Mads Mikkelsen: In Hollywood, ‘everybody tries their best not to be a diva’

Mads Mikkelsen was a recent cover story for GQ Hype, which is the digital magazine for British GQ. He’s promoting the latest Fantastic Beasts movie, because he took over the Grindelwald role from Johnny Depp when Depp got sh-tcanned. I don’t care about any of that, nor do I care about the Fantastic Beasts franchise. I am just here to enjoy Mads, who is a wonderful actor and an offbeat Danish dude. Maybe he’s not offbeat in Denmark, but he’s definitely an oddity in Hollywood – a man who largely rejects the trappings of fame, a man who prefers to do small Danish films rather than blockbusters? A man who works hard but doesn’t live to work? Bonkers! Anyway, I enjoyed the heck out of this interview! Some highlights:

His Hannibal fans: “The hardcore Fannibals, that’s a different world. There can be some Beatles screaming.”

In Hollywood, word travels fast of bad behavior: “Everybody tries their best not to be a diva, they go the extra mile to be the nicest people – it becomes too much, sometimes. You would probably find more a–holes driving buses.”

He isn’t a Method actor: He does not watch Succession and was not aware of the reported revival led by Jeremy Strong and Lady Gaga (who says she didn’t break character for the entirety of the House of Gucci production) – but his response is immediate: “It’s bullsh-t.” He is meticulous in preparing for roles, “But preparation, you can take into insanity. What if it’s a sh-t film – what do you think you achieved? Am I impressed that you didn’t drop character? You should have dropped it from the beginning! How do you prepare for a serial killer? You gonna spend two years checking it out?”

He wishes he could annoy an actor like Daniel Day-Lewis: “I would have the time of my life, just breaking down the character constantly.” He puts on a prissy voice: “‘I’m having a cigarette? This is from 2020, it’s not from 1870 – can you live with it?’ It’s just pretentious. Daniel Day-Lewis is a great actor. But it’s got nothing to do with this.”

Mikkelsen blames conflating stunts with skill: “The media goes, ‘Oh my god, he took it so seriously, therefore he must be fantastic; let’s give him an award.’ Then that’s the talk, and everybody knows about it, and it becomes a thing.”

On JK Rowling & transphobia: Mikkelsen is wary of judging Rowling for her views: “People treat it a little flippantly, like, ‘Isn’t that a disgrace?’ And every time you ask somebody, you can’t really figure out what she said. But if the reaction is that crazy, we have to be very careful that we know what we’re talking about.” But, he emphasises, he has not read Rowling’s 5000-word blog, and is not familiar with her views. “I have a habit of not commenting on things that I don’t know anything about, and I actually think that that would suit the entire world. I don’t know what the solution is. No hateful rhetoric towards either women or trans [people] – that’s a good start. But we have to be honest – and it seems to me, when you turn science into ideology, and politics into science, then you’re not talking from an honest place. And I think that’s muddying the waters regarding what side you’re on, and rarely leads to anywhere good.”

Not everything is political: “There’s just this desire now to make everything political – everything, every film you make. You’re always being asked: ‘Is this a comment on this?’ No, it’s not! There is such a thing that is more interesting: human beings, human souls, human interactions. It’s the easiest thing in the world to make a film that has this side, and that side.”

[From British GQ]

“It’s the easiest thing in the world to make a film that has this side, and that side” – he’s sort of right? Anyone can make a film with a political point of view, but it’s more interesting to see characterization, storytelling, and an actual plot. Also: have you guys noticed the trend this year for other actors to bash Method actors? It’s becoming a thing! I wonder if actors are really tired of the “I vomited every day and lived with bears to become this character” sh-t among their peers.

Photos courtesy of Instar and Backgrid.

