It all started with a cold call.
“Beginners” and “20th Century Women” director Mike Mills, with no prior meeting, called up Matt Berninger of The National looking to work together on a project. At first contact, the two learned they were mutual fans.
It was a done deal. Together they created the short music film “I Am Easy To Find.”
Mills knew he had to bring along fellow fan of The National, Alicia Vikander, to star in the project from the very beginning. Vikander remembers seeing The National live for the first time in her home country of Sweden.
Vikander and Mills spoke to Variety after the premiere of the film at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles.
The director asked Vikander to be in the film during a brunch at his house. She immediately connected to the concept. “lt felt like [Mike Mills] kind of looked into my head,” Vikander told Variety. “That just shows the insightfulness Mike has.”
The actress depicts a character from birth, through the various stages of her life and finally death. She called the experience “one of the most enjoyable artistic collaborations.” Vikander said playing a character through these different ages was challenging. “I got to stretch my muscles,” she said.
The Academy Award-winner has studied ballet for years, which came in handy for playing a totally silent character in a film that relies on physical expression set to musical accompaniment. “I could incorporate my dancing background in the film. It was a way of naturally marrying these things together,” she said.
Mills said of Vikander, “She’s one of those actresses that could transform.”
The director said that The National was extremely “permissive” in the creative process, allowing him free rein to toy with the music and over the artistic direction of the film.
The film is a companion piece to the The National’s album of the same name. Mills said his input in the film informed the album and vice versa. For example, the director brought in the Brooklyn Youth Chorus to add vocals to the tracks. And The National’s music inspired the overall aesthetic of the film.
Like many of the director’s features, the short film explores familial relationships. Mills said he is fascinated with the importance of family. “It’s like gladiators. It’s my Avengers, where all the cosmic mega battles actually happen.”
The National’s album “I Am Easy To Find” releases May 17.