After the Oscar-nominated “The Hunt” (2012), writer-director Thomas Vinterberg reunites with actor Mads Mikkelsen for “Another Round,” an Oscar contender in multiple categories, including international film. Mikkelsen is a potential first-time Oscar nominee as a man who experiments with three friends to see if they will function better by increasing their blood alcohol level. At one point, his character, Martin, breaks out into a spontaneous dance.
The dance scene is surprisingly effective and surprisingly complex.
It was a strange challenge. I had a former career as a dancer, and Thomas wanted that to be part of the film —but it was 30 years ago! Thomas wanted the scene to be ambivalent, to see a man who wants to fly and wants to fall at the same time. I was reluctant; I was afraid it could be pretentious in a film that’s so realistic. I eventually realized Thomas was right; dance was perfect for that. It’s not so much about the aesthetic of dancing, it’s about the inner journey of this character. He’s lost something dear to him, and also gained something dear to him, all within an hour. We wanted that reflected in the dance. I hadn’t danced in 30 years and it was tough and I was sore, but it felt liberating.
It’s a difficult role. Any other scenes that made you nervous?
Actors always worry about whether certain scenes will work; there are always “I’m not sure” situations. In this film, we wondered “Could we pull off a scene where the main character has a small breakdown only 10 minutes into the film?” Normally you would place a scene like that 90 minutes in; it would be the crescendo. When I saw the scene, it worked; the camerawork isolates my character completely and it becomes an inner journey.
You’ve worked on small-scale films and on blockbusters like “Casino Royale” and “Rogue One.” Is there a fundamental difference?
You say good morning to 25 people on a Danish set, but to 200 or 300 people on an American set. On big films, there might be 2,000 extras and an enormous set, but we try to shut that out. It’s always about creating something intimate.
In the film, Martin and his friends experience various degrees of drunkenness. Did you drink before filming any scenes?
Definitely not. If an actor has maybe one drunk scene in a film, he or she can throw back a shot. But drinking was completely no-go in this film. Two or three drinks, that’s a state most actors know how to play, when the person tries to hide drunkenness from everyone. But after six or seven, there’s a very fine line between letting go and not caring about people noticing.
You’ve acted in several different languages in a wide array of films. How do you choose a project?
I’m fairly picky. I like the word “radical.” If a project is not for everyone, but it IS something — I find that interesting. You never know exactly how a film will land, and with “Another Round,” we had a good idea from reading the script. But there is something uncontrollable about this experiment that the four characters go through. This feeling of liberation that they all experience through drinking, that has to be part of the film. That is something you can’t write on paper and I think it surprised us all.