Mads Mikkelsen reflects on Casino Royale whilst shooting in Scotland
The last time Scottish film fans saw Mads Mikkelsen, he was a suave, black-suited villain who wept bloody tears and took on Daniel Craig's James Bond in games of cards and torture.
But the most successful Danish actor of his generation looks quite different today, reports The Daily Record
He's braving the rain and midges in the West Highlands, wearing leathery rags with wild hair and an eye covered in prosthetics, while Tibetan extras practise clubbing him to death.
Mads is the star of the new Scots-Danish film Valhalla Rising. He plays a Viking slave who escapes with a band of fellow Norsemen across Scotland and then over the Atlantic to North America.
There, he comes up against a blood-thirsty tribe of American Indians, played by a colourful band of London-based Tibetans.
They've been filming in the Highlands for two months, with various parts of Scotland standing in for North America.
On his last day of shooting earlier this week, Mads took time out from the set on the Ardnamurchan peninsula in Argyll to speak to the Daily Record.
The 42-year-old, who was in the Edinburgh-set indie film Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself and Hollywood blockbuster King Arthur, counts former Rangers star Brian Laudrup, ex-Celtic defender Marc Rieper and ex-Manchester United keeper Peter Schmeichel among his friends. He regularly plays with them in charity matches.
Mads has loved spending the summer on the hectic film shoot across the Highlands.
"The scenery has been fantastic and also very tough," he said. "It's a fantastic co-star to have in the film but also a strong opponent.
"But hopefully it's been a bigger co-star than opponent and I think it will be in the end.
"When we did Bond, I wasn't in the exotic locations. Everyone went to the Bahamas except me.
"This is a little less warm and there are a couple more insects, but to me this is very exotic.
"But the midges are a nightmare. It's been like this all the time we've been shooting," he said while batting away clouds of the nasty beasties from his face.
"Scots are great fun. It's very natural for us to work here, and the people are very similar so it's very easy for us to get on, have a pint and get the craic.
"I think we have the same way of talking and share the same sense of irony and sarcasm.
Nothing would stop me coming back here to make another film. This has been a fantastic experience."
Mads got his start in movies 12 years ago, working with acclaimed Valhalla Rising director Nicolas Winding Refn in the Danish crime thriller Pusher.
He has since become a stalwart of the Danish and European film industry, and a very well-known face in indie and arthouse cinemas around the world.
After appearing in the Clive Owen hit, King Arthur, in 2004, as well as a Pusher sequel the same year, he was picked to play the terroristfinancier villain Le Chiffre in Casino Royale, and his profile has exploded ever since.
Although Mads admits he wasn't really that interested in Bond films before the movie, you can tell he has become a convert when his mobile phone rings and the James Bond theme blares from his pocket.
HE loved being an 007 villain and is very proud of the movie which was widely seen as a return to form for the British secret agent franchise.
"To be honest, I hadn't seen any Bond films before I did that one," said Mads.
"I've seen them all now because I have a box set. But I did not have a great relationship to Bond at all, and I didn't go back and see the other movies before making Casino Royale.
"The reception the film got was well deserved. It was about time to move Bond into the new millennium.
"There is nothing wrong with the other ones. They were perfect for their time, but this script was fairly radical for a lot of people, and we had to catch up.
"I'm very proud to have been a part of it.
"Daniel Craig was excellent. He is a fantastic actor and a great guy to work with.
"We were a very tight unit making Bond, and I didn't think about the size of it that much when I did it.
"But the aftermath was bigger than making it, with all the premieres and interviews. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the new one.
"I was offered quite afew villain roles after Bond, and a surprising number of dramas in Europe and the US, so it opened up the market a bit more for me. I sometimes get recognised from that if I sit still long enough, but I now have long hair and a beard."
Mads stopped shaving for his part in Valhalla Rising as One-Eye, the escaped Viking slave.
The film, due for cinema release next year, is a Scottish Screen-backed co-production with Danish film-makers.
Scots producer Karen Smyth said: "It's great to bring a project of this calibre to Scotland.
"In years gone by, major films, such as Braveheart, went elsewhere to find the facilities they required.
"So it's incredibly satisfying to convince a major European director that not only can Scotland work as Scotland, but can pass for a whole other continent too."
In the film, Mads is joined on his quest for freedom by a young Scots lad, played by Martin Lewis, the 12-year-old son of award winning actor Gary Lewis, who is also in Valhalla Rising.
Mads was full of praise for his young co-star, as well as for the cast and the crew from Scotland and Denmark.
"I have worked with the director Nicolas three times.
"We started out together so it's very natural for us and nice to do something again, but this is very different from the kind of things we've done before.
"I have filmed in Scotland before and there is a good cast here.
"Martin has been fantastic to work with. He is a natural talent, and is one in a million.
"He has the talent to do whatever he wants in acting. There are no limits and it's now up to him what he does."
Mads has loved the chance to see so so much of the Scottish countryside, which has included locations in Glen Affric in Invernessshire, Loch Lomondside and Ardnamurchan.
But he admits that the schedule of the 10-week shoot has been so hectic that he has been unable to do any sight-seeing.
As well as making an indie film in Edinburgh several years ago, Mads had heard all about Scotland from his footballing friends.
MADS joins Laudrup, Rieper, and Schmeichel for regular friendly games in Denmark.
He has become close pals with Laudrup, and his older brother Michael. Not surprisingly, he finds it hard to keep up with them on the pitch.
"It's a big big honour to play with those guys," said Mads. "They have a team that does charity games with celebrities.
"The last time I played was last year but they get quite a crowd and it's awesome.
"I see Brian a lot. I play cards with him and his wife, and he's still top of his game on the pitch.
"I know he was very famous here. I missed him when he played a pre-season friendly for Clyde against Rangers.
"But he's still in very good shape and I think they would love to get him back.
"At least he's better than me.
"I'm a fast guy and have always kept in good shape, but I was never a professional footballer, so for me it's just wonderful to play with them."
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