Mads Mikkelsen: Why I embrace playing villains (exclusive)

Mads Mikkelsen (R) in Riders of Justice (Vertigo Releasing)
Mads Mikkelsen (R) in Riders of Justice (Vertigo Releasing)

Why does Mads Mikkelsen often end up playing the villain?

“He says it’s because of his accent," Anders Thomas Jensen, the writer-director of Mikkelsen's new film Riders of Justice, tells Yahoo.

"And we all say, no, it’s because you look like a villain! Hollywood is Hollywood, right?”

Jensen’s new revenge thriller bucks this trend, casting Danish star Mikkelsen as something of a hero.

However, Mikkelsen admits he's happy to be typecast for the dark side as it keeps him busy.

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“I have a choice not to embrace it,” Mikkelsen admitted to Yahoo. “But I do embrace it, and I do so with gratitude. Because if the alternative is not to work there [in Hollywood] — I’ll do it any day."

Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen at 15th Rome Film Fest. Red carpet Druk. Rome (Italy), October 20th, 2020 (Photo by Marilla Sicilia/Mondadori Portfolio/Sipa USA)
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (Mondadori Portfolio/Sipa USA)

In recent years, Mikkelsen has become one of cinema's dependable villains, lending nuance, vulnerability, and mysticism to a range of different bad guys. He was Le Chiffre in James Bond flick Casino Royale, Kaecilius in Marvel’s Doctor Strange, and Hannibal Lecter, one of cinema’s most famed antagonists, on TV. Next he'll be seen as Gellert Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts 3, taking over from Johnny Depp as the Dark Wizard.

Read more: Mads Mikkelsen recalls walking out of Marvel audition

"I’ve been fortunate enough to play what I believe to be very different baddies: Casino Royale to Doctor Strange to Hannibal for that matter. They are very different characters, and in their own right could almost be the hero sometimes. So I think I’ve been very fortunate.”

Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale (Sony Pictures)
Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale (Sony Pictures)

This isn’t to say his latest role of Markus, a soldier who returns home to avenge the killing of his wife hasn’t got dark tendencies. He most certainly has. But at least here Mikkelsen’s accent isn’t considered evil, which the actor believes the Americans clearly do.

“When did that happen? I don’t know why that happened. It used to be you guys, the Brits were always the bad guys,” he said.

“Then we had the Russians, the Germans of course. For a while the Arabs. Now it’s the Danes, I don’t know why. I think it’s a soothing language. It’s a lazy language, it’s laid-back. It’s almost like eating and talking at the same time. But they must see some villainy in that.”

Despite giving Danes a bad name, at least on screen, Jensen says Mikkelsen's success has made him a national treasure.

"I think everyone is just proud of him in Denmark," the filmmaker tells us, "we’re a small community and a small country, and he’s like our national soccer team or something, everyone is just proud we have a man who is in all the big franchises.”

Riders of Justice will be released in cinemas and digitally on Friday, 23 July.

Watch: Mikkelsen wanted to speak to Depp