Mads Mikkelsen Makes Unforgettable Films and Continues to Impress us With His Talent
Mads Mikkelsen has a solid career, stars in excellent films and his charisma is enviable by many actors.
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Genious Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen celebrated his birthday on November 22nd. He's now 56 years old and beyond satisfied with his career. However, he didn't always know that he would become an actor. As in the case of his older brother Lars Mikkelsen, acting was not his first choice. He's been involved in gymnastics since he was a child and also a professional dancer for 10 years.
He got into film the same year he started studying acting
When he was 29, he decided to study drama. He also got his first film role in the same year (1996). Director Nicolas Winding Refn (you might know him as the director of Drive with Ryan Gosling) cast him in his directorial debut, Pusher, starring Kim Bodnie, for which he made two more sequels. Mads only played in the second one, where he played a major role - earning him a lot of praise.
Three years after the first Pusher, he played again with Kim Bodnius (Vesemir in the 2nd series of The Sorcerer) and once again under the directorial supervision of Nicolas Winding Refn. Bleeder was another great landmark in his filmography, and a year later, in 2000, he starred in a successful television series about cops called Unit One. Subsequently, he appeared in Anders Thomas Jensen's directorial debut, Flickering Lights. Fans of Nordic cinema already know that he's made four more films with this fascinating filmmaker.
Namely, The Green Butchers (2003), Adam's Apples (2005), Men & Chicken (2015) and most recently the famous Riders of Justice (2020). All of these flicks are extremely good, so every time Jensen announces his next film, we're there for it. Mads Mikkelsen will be cast in it 100% (Jensen hasn't made any films without Mikkelsen's so far) and it will most likely be one of the best films of the year.
Stardom in Denmark and role in James Bond
Mikkelsen became a popular actor in Denmark at the turn of the second millennium thanks to his performance in a gay comedy called Shake It All About. He also starred in two excellent dramas directed by Susanne Bier (directed by Bird Box). His roles in After Wedding and Open Hearts were brilliant, and combined with his performance in Adam's Apples has turned him into an extremely famous and popular actor in Denmark. But that was just a cherry on top of his talent.
Mikkelsen's talent didn't go unnoticed with the producers of James Bond. His first Hollywood film was King Arthur by Antoine Fuqua. Since then, he was no longer just a great Danish actor. He proved that he could easily cover American roles as well. Debbie McWilliams, who was in charge of casting for the 21st Bond movie, which was the first one with Daniel Craig called Casino Royale, admitted that Mads Mikkelsen was not her first choice for the Le Chiffre villain role.
Originally, she wanted a French actor, but her number one choice didn't work out. Mikkelsen was praised for his Danish films, and coincidentally both Mikkelsen and Debbie were in Prague at the time. They arranged a meeting, and Mikkelsen accepted an offer for the role, which eventually turned out to be probably the best Bond villain of the 21st century. Interestingly, he only auditioned one round and was accepted immediately, while Daniel Craig had to go through five auditions.
However, Mikkelsen almost lost the role. He fell asleep on a plane and forgot the script for the audition there. Someone found it and apparently threw it away. Mads eventually got a hold of it and it miraculously didn't leak into the media.
"The best part about Bond? I loved getting paid to play poker. But you know, the most fun was the torture scene. I spent an entire day listening to Daniel [Craig] scream. That was great. He wasn't wearing a lot of clothes. I got to kick him in the balls, literally," the actor said for the Montreal Mirror in 2007.
He also complained that there are dozens of crew people on the set when he makes a Danish film, while in a Hollywood blockbuster there's hundreds. Allegedly, he's bad at remembering names, so that was problematic at times. There's a story from the filming of King Arthur, when Mads confused the legendary and famous Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Twice. While shooting the same movie.
How he confused one of the most famous producers in history with a cameraman. Twice in a row.
Mads welcomed him on the set and told him he must be a cameraman. Bruckheimer must have thought he was joking around when he did it again two weeks later. This story is really golden. Bruckheimer never called Mads again. But no one is upset with him. As he claims, the "cameraman" seemed lonely, and he just wanted to talk to him.
