Mads Mikkelsen took time from shooting “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3” in London to call into the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) on Wednesday to chat about his eclectic career, including his latest work, Anders Thomas Jensen’s “Riders of Justice,” which opened this year’s fest.
The Danish thesp, who in November replaced Johnny Depp in the role of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in David Yates’ latest instalment of Warner Bros.’ J.K. Rowling fantasy franchise, is also currently starring in another Danish film, Thomas Vinterberg’s drama “Another Round,” Denmark’s submission for the Oscars’ international feature film category, and winner of four prizes at the European Film Awards.
“Riders of Justice,” a darkly comedic tale of revenge and one of last year’s most successful movies at the Danish box office, marks Mikkelsen’s fifth outing with Jensen.
The actor noted that the film was “in many ways a very different film for Anders Thomas Jensen. He’s been writing deep-felt dramas for other people and doing his own stuff, which is obviously dark, insane, crazy comedies.”
Jensen is “always looking for something heart-felt. It’s not funny just to be funny. It’s definitely dealing with big topics like death, religion, God, Satan, etc. This time he kind of made a bastard child between his own works and the works he’s writing for others. There’s the part of the story that I’m in, the dramatic part of it, with my daughter – it could almost be a straight-forward drama. Then it collides with this insanity universe that Anders Thomas is famous for. So for us, it was very important to find a bridge between those two worlds.”
While Mikkelsen is known for his collaborative work with directors, he pointed out that a close relationship between an actor and a filmmaker can sometimes hinder performances.
“It’s also a risk. … There’s a good chance that you push each other if you have faith in each other, push each other a little further than you would do with someone you didn’t know. But there’s also the risk, of course, that you will just repeat yourself because it feels comfortable and that’s what we like to do when we know each other. So it’s always about being hungry and curious enough together that you will actually push yourself into a territory that you might not have entered if it was with someone else.”
On his latest collaboration with Vinterberg, with whom he also made 2012’s “The Hunt,” Mikkelsen said he was initially concerned about a potential backlash due to the pic’s premise, which follows four bored high school teachers who begin experimenting with drinking while at work and also inspire younger people to do the same. Ultimately, however, “people saw it for what it is: A life-embracing film. It’s a film that celebrates life. I think they have been craving that during the lockdown.”
In addition to its massive box office success in Denmark, the film went on to sweep last year’s European Film Awards, nabbing the top prize and wins for best director, best actor for Mikkelsen, and best screenplay for Vinterberg and co-writer Tobias Lindholm.
“Thomas has an ability to place very ordinary people in extraordinary situations,” Mikkelsen added. “And when that happens, we can at least relate to the characters and then we can go on a journey with them. I think that’s one of his large, large skills as a director.”
Commenting on the impact of the pandemic on the film industry, Mikkelsen expressed optimism about the future of cinema. “I’m not super worried. I know that a lot of people are talking about, could this be the start of the death of cinema. I’m not that worried.” Like opera, like musicals, like football, film is an adventure that people want to go on together, he added.
The lockdown had also reduced his own work schedule, Mikkelsen said, adding that “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3” was his first gig since finishing “Riders of Justice” in March. It’s mostly big studio projects like the “Harry Potter” spinoff that can afford the costly safety protocols of filming during the pandemic, such as testing the entire crew and cast on a daily basis, he noted.
“Small budget films cannot do that but a big film like this can pull it off. For that reason this is still rolling and hopefully we’ll finish here in a couple of months. But for most projects, it’s no go for that reason.”
“These are strange times,” he added.