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35 Responses to “Mads Mikkelsen: In Hollywood, ‘everybody tries their best not to be a diva’”

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  1. J. Ferber says:

    He’s a Swede coming from a very low-key, courteous culture. There is no way in hell I believe that in Hollywood, “they go the extra mile to be the nicest people.” I fully believe that many are vicious narcissists and the higher they get, the more they get away with. I’m glad his experience has been good. Who wouldn’t be nice to that tall drink of water?

    • BlinkB says:

      What he says is so far from the truth, I’m not sure whether to feel bad for him or good that he hasn’t somehow magically bumped into these people. Most actors, even the “nice” ones, behave badly. Narcissism is rife. This side of the industry largely attracts a certain type of person, and I say this confidently having worked with actors for well over a decade.

    • TrixC says:

      Actually he’s a Dane. Different country. I interpreted his comment as saying people in Hollywood are fake, insincere.

    • LIONE says:

      “Everybody tries their best not to be a diva, they go the extra mile to be the nicest people – it becomes too much, sometimes”.

      Yeah, no. That’s just being fake. That going the extra mile-thing in Hollywood is either fear-based or just narcissism putting on a show. And narcissists, who we all know thrive in Hollywood, know how to pretend to be nice.

      Unlike most of you on here, I think he sounds outdated, naive and privileged.
      Sounds like he thinks he knows all the answers to the world’s problems. Only problem is, the world moved on and he is not as flexible in his thinking anymore. So what he’s critical about is the world’s ability to move forward and evolve. (bad or good, it’s still evolving)

      When it comes to movie making he sounds like he’s doesn’t spend enough time looking for anything outside his own ecco chamber?
      Yes, there’s a lot of political undertones to things these days, but I’ve also watched some of the most entertaining and exciting stuff ever made the last few years. Movie making reflects the times we live in and that’s not a bad thing. The political issues are intense and as people are learning, evolving and healing, and they are learning how to set up new boundaries which society as a whole might not have the ability to respect, yet. So it’s a time of chaos and figuring things out.

      In a way, the very thing he’s missing is actually what’s happening. The political undertones are also an exploration on human behavior and mind. The human condition has become, amongst many thing, a political issue. It would be wrong to seperate that and not make comments about it in movies. Ignoring human rights and the very issues of the world.

      Movie making reflect the time the movie makers live in, and I’m sure tides will turn and the movie industry will go back and forth between making pure entertainment for the sake of entertaining and fun, and entertainment with deep political and serious undertones.

      • kay says:

        Everything created in the entertainment industry in the past six years has been complete garbage. Created as political hit pieces to divide our country as much as they possibly can. And your inability to recognize the truth of this is the proof that their propaganda agenda is quite the success.

  2. Red Weather Tiger says:

    I don’t know anything about the industry, but I enjoy him making fun of Method actors. Like, cone ON. Also, Madds is 🔥 AF. We watched the new Beasts movie, and while it was nothing to rave about, it was fun, and I was delighted not to have to look at Johnny’s bloated face.

  3. Div says:

    Unpopular opinion. I think method acting is very dumb, but as long as no one is being inappropriate (like Jared Leto) who gives a f*ck? I find it weird that some people get so bothered by it (Jeremy Strong’s castmates seem to love him, despite it all). Like, Daniel learning to make shoes or Gaga/Austin Butler/Lily James keeping their accent didn’t hurt anyone.

    TLDR: I can find something dumb, but I can also find people judging it to come off as kind of sanctimonious at the same time. I wish I could recall which actor who said this, but I thought it was a better response, where he said “I don’t get method acting, I think it’s kind of silly, but as long as you aren’t being an assh*le it’s fine. Different things work for different people.”

    • Call Me Mabel says:

      Its fine so long as it doesn’t interfere with other people doing their jobs, but, it can get incredibly pretentious and weird. Daniel Day-Lewis is a good example. He lived off the land for Last of the Mohicans, cool. He learned a new language for a role, awesome. He forced the crew to *feed him* (as in, put the fork in his mouth) and carry him places when playing a disabled character, NOT COOL. Not cool and totally unnecessary and yes, someone should have told his brilliant ass to get up and walk.