Mikkelsen suddenly became a global superstar, and quite deservedly so. Unfortunately, he was already 41 at the time. Too bad he didn't start acting earlier. Anyway, he started getting more offers, and as he says himself in the short documentary above, he got to experience what it's like to have a huge fan club. He also mentions that he was sorry there was no action figure of his villain from the Casino Royale. The Hannibal series and even the character he played in Star Wars did get some great ones.
Ignoring Fantastic Four and the Hunt (Jagten)
Mikkelsen didn't perform in any major blockbusters in the following years. It could have been different though. He went to several auditions, one of which was for a comic book called Fantastic Four. At the casting, he had to say one sentence and pretend to reach for a glass of water a few feet away like Mr. Fantastic.
This character can really extend his limbs. Mikkelsen wasn't feeling this style of audition, so he left. He later made several successful dramas, but also a few average films. That all changed when Jagten (The Hunt) was released in 2012 by director Thomas Vinterberg.
It was this film that clearly confirmed that Mikkelsen is one of the best actors on the planet. Just give him a proper script and a director who knows what he's doing. Hunt is an excellent thriller drama based on the performances of everyone involved, chilling atmosphere, authentic story and great film work presented by Vinterberg. Mikkelsen also won the award for best acting performance at the prestigious festival in Cannes.
In 2012, Deutsche Telekom's interactive project called Move On was also published. Viewers and fans were able to intervene in the story, character development and filming locations, so there was a lot of improvisation taking place.
A year later, he starred in a TV adaptation of Hannibal Lecter. However, he didn't take this role immediately. He thought Anthony Hopkins portrayed Hannibal perfectly and the character couldn't be done any better. Eventually, however, he agreed to the offer and we could enjoy three excellent series before NBC canceled the series due to low viewership. And how does Mads think of the character itself?
"He's not a classic psychopath or a serial killer. I think he's as close to Satan as he can be - somewhat of a fallen angel. He can see beauty in death. For him, every day is new, full of opportunities."
Mikkelsen in the role of Hannibal was also praised by Anthony Hopkins himself, who portrayed this character most famously in The Silence of the Lambs. Hopkins only saw one episode, as he no longer watches TV, but he described Mikkelsen as absolutely fantastic.
Hannibal, Star Wars and Marvel
In addition to Hannibal, Mikkelsen also made multiple other films at the time. In 2013, he premiered The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, where he played with Rachel Wood and Shia LaBeouf. If you're expecting Mads to reveal something about Shia, you're mistaken. Even if the Danish actor experienced something controversial during his career, he doesn't talk about it.
Since 2014, he has been even more careful about choosing his roles. He shot the great drama Salvation and in 2016 he starred in two Hollywood blockbusters. Participating in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Doctor Strange expanded his fan base substantially and earned him a decent package of money.
Although it's true that he was a little dry in Marvel, alongside Doctor Strange, and the creators didn't use his full potential there. However, he played a villain, which in 99% of Marvels equals a boring, badly written character. Mads said blockbusters didn't bother him. He thinks that if he only made one type of films all the time (for example, smaller Danish dramas), he'd most likely get bored.
Two famous film combo - Another Round and Riders of Justice
In a series of interviews on Variety, Mikkelsen ran into Daniel Craig in an interview this year after a long time. They talked about the torture of naked Bond at Casino Royale, how Daniel had to bear the hate from media and the internet after announcing that he'd portray 007. They also discussed last year's Another Round drama. Mikkelsen revealed that he and his colleagues watched videos on YouTube and were inspired by the crazy Russian drunks. He specifically mentioned the video below.
The interview also revealed that Mads prefers to shoot directly and doesn't do so-called rehearsals when they try to get him to play a scene with other actors before actual filming. He had the drama Another Round in his head for several years. Director Thomas Vinterberg had already told him about the film after the premiere of The Hunt (Jagten), which they worked on together and released in 2012. It was in the making for many years and you can feel it in the final result.
Filming Another Round was extremely challenging not only for him, but also for the entire crew, actors and director. Right at the beginning of filming, the director's daughter Ida, who played an important role in the film, passed away unexpectedly. They had to rewrite the script significantly.
