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Foreign Oscar Watch: Nicolaj Arcel Talks Denmark's 'A Royal Affair'

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 26, 2012 at 6:47AM

One of the front runners in the current foreign film Oscar race is Nicolaj Arcel's "A Royal Affair," starring Danish star Mads Mikkelsen and newcomer Alicia Vikander in a true romantic royal triangle. The film won screenwriting and actor prizes (for rookie Mikkel Boe Følsgaard as King Christian VII) at Berlin and is in current stateside release from Magnolia.
"A Royal Affair"
"A Royal Affair"

AT: How did you get inside the characters' POV and not make it a stuffy Masterpiece Theatre drama?

RH: This film is so much about freedom, both the political story and love story are a long struggle for freedom, look at Syria and the Arab world now. To us it felt like such a contemporary drama to write. We always thought about that when we did the writing. The worst thing when doing costume drama is to make it too old fashioned, and too dusty. We were very aware of having to make it modern with the dialogue, but the drama itself is universal so that was a gift for us.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  AT: Are you going to do a musical next?

NA: This came out my love of films like 'Gone with the Wind' and the big epics from here. I also have a great love of Gene Kelly musicals. But the financing in Denmark: if you try to make 'Singing in the Rain ' for $5 million it will look awful and small. Maybe we can do it here...

Audience Question: Struensee towards the end, you see the fear in how he played it.

RH: He was not a defiant hero in the end? We talked about that a lot. 'These are my ideas.' The truth of it was he was very scared no matter how heroic he'd been. It was more important to show the truth.

Audience: Where did you shoot the film?

NA: We shot in the Czech Republic, which has a slightly hillier landscape. We couldn't shoot in Denmark, everything is so modernized.

Audience: Did Queen Caroline write those amazing letters to her children?

RH: She didn't write them. Of all the things we did, it's the biggest lie, at one point we thought as we ended it, it isn't just the end, because a lot of good things came out of it. We thought, 'how can we anchor this in a personal way?' We're sure she wrote a letter, maybe not this letter exactly. That's not an historically correct thing. I hope she did. Let's just say she did!

This article is related to: Interviews, Interviews , Mads Mikkelsen, A Royal Affair, Awards, Awards, Oscars

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.