Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen received one of the three Tributes at the Telluride Film Festival. Mikkelsen’s international roles include the villain with bloody tears threatening James Bond in “Casino Royale” (2006) and the male title character in “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky”.
In an often amusing on stage interview, Mikkelsen discussed the development of his career before a screening of the Danish film “The Hunt” for which he received the Best Actor award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.
His performing began as a gymnast doing somersaults. He was invited to join a dance troupe. Because of his middle-class Danish background, he faced what he called ‘”Billy Elliot” stuff’ about becoming a dancer. His career choice was better received when he described the dance troupe as “nice gays, one straight guy, and beautiful women.” He met his wife as a fellow dancer.
Mikkelsen said he was “in love with the drama of dancing” and enrolled in drama school in Denmark. His first film was “Pusher”(1996), directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (“Drive”). It was the first feature for both. The two collaborated on a variety of films including “Valhalla Rising” (2009) in which Mikkelsen portrays a mute Norse warrior. Mikkelsen said that when he and Refn socialize, Refn “only talks about film”, while he “only talks about sports”, so their “nights out are short”.
Mikkelsen said he is able to move between Hollywood epics like “Clash of the Titans” (2010) and smaller-scale Danish films because of “one person seeing different stuff in you.” He likes the “energy of films”, relying “on script and director”, as “each film is own project.” When asked if he lives with the problems of his characters while shooting, Mikkelsen said he lets the stress of the character “go when I go home.”
“The Hunt” Is one of the year’s strongest films. Mikkelsen portrays Lucas who works as a kindergarten aide after a teaching job ended. Divorced, he is popular in his community. After he returns a card with a heart to Klara, a young girl at the kindergarten, her untrue accusation about Lucas bothers the head of the kindergarten. After parents are told, hysteria grips the town and Lucas is treated as a child molester. His declarations of innocence are disbelieved. Klara is the daughter of Lucas’ best friend.
Director/co-screenwriter Thomas Vinterberg (“The Celebration”) expertly builds tension as Lucas faces hostility from most of his former friends. A rare ally is his young son. Retributions include a rock thrown through a window and physical violence in a market. Vinterberg describes the film as “a modern day witch hunt”. Mikkelsen gives an exceptional performance of a man whose life is falling apart out of his control, a change of pace role demonstrating his acting range. Lucas’ desperation leads to a gripping confrontation in a crowded church.