Mads talks about how before the scene where four friends are laughing and having fun, the actors were crying, unable to control themselves. It's admirable how everyone managed to get themselves together and made such a wonderful film, especially considering the circumstances of a grieving father and director in one person.
"But this was meant to be a life-affirming film. That’s what was important to me — that the love from these people came through to the audience in a life-affirming way. My daughter [Ida] died four days into shooting this film," recalls director Vinterberg.
Mikkelsen had a problem with the film. Specifically with its end. He didn't understand how his character's dance matches the rest of the film and the way it comes across. However, once he saw the scene, he agreed with the director. He's been arguing about the ending of the film in the past. He wanted Vinterberg to kill his character Lucas at the end of the drama Jagten (Hunt).
They filmed that version as well, but it seemed too brutal and depressing to everyone. And so Lucas survived in a very strong final scene, which gave off a clear message that the whole incident changed the people forever.
But Another Round wasn't the only amazing Mikkelsen film during the pandemic. We have already mentioned the film Riders of Justice, and just like Another Round, it's definitely worth watching.
During his graduation, Mikkelsen told the Press Association that actors with accents had little chance of winning a major role in Hollywood. He argued that producers and directors who were sensitive to it were to blame. Although most American actors already have a foreign accent of some sort, they still don't get the main roles.
Main role in a groundbreaking amazing video game
However, not only Hollywood producers see Mads as a villain. In 2016, the legendary Japanese game creator and designer Hideo Kojima cast him in his ingenious piece Death Stranding, where he portrayed the antagonist Cliff. His performance there was truly exceptional.
He has clearly demonstrated that he can bring us on the edge of our seats even when he's wearing a motion capture suit that captures the movement and mimics, so the game creators can transfer them to video game graphics. In 2019, he won the Best Actor Award for his role at The Game Awards.
Mikkelsen is a cool dude. In an interview with Vulture, he says that he's used to fame and that people on the street want to take pictures with him. Oftentimes, that's when he's reminded that he's famous indeed. It doesn't bother him. He understands that people are drawn to him as an actor and not him as a human being, so it's okay for him to face hatred or criticism.
In the same interview, he also considered authorship of film. He claims that once a certain budget limit is exceeded, the director is no longer the only or most important figure and the film has certain limitations. As an example, he used the Casino Royale and the famous torture scene we talked about earlier. Mads recalls how he and Daniel Craig came up with different ways to elevate the scene and torture Bond even more.
At some point, they were stopped by the director Martin Campbell, who said that they were shooting a Bond film and that there were certain boundaries that came along with that. Craig also mentions that even a slight rephrasing of a sentence is sometimes difficult with blockbusters. At times this decision is influenced by the fact that a producer lives in a different time zone and sleeps at the time of filming, so nothing can be changed on the spot without approval.
He'll challenge Dumbledore and Indiana Jones next
Mads Mikkelsen still has many active years ahead of him, unless he decides to quit acting. He's constantly proving how great of an actor he is, and Hollywood producers are also very aware of that. That's why he replaced Johnny Depp in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, where he portrays Grindelwald. Warner Bros. Studio fired Depp after losing his trial with ex-wife Amber Heard.
We are really looking forward to Mikkelsen in the fifth Indiana Jones, where he apparently portrays the villain. Together with Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) and Antonio Banderas. And what's next? One thing is certain: there's multiple more unforgettable films coming up.
However, as he himself says, he hopes that it won't be just Hollywood villains and American productions. In 90% of American films, he only plays villains (he thinks that his accent might be to blame). At the same time, he adds that if this doesn't change and he'll still play bad guys, he will remain happy anyway, as that's how he got into Star Wars, Marvel, Indiana Jones or James Bond in the first place. Apparently there's no other Hollywood actor who has made it into so many notoriously known series.
Few fun facts:
- He appeared in Rihanna's Bitch Better Have My Money video.
- He speaks Danish, French, Swedish, English and German.
- The pronunciation of his name is "madz mi·kuhl·sn".
- First meeting with the director Anders Thomas Jensen escalated into a fight. Few months later, Jensen called him with an offer to star in his film.
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