Alicia Vikander: On Pointe | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019  

Alicia Vikander

On Pointe

Nov 15, 2012 Web Exclusive
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Danish director Nikolaj Arcel estimates that he saw 70 actresses in Denmark while trying to cast the role of Queen Caroline Mathilda for his film, A Royal Affair, but none of them had the regal quality that he had envisioned for the character. He found what he was looking for when he met Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, a classically trained dancer who studied at The Royal Swedish Ballet School for nine years. It didn't matter that Vikander didn't speak Danish, or that she and Arcel barely could understand each other. He cast her in the film, and she then picked up the language in eight weeks.

A background in dance proved to be valuable also for Vikander's role as Princess Kitty in Anna Karenina, directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley. In Wright's visual interpretation of the Tolstoy novel, the conceit is that the action takes place in a theater setting. But that makes the film no less cinematic. The director employed several camera tricks to transition between scenes and long, sweeping camera movements to capture elaborately choreographed ballroom waltz sequences.

Vikander performed in stage productions as a child and studenther mother is an actressand went on to appear in several short films and Swedish television shows as a teen, but she did not plan on acting professionally as an adult. She had been accepted into law school prior to being cast in her first feature, the small-budget Pure, written and directed by Lisa Langseth. The film was a success on the festival circuit, garnering some awards and bringing Vikander to the attention of Arcel, Wright, and Sergei Bodrov, who directed her in the upcoming fantasy film, The Seventh Son, with Jeff Bridges and Ben Barnes, who plays her love interest.

A Royal Affair, which is based on true events, takes place in 1760s Denmark. The fictional Anna Karenina is set in Russia a little more than 100 years later. While both dramas required Vikander to be costumed in corseted gowns, it's quickly apparent how dissimilar her characters are, especially when the films are seen in succession (A Royal Affair was released in the U.S. last Friday, Anna Karenina opens tomorrow). Queen Caroline is an idealistic and enlightened young woman, but she's constrained by royal mores and bound in marriage to a daft king who views her as a bore. Princess Kitty is an effusive girl who, as a result of not knowing what she wants, finds herself in a triangle of unrequited love.

Under the Radar spoke with Vikander earlier this month.   

You read the book Anna Karenina when you were 16, is that correct?

Yes.

Do you remember Princess Kitty making any kind of impression on you at that time?

At that time, I was even more like Kitty. I was the same age, and, in one way, I felt the book was trying to explain how young teenage girls are, so back then I didn't really connect to her in the same way that I totally do now. When I re-read the book, it was a big difference for me. I thought that Kitty was naïve and young, and I thought maybe that if I were in her position, I would not have put myself through what she did. Now, when I look back, having read the book again, I think it's exactly those issues that I went through. I just wasn't able to see it back then.

When you first met Joe Wright, did he have that role in mind for you?

I did meet him. It was a casting director in London that put us together, so it was definitely for that part, yeah.

When you were cast for the role, did you have an idea of how theatrical the film would be?

No. All of us thought that we were going to do a very classical adaptation of the book. So, it looked like we were going to go to Russia and shoot the film. And then, I was actually in Antwerp with Joe and Sidi Larbi, the choreographer, and we had kind of a workshop to do the movements and waltzes, and then he called me and we met over coffee and he just told me, "Well, it's eight weeks before we start to shoot, and I've decided to change the whole film." Then he brought up all of this fantastic artwork and tried to introduce me and everyone else into this world that he had in mind, that he wanted to place the story in.

Nikolaj, the director of A Royal Affair, said that he believes that your ballet background helped you to get the role of Caroline. My guess is that your background in dance helped with this role as well.

Yes. I mean, you need to ask Joe. Probably. Maybe when you go back to that time, when it comes to posture. I think it's a great thing when I've done my ballet training, it's obvious in my body that I can control and do that. I think that Keira has the same thing. When I see her enter a room , she's very grand in a way. You don't need to put any effort into it. You don't have to act high society or you don't have to act like a queen, but if you have that kind of posture that I got from my dance training, you're already there.

