Marrakech Fest: 'Hannibal' Star Mads Mikkelsen on Denmark's Oscar Entry 'The Hunt' (Q&A)

Mads Mikkelsen
Mads Mikkelsen
 

MARRAKECH -- When he's not starring as the world's most tasteful serial killer on NBC's Hannibal, Danish star Mads Mikkelsen has an impressive international résumé, working in both his home country and the U.S. He won the best actor trophy at Cannes last year for his turn as a persecuted teacher in Thomas Vinterberg's wrenching drama The Hunt. His next film, the "Danish Western" The Salvation comes out next year, and he's slated to take part in the third Kung Fu Panda movie as well as Danish director Anders Thomas Jensen's tentatively-titled dark comedy Men and Chicken.

In Morocco, as part of the Scandinavian delegation receiving a cinema tribute at the film festival here, Mikkelsen sat down with reporters to talk about his Cannes best actor win, the "fannibals" and being bumped by Ryan Gosling as director Nicolas Winding Refn's latest obsession.

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The Hunt is Denmark's best foreign film entry. What do you think the chances are that the film that earned you the best actor at Cannes might be nominated for an Oscar?

I feel really good about that, and Thomas made a fantastic film. He deserves all the credit whether we do get nominated or not -- only time will tell. But we're just proud to be in the running. And Cannes was a very, very big experience for me. I can't overestimate how much it meant for me in the sense that I can't really measure it in terms of career. But while we didn't make the film for awards, I would be a liar to say that we don't cherish it when we get a nice pat on the back. I was really happy that day [in Cannes] and so, so proud of the film.

What do you like about playing Hannibal?

The way he dresses. It's something I would never do, so it's interesting for me to come in my Adidas clothes in the morning and jump into this character's clothing. I can't say that I like the character, but I like playing him. He's a man that's very manipulative and is always in control. He does have empathy, but he controls his empathy, and I think that's a very interesting dimension of a psychopath. He's sensitive in a different way. He's a lover of everything that's fine -- fine art, fine food, fine people. Everything that's banal he would like to kill or just ignore. He's not full of hate, but he's not full of love, and he's not full of evilness. He sees the beauty of life in the threshold of death. So it's not a brutality from his point of view, it's just a different perspective.

What is the difference between the world of television versus film?

I'm not so good at computers and stuff, but I do believe we have a group of fans of Hannibal that call themselves "fannibals," about 700,000 people. I don't think you see that in films because this [is] on every week, and fans start communicating about the show. There's a whole life in there that I don't understand because I can't even open a computer. With a film, it's that you saw it, you can bring it back home and think about it or not. But with TV, if you get hooked on it, it seems to become a lifestyle. It's a world I had no idea existed. I think it's fascinating, and we have to be grateful because these are the people who watch our show.

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Hollywood has had an issue with age and creating roles for older actors. Are you considering how to make a transition?

Well let's continue this in the gym! [Laughs.] No, I'm not concerned at all. There's something that we can't run away from, and that's our age. I think that Hollywood's actually been fairly nice to the male actors, but on the other side, that has not been the case. The second you hit 30 as a woman, you have to wait until you are 80 again and then they bring you back as Miss Daisy. But there has been a fair amount of interesting parts for men in their 50s and 60s and 70s, so I don't think about that too much. I've never really planned my career, and I will see where it ends. I do what I think is fun, and if it stops, it stops. But if it stopped tomorrow, I'm not sure that I'm the guy that would knock on doors.

Do you believe your looks have impacted your career in any way?

Beautiful? Are you calling me beautiful at this table? Can we add young then?

I actually had a Danish comedy called Shake It All About that couldn't be released in Japan because the character was too ugly -- that was the feedback that came back, and that was unfortunately me. But in terms of work, no; in terms of the press and journalism, yes. Early on I did things where I was not necessarily the pretty boy; I had tattoos all over my face and I never made an effort to be "the thing." So work-wise no, but obviously if one of the gossip magazines nominates you as one of the sexiest men of the year, it stays with you for a long time and it does color people's opinions. But I have to look at it from the other way: It's nicer to be the sexiest man than the ugliest man, right? If I was aware that I was a "pretty boy" earlier in my career, I would have been more aggressive with it when I was younger. A talented young woman who's pretty will have to struggle to prove that she's talented. I think that boys are not told that in the same way, let's put it that way.

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How was it working with fellow Dane Nicolas Winding Refn early in your career? Do you have any plans to work with him again?

We started out together. We started from scratch with the first Pusher film, which was both our first film, and I think we immediately caught on to an energy where we challenge each other and do different things. Nicolas is probably one of the few people I would work with without seeing a script, because I know that we are not going to do what's in the script anyway. If he's burning for something, I know it will be interesting.

But he's cut the leash! No, we will work together again. But [Ryan] Gosling is his new loverboy and a slightly younger version as well. [Laughs.] I have no problem with that. It seems they have found a way to work together, and obviously if you are in America and want to do stuff you can't just bring your whole team there, and you're not going to raise any money. He found someone who can fill up that space, and it's worked out that they've made great stuff. One day, when Nicolas is more settled in America and he can decide a little more, hopefully he'll call me again. If not, we can do something back home.

Do you make conscious choices to balance working in Denmark and working in the U.S.?

I had a break for five years when I did nothing in Denmark. There just wasn't anything. And then all of a sudden two things came along -- A Royal Affair and The Hunt. We did them back-to-back, and that was coincidence. If there were 80 films there that I wanted, I would do that. But the country's small, and if you do one film a year there, people start puking and saying you're in everything. I remember when I did A Royal Affair, people complained about me being in every film, and [it] had been 5 years since my last film! So we struggle with that back home.

You started out as a dancer. Any thoughts about doing a dance movie or musical?

But then I'd have to sing too, and I'm not sure anyone would pay for that! We'd have to have some serious dubbing. But they tend to be quite cheesy. If you could do it in a not cheesy way, I would definitely be interested. If it was something rough and had a little more depth to it, that would be interesting to me. There's always something fun about people who randomly start dancing.

And at clubs are you the best dancer?

I'm probably next to the pool table.

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