuts and then went into the back room. Another three cuts, then again to the back room.
M: We were fucking monsters when we came out – everytime.
M: I had my theater debut with my brother. A man called me, who was organizing a play on an island outside of Copenhague. I only knew my brother was in it, nothing else – and I was like “Cool, I’ll do it.”
L: We went into this production and it was horrible. Before Mads had talked to me about the play, he had already agreed on doing it. I didn’t have time to warn him.
M: I didn’t read a script, I never saw the guy who organized it, just phoned with him. So I called my brother, excited, and told him about the play and he went: “No, say no! It’s a disaster! The guy is an idiot, a psychopath!” And he was right. That was probably the worst play in the history of Denmark.
L: It was out on an island outside of Copenhague. You had to go there by ship. And the worst thing was that you had to return with your audience on board.
M: So, you had the choice of either hide on the ship or go through the audience and be seen, looking down.
L: It was a terrible performance. That was the only time we worked together.
M: But I couldn’t help thinking it was cool – my career could only go up from now on. This is the bottom – there’s no way it can be lower than this. So, as a result I always read the script and meet the producers before starting to work with them.
M: I’ve always been an immature child. It took a long time before I was slightly decent. I love moments from my childhood, just laughing your heart out, doing something for hours that didn’t make sense, but were funny. And today when we went back to this place – if I were alone, I would have probably only smiled to myself. But because my brother was with me, everything came back a lot stronger. And it became really funny. We just looked at each other and thought “It’s still there.” (…) Now that I think about it, my childhood was like a long summer evening, if it comes to playing in our backyard. They’re good memories.


(prob. agent): You’re going to France tomorrow?
M: Yes, tomorrow.
A: Didn’t you get the ticket yet?
M: I did. My flight is around six.
A: Wow, that’s early.
M: Do I get another script?
A: Didn’t you get it?
M: No, from whom?
A: Your film shooting was moved ahead. And then there is a press conference for The Three Musketeers.
M: When?
A: In August. But that’s not sure yet.
M: I can’t make that.
A: Did Ulrich tell you about the university in Aalborg? About an awards show? No? On the 8th or 19th November. Or on the 17th, depending on you and your plans.
M: Okay, look – I don’t understand a word right now. We’ll do that when I come back.
A: Why don’t you use your iPad?
M: I can’t do that.
A: Why do you have an iPhone and an iPad then?
M: We’ll do it later. Okay, great.
A: When you come back we’ll do your calendar.
M: So, tomorrow I leave to France. Do I have the ticket already?


M: Some people think my job is strange. It’s a lot like as if you were ready to run 400 metres even if you don’t know when the gun is going off. And a runner can keep this tension only for a few minutes. We need to be focused, we have to keep the tension, but also relax so we won’t spend all our energy anticipating. It’s a little strange, but you get used to it. I probably don’t have the skills to do a different job – something with computers maybe. That would be a disaster.
M: It’s a craft and some people work in that craft.

(After the Wedding (Efter brylluppet) clip 5:46)

Kid: Why do you have to go away?
M: Because I have to. I have to home and try to get some money.
M: Why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant?
Guy: We would have thought of something.
Woman: I found out about it after our return. I met Jörge … I don’t have to account for anything.
M: You don’t have … Aren’t we talking about our daughter? Shouldn’t she know her father?
W: She has a father. A good one.
M: This is crazy – what am I supposed to say this? What you did was so wrong! You know this, right?
Daughter: Didn’t you know about me? I’m sorry.
M: Don’t say that. You are the only one who is not responsible for this. Would you like something to drink? Coke?


M: Work is my fuel. The goal is to make the best movie in the world. Everytime. But the goal has to be clear from the beginning. If it’s just theater for fun, I’d rather play soccer. That’s much more fun.


M: Go home. The last presents, the bad conscience.
Driver: I don’t need this anymore.
M: No presents or already finished?
D: Already finished.
M: These are probably the worst days in Copenhague – traffic-wise. Yeah, I think you’re pretty lucky today. This looks like a really big city now.
M: I know a thousand places where I’d rather live. But this has probably something to do with identity. With memories, and what memories create and how comfortable you feel being here.
M: This is the craziest cinema – on the left side. I have to show you that one. Right over there. That’s where I spend all my money. I like gambling – pool, poker, but not for the house – at least not your own. You can lose money, you can win some. You decide it before you start. You put some money in your pocket and know, this is what I can lose. Which rarely happens.
D: You losing?
M: Yeah. I’m a good gamer.

(Casino Royale clip, original audio – 9:19)