It seems that Mikkelsen has identified many good guys that had a problem with their eyes. Whether it be Le Chiffre's Bond villain, his peepers in Doctor Strange, or his one-eyed killers in Valhalla Rising, there is a second element the Danish actor has developed to prove success.
Many performers prefer to be heavy when playing the heavy. Mikkelsen has, for the time being, represented characters with a wide range of abilities (particularly in acclaimed films from his native Denmark). However, when the actor is portrayed as an antagonist or antihero, he becomes a franchise player by adopting minimalism.
"When it comes to the villain, I think that the more we can persuade the audience to listen and make a fraction of what the character is saying make sense, the more interesting the character is to look at," Mikkelsen, a 56-year-old who wore casual loungewear and smoked cigarette.
Mikkelsen, the son of a nurse and a bank teller, began dancing before becoming a professional dancer at the age of 31. He has said that dancing focuses on how intense or light he is, but I rarely think about it. "Gymnastics, on the other hand, are quite manifesting in handy when it comes to doing stunts."
In Nicolas Winding Refn's 1996 film Pusher, he gained worldwide recognition in 2006's Casino Royale and gained a strong fan following for portraying Hannibal Lecter on NBC's 2013-15 series Hannibal.
Whenever Mikkelsen first appears onscreen, one can't help but be captivated by his face. He looks like a stone temple idol; a stunning slate that the camera's gaze cannot quite penetrate. The resulting performances result in interest in the audience even if his dialogue is full of melodramatic consequences.
Take Mikkelsen's first scene in the Harry Potter prequel series. Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) is meeting his former lover Gellert Grindelwald for a civil tea in London. Fans will focus on Dumbledore finally declaring his love for the Dark Wizard, thus extending the character's queerness to a certain extent.
For another reason, Mikkelsen makes the scene interesting. At first, the reunion plays like a meeting between a divided couple. Then one brings up politics (which always ruins everything) and there's a subtle change in Grindelwald's expression, from a mind that's open to shut, from an aura of light to dark. It's perhaps the most impressive "special effect" in the CGI-stuffed film.
I love that scene, Mikkelsen said. It puts aside that they are wizards and its just two grown-up people with a painful and beautiful past. Their past obviously meant the world to them, but was also a source of worry. Before we went into the fray, we wanted to see that warmth.
In a libel lawsuit against The Sun newspaper, Depp denied the charges, but Warner Bros. was scrambling to remake the key Fantastic Beasts role while production on Secrets was underway. Producers phoned Mikkelsen and gave him two days to decide.
Mikkelsen recalls that he quickly watched the first two films and read the script for Secrets, which he thought was "a great story." He notes, "You don't want to copy anything [Depp was] doing to perfection, and it's a creative suicide. Even if [a role has] been done to perfection, you want to make it yourself. But there's still a lot of bridge between the two.
The Secrets team decided to tone down Grindelwald's appearance, giving Mikkelsen just a hint of Depp's platinum hair. That made for adding another eye-challenged character to Mikkelsen's repertoire, increasing his tally to seven. "We didn't really concentrate much on the eye thing, but there's a variety of reasons," he said. "We didn't really concentrate on the visual aspect, but we also emphasized that doing something to the actor'
Both changes reflected the actor's distinctive approach. Mads has a broad spectrum, he can be frightening as well as vulnerable, says Secrets director David Yates, who has directed the last seven films in the Harry Potter universe. I wanted Mads to explore a version of Grindelwald, which suited his abilities as an actor, and that ultimately meant a departure from what Johnny brought to the role.
Even if Grindelwald was a reality star, the team decided, more curiously, to avoid addressing the villain's radical appearance changes in the film, even though it might have been explained.
That was very deliberate, Mikkelsen said. Everybody knows why [the actors changed], the whole world knows why. It would almost be like an Easter egg to realize that we swapped actors. Hopefully we drag them in with the first scene and from there they accept this world.
Mikkelsen stated in one interview that he wanted to have spoken to Depp before discussing the role, a statement that became viral and that the actor believes it would have been great to touch bases and 'clean the room.' Perhaps he will be there in the future.
Mikkelsen's co-screenwriter and producer J.K. Rowling, who had spoken with other lead actors about their roles for previous films, supported Depp during his court fight, and has had an increasingly awkward relationship with the studio as a result of her controversial views on trans rights.
