Mads Mikkelsen talks losing his head in ‘A Royal Affair’ & following Anthony Hopkins’ bloody footsteps as TV’s ‘Hannibal’
Mads Mikkelsen (Photo by Joel Ryan)
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, 46, courts Oscar in the 18th-century romance "A Royal Affair," (opening today) the Danish entry for Best Foreign Film. In that sexy historical drama, Mikkelsen plays the German doctor and philosopher that charms crazy King Christian VII of Denmark (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard) and beds his young English queen (rising star Alicia Vikander).
"Mads? Of course, as a Scandinavian I had seen a lot of his films," Vikander told Yahoo! Movies this week. The Swedish actress, 24, who also has a major role opposite Keira Knightley in "Anna Karenina" continued: "He's one of our greatest actors. When I met Mads for the first time at a screen test in Copenhagen, it took me one second to realize he's one of the most down to earth men. He's funny, witty, brilliant and a real inspiration."
Despite his high profile in Scandinavia — and a standout role as the Bond villain Le Chiffre in "Casino Royale" — Mikkelsen's career has reached a new high this year. He won best actor honors at Cannes for "The Hunt," and he's currently filming "Hannibal" in Toronto opposite Hugh Dancy. The highly anticipated NBC series will premiere in 2013 with Mikkelsen in the title role made infamous by Sir Anthony Hopkins, Hannibal Lecter.
When I met the tall, high-cheek-boned actor in Toronto last September, he struck me as a cross between Viggo Mortensen and Ciaran Hinds — intelligent, physical and grown-up sexy. And every bit as down-to-earth as Vikander says. As for his hot streak, he was philosophical: "I never really planned a career," Mikkelsen said. "I've tried to avoid it. I've tried to do this stuff I felt for, the stuff I like. So, I've just been meeting these fantastic directors who've offered me a variation of different parts and different films. And now it's landed here."
Directors like Nicolaz Arcel, the Dane responsible for "A Royal Affair," and the screenwriter of the Swedish version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" with Noomi Rapace. When Arcel cast Mikkelsen as Johann Friedrich Struensee, the German who becomes King Christian's personal physician, he rose to the challenge — physical and emotional. "There's no such thing as easy," said Mikkelsen, "but it's easier when a script is good. Even though the characters may go through hell, it's nice for an actor because it's there on the paper."
And, in "A Royal Affair," his character literally goes through hell. Despite becoming the King's closest confidante, the doctor's radical ideas and his intimacy with the queen become his undoing. It's not a spoiler to say that things don't end well for the good doctor. It's a matter of historical record. "Yeah," agreed Mikkelsen. "I mean it's a well known story. Let me put it this way. They're both dead today."
Mads Mikkelson & Alicia Vikander 'A Royal Affair'. Photo by Magnolia Pictures.
The most heart-wrenching moment is when the doctor arrives at the scaffolding outside of town, still believing King Christian will stay his execution. As an actor, Mikkelsen had to get inside the doctor's head — and then lose it. Is it hard to recreate such a traumatic scene? "It was quite," said Mikkelsen. "We as actors imagine things like that. It's what we have to do. But if it's there and there was the scaffolding. The axe was there. It was really cold. It was really a sad day. I'm walking up these stairs now. I'm saying goodbye to my whole life. Also, he realizes it's not just fifty people out there watching. It's the whole city and they hate him. He didn't see that coming. It's heartbreaking for him."