Alicia Vikander with Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Anna Karenina.

What about the arm movements during the ballroom dance sequences? Were you familiar with any kind of choreography like that, or was that new to you?

I've trained ballet and contemporary, and it's not authentic to the dance they did at that time. It's almost like a contact impro, but I think it was fantastic the way Sidi Larbi was influenced by the dance that they did back then and then turned it into a modern version, and also a very intimate one, 'cause we were always in contact.

In the first few seconds that we see you in Anna Kerenina, it's apparent that Kitty has quite a different demeanor than Caroline.  Just in the physicality, she has a quick, much lighter step.

Yeah. Joe and I had a rehearsal, and we were trying to figure out the physicality of Kitty. For a young girl, she looks up to all those women around her, the society, she wants to be like them, but she's also very young and naïve and maybe pushing herself too far. So I ran on my tiptoes for all of the first scenes. And to keep your shoulders up high, and pitch your voice even a bit more, and talk a bit too fast, those are all signs of someone who's not completely sure of who they are.

In both films you work with babies. Had you had much experience with them? Did you ever babysit?

[Laughs] I have a lot of siblings. My older sister and brother, they have kids, so I've been close to them quite a whileor I try to make timewhen I'm back in Sweden. There were a lot of babies on A Royal Affair. I think we had seven different kids of different ages.

Alicia Vikander as Queen Caroline Mathilda in A Royal Affair.

Did you study law, or was it that you had the opportunity to do so?

No, that was the opportunity. I never got to. I got the part in Pure just before school was going to start.

Your mother was an actress. Do you have any surreal memories of that, maybe things that you understood only when you got older?

I have this very strong memory. I was five or six. It was a play. Sometimes it became very real. I knew it was theater, but if my mom cried on stage or if she ran out the door I had seen the play maybe 10 times, and I knew she was going to run out being very upset and angry, but every time I was a bit afraid maybe she will be gone. [Laughs] But I loved going to the theater, to be in that world. I loved how real it felt for me when I was a kid, in a good way. She didn't take me to any adult plays. It wasn't like that, but you're very close to your imagination when you're a kid.

And your dad is a big sci-fi fan. Did any of his favorite stories or films make a big impression on you?

He read Tolkien to me when I was a kid. And I saw Star Wars with him. [Laughs]

The '70s one?

Yeah, the old one.

What was your Comic-Con experience like? Did you get to roam around, or did you have to stick mostly with your Seventh Son cast mates?

No. I went with a friend to the convention. I was thrilled because I've never seen this place up front before, and I remember someone walked past me and told me that I was a freak, or loser, and I turned around and said, "What?" They were like, "Don't come here without a costume. You're an outsider." [Laughs]

What can you tell me about your part in The Seventh Son?

I play Alice Deane, who's half witch, half human. It's about a fight between good and evil but also this love story between a girl and boy who hadn't really been outside of where they're from. They don't really know who they are. They don't know where they belong. In that, they kind of become soul mates when they meet. But, obviously, they can't be together, 'cause they're on two different sides of the war.

What kind of accent do you use? Do you use an American accent or a British one?

It's more toward American, but the thing is, I would love to have worked with a dialect coach to do an American, but then they wanted me to sound exotic. [Laughs]

Do you have any scenes with Jeff Bridges?

Yes.

Does his Dude-ness rub off on you when you're around him?

Well, he is the dude. He always brought his guitar, and he talked about literature. He's a very loving person, very humble, and a brilliant actor.

We cover a lot of indie bands, and there a lot of great indie bands from Sweden, but that might not be what you listen to, what kind of music

—Well, I do. Last night, I listened to First Aid Kit.

They're fantastic.

Yeah, they're very American, for two young girls to be able to come out here and write that kind of album with that country side to it. I listened to their album on Spotify.  Now that Spotify exists, it feels like you change your music all the time. It's so easy to get everything. But I love their album. I think it's great.

http://focusfeatures.com/anna_karenina

www.magpictures.com/aroyalaffair



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