Mikkelsen says he wanted to ask Rowling why the fascist Grindelwald slams so much that he would avoid subjuguing all "muggles." He says, however, the actor has reimagined his own personal experience for him. It's a fantastic, detailed, complex universe [Rowling's] created, and I'd love to hear her thoughts about it. I hope I will do more than this one [film].
Secrets may surprise fans by how unsettling it is. Without giving away anything, it concludes on an obvious cliffhanger similar to the previous two films. Rowling's stated intention for Fantastic Beasts is that it is a five-film series, but the narrative components have now been altered so that while there very well might be another film, there no longer needs to be at least with the same cast continued, according to producer Tim Lewis on the premiere's red carpet.
An executive with close Warner Bros. ties told THR that five films always seemed overly ambitious for the Fantastic Beasts concept, and he wouldn't be surprised if the studio revamped its cinematic Wizarding World in December. However, Rowling didn't participate in HBO Max's Harry Potter reunion special in April, but the author's red carpet interview at the Secrets was not included in the studio's 90-minute livestream program (she was shown in a sizzle reel). However, Row
The most crucial lingering story thread in the franchise is Grindelwald. Obviously, I still have the Elder Wand, Mikkelsen says, slipping into the first character for his character, and referencing the Wizarding World's unbeatable weapon. Dumbledore gets it in... 1945? (Accurate 10 points for Slytherin.) There's a huge rift that we haven't seen yet. So there's plenty to do.
Mikkelsen, who has been married for 22 years to choreographer Hanne Jacobsen and has two adult children, intends to take six months off to spend time with his family. Despite his excellent Twitter profile, he says, "It's insanity in there." "You get into discussions where everything is black and white, nothing is nuanced, and even the smallest word can turn your world upside down. I'm staying away from it."
The actor's much-deserved departure follows him spending 14 months on Beasts and his other upcoming big franchise project the long-awaited Indiana Jones 5.
While Mikkelsen is prohibited from discussing character or story details from the film (the rumor is that he plays, yes, the villain), the film suggests a return to the original period.
"[Raiders of the Lost Ark] was one of my favorite films, and it just enlivened that golden period of serials from the 1940s," he says. "They're going heavily back to the first and second films and getting that original sense, the original Indy, which is so virtuous and epic."
Steven Spielberg, who is still on board as an executive producer, has taken over the role of James Mangold. "It felt like a Spielberg film, though it's obviously James making it with the same vision," Mikkelsen said. Harrison Ford, who is pushing 80, returns as the iconic adventurer.
Mikkelsen asks how Ford was holding up following reports that he fractured his shoulder on set. "It was the first time I met him, and he's an incredible person," he adds. "Not just as an actor, but physically. It was a night shoot, then we stopped at 5 a.m., and he drove for 50 kilometers [31 miles], Harrison is a monster of a man, a very nice monster."
It's not a big deal that moving a long-time franchise Indiana Jones, Marvel, Bond, Star Wars, or Beasts stressed out the actor. If pressure is, it's a positive pressure, he adds. "There's a different form of pressure," he adds.
Mikkelsen's next gig is equally likely to be a Danish film. Unlike some European actors who don't look back after being accepted by Hollywood, Mikkelsen prefers to balance his English-speaking films with Danish films. One of his most recent, Another Round, received the 2021 Oscar for Best international film and crossed the pond. "It traveled tremendously around the world because of the lockdown, many people witnessed it," Mikkelsen said. "It might benefit individuals in one way, but
Leonardo DiCaprio is developing a remake of Another Round. "If an American version of Another Round will enable more people to see the film, I say, bring it on." "Leonardo is a fantastic actor, so they are off to a great start."
Mikkelsen is aghast when he examines his work and asks which of his scene partners has leans towards him. "That's so unfair, no, I can't that!" he adds.
A few of his emotional breakdown bursts and a flash of his onscreen ability rises. I strive to make every scene the most important I've ever done, he says. I am trying to make every individual scene the most important and the best, and the best actors I have ever done. We strive to make a magical moment.
Like a wizard.
Kim Masters has contributed to this report.
This story was first published in the April 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.