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Mads Mikkelsen talks Casino Royale and his post-Bond success

15-Apr-2007 • Casino Royale

Any kind of film career, much less success, came late to Danish star Mads Mikkelsen. He likes it that way - reports the Toronto Sun.

The Copenhagen-born Mikkelsen was 30 before he shot his first film, the homegrown Cafe Hector, released in 1996. That same year, now 31, he scored his breakout as the junkie-dealer Tonny in another Danish production, Pusher. He was 39 before he landed a Hollywood role, as Tristan in King Arthur (2004). And 41 when he played Le Chiffre in the blockbuster 007 thriller Casino Royale.

"For me, it was perfect," the 42-year-old Mikkelsen tells Sun Media on a Toronto visit, referring to his late debut. "I was happy I wasn't 19."

The mature Mikkelsen, a married man with two children and a professional dancer for eight years, found himself part of a Danish New Wave. They rebelled against the old traditions, which he calls "theatre on film." They created a new tradition of intense, intimate dramas such as Susanne Bier's After the Wedding, which played at the 2006 Toronto filmfest and is now on its commercial run in Canada.

Danish filmmakers, in and out of the Dogme group that Bier and others such as Lars von Trier founded, deal with the human condition in films, Mikkelsen says.

"First of all, that's the story we have. We don't have all those crime stories like they have in the States. And we don't play a big part in the international circus. So what we are dealing with are domestic problems, human nature problems. And it's also recognizable by the rest of the world."

In After the Wedding, he plays a troubled Dane who finds himself caught up in secrets of his past when he returns to Copenhagen from Bombay, where he runs an orphanage.

"It's about people thinking they are doing the right thing in their lives -- and not necessarily achieving it," Mikkelsen says. "It's about the way people behave. People are very strong in their opinion of how life should be but maybe they should let go and go the other way by doing something else."

Mikkelsen already knew Bier, having starred in her Open Hearts (2002). Bier wrote the new script with her same collaborator, Anders Thomas Jensen, with Mikkelsen in mind. But he initially balked, at least about his own character.

"The first time," he says of reading the script, "I wasn't too fond of the character." The man was too sympathetic, too much of a victim.

"He was almost too nice," Mikkelsen says, describing how he convinced the writers to rough him up a bit. "Baddies, they have to have something likable about them. Goodies, they have to have something unlikable. There has to be a dualism there."

In genre pictures, that does not matter as much, if at all, Mikkelsen says. "If it's an action film, I can definitely live with that." So Le Chiffre is a pure baaadasss in Casino Royale and Mikkelsen relished putting the hot dog into the role.

The Bond film has also put Mikkelsen on the world map, more by accident than design, according to Mikkelsen. He denies he has a career plan.

"No, there is no career. If I'm focusing on a career, then I'm on the wrong, wrong track. I've got to focus on my work, or art, if you like. Career is something else. You will always be disappointed if you have career as a goal. It's just ridiculous. Why should you go through that? You can't control it anyway."

What Casino Royale is sure to do, however, is give him more opportunities internationally.

"It's a small country," he says of working in Denmark, where he has been prolific in film and on TV. "I can do maybe one film a year before people start puking. So it's nice to have a different place (to work). But I definitely have my base back home. Whatever else happens is just icing on the cake."

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