"If it's an American film, it's often the villain."
Mads Mikkelsen is very aware that if Hollywood calls, it's usually to cast him as the Big Bad -- and he's totally fine with that. From battling James Bond in "Casino Royale" to, now, slinging magics at Benedict Cumberbatch in Marvel's "Doctor Strange," Mikkelsen has made a career Stateside as bringing very memorable villains to life on-screen. Having locked down "playing a villain," there are some perks that come with the job, like kung-fu fighting Tilda Swinton.
Moviefone recently sat down with Mikkelsen to discuss his new villainous role, Kaecilius, his character's tragic backstory, and kicking an Oscar-winner's ass.
Moviefone: You've played many villains. So, when you get the call about this gig, are you like "Man, another villain role?" Or is it more: "Holy sh**, a Marvel villain role!"?
Mads Mikkelsen: More like "Holy sh** -- a Marvel villain role." When I get these opportunities, I definitely don't feel disappointed. The alternative is not to work over here, and, I mean -- it was Marvel. There was flying kung-fu. There was nothing working against taking this role."
And you're quite the fan of old-school, Kung Fu movies.
I grew up with them, watching them, yes. I grew up with Bruce Lee, When [director] Scott [Derrickson] pitched me the whole story for me on the phone, we get maybe five, then minutes in and he says: "And there's a lot of kung-fu and flying." I said: "Whoa whoa, what? Kung Fu? I'm in." All of a sudden it was like a boyhood dream coming true.
Marvel movie villains are typically criticized for being undercooked, or underwritten. They're just there to serve as a punching bag for hero sometimes --
Uh huh. Right.
But there seems to have been much consideration given to fleshing our your character and giving him a tragic backstory. How much input did you have in shaping that?
I have not been in the boat of saying they -- the villains -- have been "underwritten" or "under-meaty." They serve a purpose, as opposed to "Hannibal," which is just a completely different animal in how it handles the villain. There, you're spending as much time getting to know Hannibal as you are with Hugh Dancy's character, Will Graham. So you get a different approach to the character -- you get (hopefully) to like him, maybe, or sympathetic to him. Or, at the very least, understand him. In a film, a villain like this, he's serving a purpose. He's reflecting the hero. So, we can't anticipate that he's going to have his own complete story. That's just not how stories like this work.
Having said that, I think it's important that they give [Kaecilius] some valid cards to play. That he's just not, you know, crazy and wanting to take over the world for no apparent reason at all -- other than because he can. But life, for my character, wanting life without pain, and suffering -- without death -- I'll buy that, you know? Sounds like a good plan. It sounds like a better place than we have now. So that's what Strange has to face -- his own reflection of his morals, and now this other guy, with his own morals, who is darker.
How much input did you have in shaping that arc?
It was pretty much there, on the page, when we started. We increased his backstory a little bit, when we talked about it.
Now, that fight between you and the Ancient One -- what was shooting that like, going to work that day and saying "Well, I get to kick ass with Tilda Swinton today?"
[Laughs]It was great. But, there's also knowing that she probably gets to kick my ass as well [laughs]. It was fun. You know, we rehearse these things a lot and, sometimes, we can't always show up at the same time to same fight rehearsals, so we [spar] with stunt doubles. But once we were there and we do it together -- she was very elegant in her moves. Very musical. She was very spot-on; she would go for it and she would be right there with her blocking.
I love the thing, the move I do, where -- I kind of deflect something, and hit her, roll around on the ground then, like, punch the ground and, there's this shockwave that happens and she just takes it. Moves just a little bit and you're like "whoa." [The Ancient One's] stronger, she's got the upper hand.
"Doctor Strange" is in theaters today.