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Vikander: ‘Pure’ actress finds innocent side

10 Actors to Watch 2012: Alicia Vikander

Alicia Vikander revels in pushing her limits.

“I love when I am outside my comfort zone,” explains Vikander, who plays young, innocent, lovelorn Kitty in Joe Wright’s upcoming Russian drama “Anna Karenina.” “I question myself: Can I really do it? I love the kicks in this profession — the extreme highs and lows. I’m addicted to those kicks.”

The lush production is the first English-language film for the Swedish native, whose passion for stepping into unfamiliar territory has paid off big time.

Her breakthrough role was as a girl with a borderline personality in the 2010 Swedish indie “Pure,” a role for which she won Sweden’s official film award (the Guldbagge) for best actress.

She continued challenging herself in bigger European features.

“In ‘A Royal Affair’ I had to learn to act like a queen and learned Danish,” Vikander says. “It’s so much different to act in another language. It’s the nuances in the words.”

The daughter of a stage actress, Vikander tuned in to the subtleties of language at an early age. “From the time I was 2, if my mother couldn’t get a babysitter I slept in the wings,” she recalls. “I could watch a play 1,000 times and not get bored. I learned all the lines.”

Dance, however, was her passion. She trained for nine years at the Royal Swedish Ballet Academy before leaving due to injuries. Still, “The first thing I work on is the physicality of the character,” Vikander says.

That finesse is apparent in “Anna Karenina” in the shy grace she brings to ballroom dance sequences and the subtle way her body tenses when her lover enters the room.

Her next release is “The Seventh Son,” an 18th century thriller that wrapped in June and is set for a 2013 release. Vikander plays half-witch Alice Deane, opposite Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore.

The adventurous actress is currently in Sweden shooting indie “Hotel,” which is being directed by “Pure” helmer Lisa Langseth. “After that,” she says, “I’ll head to England or the U.S. to audition.”

Lucky break: Meeting Langseth. “She gave me a fantastic script at an early age. It was a Swedish independent film but it traveled.”

Favorite films: “Tree of Life,” Michael Haneke’s “Love,” “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and “The Piano Teacher.” “I love to have a physical reaction when I watch a film.”

Career would you like to emulate: Tilda Swinton, Isabelle Huppert, and Julianne Moore. “They take risks. Julianne can do big films but still go to Europe or do tiny independents.”

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