“Even the Biggest Stars Are Just People,” Says Mads Mikkelsen
To worldwide audiences, Mads Mikkelsen is known for playing intriguing villains. His roles are more nuanced in his native Denmark, which was put on the filmmaking map when its raw and gritty Dogme filmmaking movement emerged. Mikkelsen is now starring in Another Round, a standout in this year’s awards season not only strictly in the international categories. Once a professional dancer who roller-skated in the streets of New York with barely any pocket money, the future Grindelwald of the Fantastic Beasts franchise has since risen to fame for such big titles as Hannibal, Casino Royale, and Doctor Strange. But it hasn’t gone to his head. On the contrary.
“Even the biggest stars are just people,” Mikkelsen said in a recent interview with Vulture. The BAFTA-nominated actor is surprisingly grounded not only as regards his own fame. Although he frequently works with movie giants, he is not one to be fazed:
I’m rarely starstruck either. That’s the way it is. Maybe because I’ve never been a film geek or it’s never been a dream of mine, what I’m doing — even though I love doing it now — maybe that helps me a little, so I’m not running around with my mouth open all the time.
— Lights, Camera, Pod (@LightsCameraPod) April 26, 2021
That’s not to say his remarkable career is thanks to dumb luck. He studied dance and later went to drama school, albeit a little later than the average student.
I was super-pleased to get in because it’s difficult. But part of me thought, ‘Jesus, I’m 30 when I get out.’ I was in school with some people who were almost ten years younger than me. ‘All the 20-year-olds, they’re going to get the jobs.’
Luckily, in his third year, he got a role in the Copenhagen cult film Pusher. He was pretty pleased about this achievement and the lessons he took away from it.
That’s what I was dreaming of, making films like ‘Taxi Driver’ or ‘Mean Streets,’ something we’d never done in Denmark at that time. That period placed Denmark on the map together with Thomas [Vinterberg] and Lars von Trier and Dogme rules. […] But I also bumped into situations where for the first time I was like, ‘Why is this scene here? Where is this going? What is my development?’ And I hadn’t questioned that too much at that point. This is a very big part of the way I approach things now, to understand what’s going on.
Mikkelsen has come a long way from niche cinema. Fame came when he was cast in the popular crime drama series Unit One (Rejseholdet). He has a massive following owing to the US series Hannibal. His latest Danish film, Another Round, made the awards round, including a BAFTA nomination for Mikkelsen for Leading Actor. However, he is hardly a Gilderoy Lockhart about it.
I simply hadn’t seen the fame coming. But it’s okay. I handled it fine. It was not about me. It was about the concept of me. I was luckily not 17 years old. You might believe everything. You might believe you are special. I forget it every day I go out. I walk out the door and somebody says, ‘Hey, can I get a photo?’ Then I wake up. ‘Oh, yeah, that’s right. I’m this guy.’
You can watch “this guy” in Another Round on Prime Video. After that, it’s back to stylish villains in Fantastic Beasts 3 (title pending).