Sometimes neophyte actresses come along who fizzle out after a couple of early promising roles. And then there are those who, from practically the first glimpse we get of them, we just know are going to be big, and are going to be around for a while. Alicia Vikander, a no-brainer inclusion on our On the Rise list from March 2012, definitely falls into the latter category, making a vivid impression first in her feature debut “Pure,” and then breaking internationally with the one-two punch in the corset of “A Royal Affair” and “Anna Karenina.”
On Saturday morning the actress jetted in to the Marrakech Film Festival ostensibly as part of its Scandinavian tribute, but also ended up picking the Best Actress award for her role in the terrific “Hotell,” (review here) her reunion with “Pure” director Lisa Langseth. We were lucky enough to get to talk to Vikander (who despite being just off an intercontinental flight having wrapped shooting on “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” the day before, couldn’t have looked fresher if she’d bathed in dew) about the “Hotell”, her breakout process, and the packed and exciting upcoming slate that will see her in both a multiplex and an arthouse cinema near you very soon.
So you’ve just finished shooting “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” after a string of smaller films. What are your criteria for choosing projects?
Mostly I try to work with great filmmakers. It’s difficult to find good scripts sure, but it’s also so much about the vision and the person that’s gonna make the film...
And the experience that you’re going to have for however many months?
Yeah, you’re gonna work so tight with people. It’s quite a magical experience when you film, when you get together, when the whole machinery works and you’re in a good crowd. So I think that has been one of the priorities among the filmmakers [I’ve worked with so far]. And then I usually go for roles that scare me a bit, that I’m a bit frightened to take on because maybe it takes me out of my comfort zone. Something new that I haven’t done before. And here I think I had longed for something which was not… I had mostly done dramas, so I did “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” [as a change] I really enjoyed [Guy Ritchie’s] previous films and he has a very specific style so there’s a humor to it but it’s more like an irony. I play German car mechanic from East Berlin who helps the boys [Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer].
But you’re here with “Hotell” of course, which reteams you with “Pure” director Lisa Langseth. Had you always intended to work together again?
No, I’ve been away from Sweden for the past few years, but I went home and I had a coffee with Lisa and we just chatted, she’s a friend of mine. And I knew that she was working on new films but I had no idea that there would be any role for me. So it was really a gift when she asked me if I wanted to read her script. And when I did, it was one of the most daring and most profound, layered characters that I’ve read in a long time, so when she asked if I wanted to do it I was so happy.
Did you find many similarities between your “Pure” and “Hotell” characters?
It’s almost like they both take a journey on the social ladder but in different ways, so the characters are very different. But I think [Langseth] likes to make films to bring that subject up about different social journeys.
Both characters are also somewhat borderline, they’re on the edge...
To dig deep, when you say ’borderline,’ here [in “Hotell”] it’s about Erica who thinks that she has her entire life and herself in control and suddenly she’s put off track because of this big trauma that she goes through, and she has to realise what her new self is. And that means that for me as an actress I get so many layers to work with, so it’s a big gift to get that role because you can experiment. It’s hard because I use my emotions as my tools, but it’s interesting how when I made this film I even discovered sides to myself that are maybe closer to me than I thought they were. I questioned myself. I had long conversations with Lisa, because you know it’s a big taboo in today’s society about mental illnesses—you don’t talk about it. And I would have thought that I myself would know if I would cross any of those borders, if I would be able to control myself, but the thing is, when I read the script I was like, I don’t know if I would…
How important is it for you right now to achieve a balance between small-scale dramas and big high profile films?
I think you want the mix. Like I was eager to do something like [‘U.N.C.L.E.’] the film I just finished last night. And now I’ve done that maybe I’ll look for something maybe smaller, more character-based, more intense, more intimate. That’s what I’m trying to achieve now. It’s difficult in this industry to listen to your gut, but I think that is the best way and hopefully you have people around you that you can talk to.