    • DuchessL says:

      Method acting, not breaking out of character for months to me feels like being so extra, overdoing it to get some kind of admiration. Very pretentious and diva. Just do your job and stop bragging about how you do it so different from everybody, how it’s so difficult this and that. We all know you took the job for the money and the free good food that’s on the set.

      • AnneL says:

        It makes me think of Robert Downey Junior in “Tropic Thunder,” playing a method actor who refuses to break character “until the DVD commentary comes out.” And yes, he was playing a white Australian playing a black soldier in Vietnam.

        That movie could never be made today, but I think it is hilarious. A brilliant send-up of Hollywood and actors.

    • The Recluse says:

      Sometimes Method leap frogs over into Madness. Daniel Day-Lewis tap dances on that line sometimes, but look at how magnificent he was as Lincoln. He totally raised the bar there.

  4. J. Ferber says:

    TrixC, Oh, a Dane, even better. I lived in Denmark for a year during my student days and they are wonderful people.

  5. Call Me Mabel says:

    Wow. He comes off so well here. I’m very impressed. He seems intelligent and thoughtful, like he thinks a lot about what he says before he speaks.

    • LIONE says:

      What makes you think that?
      I really don’t think he does, so would be interesting to hear what made you feel this way!

      • Call Me Mabel says:

        When I read his comments, his words seemed carefully chosen and maybe leaning a bit towards speechlike rather than just a casual utterances. That isn’t a dig at him at all. Maybe my threshold for impressive conversation is just low, lol.

  6. Mei says:

    He was great in FB. While JD is an undeniably talented actor, his portrayal of Grindelwald was too caricature villain, whereas Mads played it with a much more emotional and sinister undertone. Best movie of all the series so far, we really enjoyed it.

    I wonder if the method actors thing is coming to a head now as well because of people generally having less patience for BS and wanting to actually enjoy their work due to a covid showing that your work isn’t everything. So if you’re surrounded by people who are in character as massive a$$holes or then complaining how hard it was to be like that for the entirety of a film shoot it takes the enjoyment out of the film-making experience? Also for some actors does that mean they are incapable of acting without staying in character? It seems easier almost to keep something like that going than dipping in and out to the same level of quality. (She says as someone who has never acted in anything ever)

  7. Digital Unicorn says:

    *sigh* I stan him and his brother and while I haven’t seen him yet in the new Fantastic Beasts movie and sure he is great and sexy in it. Esp when i read that he and Jude Law fight each other – ok i think i might need a cold shower when i see that LOL.

    I know he’s already been in a SW movie but I kinda hope they cast him as Thrawn in Akosha but if they cast Lars then I will be just as happy (Lars does the voice in the Rebels series). As long as its not Benedict Cumberbatch then I will be happy with whoever.

    • Mia4s says:

      I’ve seen all the Fantastic Beasts movies essentially against my will (the things we do for family! 😂) and he and Jude Law in this one were the first spark of…anything!…this series has had. And regardless of the reasons they fired Depp he was a dreadful choice if the tragic romance angle was where this story was going. Depp was a Burton-esque, overdone cartoon. Mads was a seductive actual human. The movie was still REALLY weak but if it had been him from the start this series might have had some momentum.

      • Digital Unicorn says:

        Yeah I could never understand why Depp was cast as he’s a one trick actor and I also couldn’t understand why they didn’t keep Colin Farrell as Grindlewald but apparently Rowling didn’t/doesn’t like him so we got Depp instead.

  8. Nic says:

    He’s such a great actor, it’s like some sort of trick. His facial expressions are so perfect and subtle, the mystery of how he achieves it is what makes acting interesting to me. I think Bradley Cooper is kind of similar.

  9. J. Ferber says:

    I’m in deep awe that Mads has an actor brother. Bring on the pictures!

