Mikkelsen's European Year

Following his international breakthrough as a villain crying tears of blood in "Casino Royale", Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen is starring in three European films opening this year: Anno Saul’s "Die Tür" (Germany), Jan Kounen’s "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky" (France) and Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s English-language "Valhalla Rising".

Mads Mikkelsen in Nicolaj Winding Refn's Valhalla Rising photo: Dean Rogers

Nicolas Winding Refn’s English-language action-adventure "Valhalla Rising" features Mads Mikkelsen as a mute warrior of supernatural strength by the name of One-Eye. Photo: Dean Rogers

What attracts you to working internationally?

“The odds of getting interesting offers are better internationally because the volume of films is bigger. We make good films in Denmark, but we don’t make 22 good films a year.”

It was never anything I aimed for, actually. My goal was always to make good films in Denmark. Now that Danish films have been successful, the offers have been coming in. What attracts me about international projects are the exact same things that attract me about Danish films: a good story and an interesting director. The odds of getting interesting offers are better internationally because the volume of films is bigger. We make good films in Denmark, but we don’t make 22 good films a year.

What are the differences between working in Denmark and working abroad?

In Denmark, I’m used to going home with directors and writers and discussing how to solve the next day’s problems over a couple of beers. That’s not generally how it’s done abroad – though, it turns out, a few people actually do work that way. There was much closer collaboration on "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky", which I just finished, than on "King Arthur", the first international film I was in, where all you did was show up, put on your knight costume and go home again afterwards.

You had your international breakthrough as a villain in the Bond movie Casino Royale. Were you concerned about being typecast?

I was aware of it, but I didn’t think twice when they offered me the role – the Bond films are legendary. When Ulrich Thomsen played a Bond villain ("The World Is Not Enough"), there was a lot of talk that it might turn into a liability for him – not about how cool it was that he got the role. I thought that was absurd. If you go on to play four villains in a row afterwards, then it’s a problem. Otherwise not. I’d gladly play another villain, if it’s a good part.

In 2008, you played roles in English, German, French and Russian. How was that?

None of those languages is my mother tongue, and you simply don’t speak another language like you speak your own. So that’s always a problem. In "Coco Chanel and Igor
Stravinsky", I play a Russian who speaks French with a Russian accent. The French loved it, but I don’t know what the Russians think. Beforehand, I spoke very little French and no Russian. I also had to play a lot of piano in the movie, so I had some gruelling practice to do. I spent some long nights studying French, Russian, phonetics and the piano.

What does having an agent mean for your international work?

A lot. It helps that I don’t have to spend time negotiating my salary, for instance, which would also be unthinkable abroad. Denmark must be one of the last countries in the world to get theatrical agents. We’ve been happy just to be a part of things, and we haven’t wanted to ask for a lot of money or perks like meals during breaks. It’s taken us a while to get agents in Denmark, but now they’re here, and I’m sure everyone will be happy about it, once they get used to it.

Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale photo Jay MaidmentThe role as Bond villain Le Chiffre in Casino Royale earned Mads Mikkelsen widespread international acclaim. Photo: Jay Maidment

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Det Danske Filminstitut

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