Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Male on Monday : : Mads Mikkelsen

While Daniel Craig caught everyone in the world's eye in his first foray as James Bond in Casino Royale, Anne McAllister (with all due respect to Mr Craig) found herself entranced with his adversary, LeChiffre. So she decided it was time to find out a bit more about Mads Mikkelsen.

When Daniel Craig is on the screen doing his best intense dynamic heroic James Bond, it's hard not to focus entirely on him.

Hard. But not impossible. Especially if the actor playing the villain is every bit as compelling in his way as Craig's Bond is in his.

That was the strength that Mads Mikkelsen brought to Bond's adversary, LeChiffre.

Bond is only as strong and believable as his arch enemy. And Mads Mikkelsen's LeChiffre provided Bond with a powerful sinister nemesis to fight against. But at the same time he was powerful and sinister, he had weaknesses. He wasn't a cardboard cut-out. While Ian Fleming may not have given his villain a back-story in the book, Mads gave him one to find the core of his character.

Discussing his decision to play LeChiffre, he said, "I'm attracted to scripts where my character might have some secrets, so to be offered the role of Le Chiffre (the Cipher), a man with no real name, was perfect."

He went on to say, "I think if you are playing the bad guy, you try to show a good side to him sometimes, and if you are playing the good guy, you try to show a flaw in him, so it's not one-dimensional for the audience. . . Every good character has to have that dualism inside of them."

He discovered that dualism in LeChiffre, found a backstory that made him a real person he could get inside of and, in so doing, created a character who was, if not redeemable (because this is a Bond movie after all), still human.

He also set me on a quest to find out films he'd been involved in.

A little over ten years ago Mads Mikkelsen starred in Pusher, the first of three Danish films, about a low-life junkie Tonny, which have become cult classics. Mads with a shaved head didn't do a lot for his Male on Monday status, but he has great range which he has gone on to prove in a variety of films and a long running Danish television series.

That series, Rejseholdet, which ran for several years, concerns a mobile task force that travels around Denmark helping local police solve crimes. For the lucky Australians among us, it has come to the SBS channel as Unit One.

Between Pusher and the most recently released Oscar-nominated film, After the Wedding, he acted in a variety of films that raised his profile in the Danish film industry and got him voted "the sexiest man in Denmark" more than once.
His reaction to that?

"I'd rather be voted 'the sexiest man in Denmark' than 'the ugliest man in Denmark'."

But he doesn't seem to put much stock in it either way. "I stay at home with my wife and kids so from one day to another I don't feel I'm a sex symbol. One day I was just me and no one looked twice at me and the next day I was famous."

He'd still prefer to spend a night at home with his family -- or riding his vintage 1937 Danish Nimbus motorcycle -- than going out on the town.

But despite his homebody tendencies, he's still the most recognizable face in the Danish film industry. And in recent years, besides Casino Royale, he's has acted in the Spanish comedy Torremolinos 73 (2003) and the American film King Arthur (2004) as well as with French actor Gérard Depardieu in I am Dina (2003). All this means that his chances of going unrecognized are getting slimmer everywhere.

Born on 22 November, 1965 in Østerbro, Copenhagen, Denmark, Mads trained as a gymnast as a boy and later worked as a dancer. But he was more interested in getting inside characters.

He says, ""I was fascinated with theatre and more dramatic things instead of this blurry universe of dancing so I decided to try for drama school and I got in." He attended Århus Theatre School in Denmark. But he has also lived and worked in Sweden.

He is married to former dancer Hanne Jacobsen with whom he has two children, Viola and Carl.

Carl, he says, was never very interested in his father's film career until he got to play LeChiffre. Now Carl is interested. Apparently having a Dad who is a Bond villain is "cool."

What Mads thinks is cool is his motorcycle. "It is," he says, "like something Steve McQueen would ride. I love the freedom and it doesn't go quite as fast as a modern bike, which pleases my wife."

If you haven't seen Mads in Casino Royale, by all means rent it. Ditto After the Wedding. And if you get hooked, as I did, you can delve into his 'back list.' And look forward to future releases -- maybe even a reprise of LeChiffre.

If you're a writer, have you ever taken someone else's villain and made him your hero?

Who? And how did it work out?

Anne McAllister spends a lot of her life banging her head against whatever manuscript she's working on at the moment. One of the reasons she's always happy to do that is that she also gets to check out men like Mads on the internet and call it work!

Look for her next book, One-Night Love Child, coming from Harlequin Presents in March. For that book she worked very hard researching James Purefoy (who incidentally was her first Male on Monday).

If you have suggestions for her further research she'd love to hear them -- either here or at her
blog. She'll try to have a few more Mads pix up there today as well.


  1. Great post, Anne, and a very interesting question about someone else's villain possibly being the hero in your story... I must say I like the idea of a redeemable villain, and love what Mads said about flaws in the good guys and redeeming features to the bad guys. That makes any story so much more interesting. I will have to check out some of those Danish films!


  2. Kate, I think it's the ambiguity that makes for memorable characters. Ones that are entirely good or entirely evil are not inherently interesting as their actions are totally predictable. While I would have to say that there isn't a lot of visible "good" in LeChiffre, there is still an intriguing enough potential back-story, that I found myself wondering why he was the way he was, WHO he really was, what motivated him and why . . . lots of questions.

  3. Having used Mads as inspiration for Tristan Dyvelston in An Impulsive Debutante (Anne suggested him -- she really played fairy godmother here), can I say that Mads is wonderful. Truly wonderful. And a great excuse to watch Casino Royale. I love his quiet movements.

    With An Impulsive Debutante, I took the spoilt debutante from A Christmas Wedding Wager, Lottie Charlton, and made her my heroine.

    The thing to remember is that a character is ALWAYS the hero of his/her story. it is interesting to see what makes them tick and WHY they are the way they are. It is all about understanding character and the various pressures put on them.

  4. Thanks, Michelle. I'm glad you had such a good time with Mads, er, Trystan. And I'm really looking forward to reading his story with Lottie.

  5. Anne, as you know, I'm a Mikkelson fan. I was enthusing about him to a friend recently who wasn't convinced. I'll have to send her over to check out your site.

    I've never made a hero from a villain in a previous book, though two of my heroes, including Stavros in my current release (The Greek Tycoon's Unexpected Wife) are seen by their heroine as the dark shadow of the hero they turn out to be. It was lovely being able to delve into the reasons for their behaviour and explore why they act as they do. One of the reasons I enjoy a good gothic romance is that ambiguity about both the villain and the hero. Neither is all good or all bad and I find that tantalising.

    Thanks for the post Anne. The pictures were great and the text has got me thinking about the allure of a complex character.