    • Mia4s says:

      He does! He has an older brother (by two years) named Lars Mikkelsen. If you Google him you will find in some pictures there is a clear resemblance, and in others not even a little bit! It’s pretty wild! I would also note that Lars has been married to the same woman for 33 years and Mads to the same woman for 22 years. Not really relevant, just always shocking for anyone working even a bit in Hollywood. 🤣

      • Call Me Mabel says:

        Lars played Magnusson on one of the seasons of Sherlock, if you watched that.

    • EBS says:

      Sexy Troels! Season 1 of the Danish The Killing. He’s amazing.

  10. FilmTurtle says:

    I always like MM, but this bit is seriously privileged: “…they go the extra mile to be the nicest people.” Said the straight, wealthy white guy! C’mon, Mads.

    • LIONE says:

      100% agree!
      He’s so privileged he doesn’t even notice when people are brown nosing him and acting fake-nice to achieve something (or avoid being shunned).

      And the last bit when he’s asked about Jk Rowling… It’s…. Interesting.

      I’m not trying to point fingers, but everybody seems blinded by his charm or whatever, and is perpetuating the VERY thing we should avoid: putting white, middle aged men on pedestals for saying words.

    • LIONE says:

      And another thing:
      For someone who talks about being more interested in the “human beings, human souls, human interactions” he sure judges quite a lot! You would think he would be more explorative and curious about the people around him.

      The overly nice-business could be a fear-based. For instance, women who don’t behave “nice” (by societal standards and norms) or behave assertive are easily branded ass aggressive and rude. In a business where you have to please the higher-ups to get work, that seems like a coping mechanism to me.

      I’m not impressed by his answers and realize all men become stale and predictable at one point in their life. Privileged middle aged white men more so. There’s this lack of humility that just…ruined it for me.

    • Veronica S. says:

      I took it as he was making a subtle commentary there about the power hierarchy that exists. Actors, outside of a very select few, really can’t afford to piss of investors, so they play at being docile and earnest to please others. ie, there’s lots of brown-nosing that feels disingenuous.

      (A lot of narcissists also love playing nice and friendly right up until you cross them. They love being loved. The more people who think they’re sweet, the easier it is to manipulate social situations.)

  11. Jo says:

    I find his answers vague, like someone who doesn’t really want to answer them. Anything he says can go both ways. If you think of the human side, you can either find it atrocious that there are trans people or you believe the person… being human and humanism are very broad notions.

    The thing with method acting is that Cumberbatch completely escaped the conversation for Power of the Dog where he stank and made Kirsten Dunst feel uncomfortable… No one mentions that! He learned how to cut a bull’s b**lls if I am not mistaken, and lived a cowboy life for a while… I personally always found the Day Lewis admiration bewildering and admire the hell out of Isabelle Huppert who was very dismissive of all the Hollywood “I can’t shake off a character” kind of thing in one of the Hollywood round tables on YouTube.

  12. Granger says:

    He sounds naive to me, or maybe just privileged. It’s easy to say that “everyone” in Hollywood goes out of their way to be nice when you’re a wealthy, successful, white actor who probably hasn’t had to audition for a role in 20 years. There are so many stories about actors/actresses who are nice to the people who “matter” (directors, producers, etc) but basically ignore the extras and the rest of the hard-working crew, because why be nice to someone who doesn’t have anything to do with your next paycheque?

  13. Normades says:

    I have a friend who is a very successful hwood make up artist who says all the actors will be so nice and humble to the crew because they’re (almost) all narcissists who just want you to like them.

    • FilmTurtle says:

      Yeah, we call that “professionally polite.” It’s blatantly performative, but better than the alternative.

  14. LMB says:

    I just love him. That is all.

    • Duchess of Corolla says:

      Same here!

      Amazing actor, unique personality. He was perfect in Hannibal. One of my all-time favorites.