From the monocular, to mega-stardom, to the mundane

How Mads Mikkelsen has tested new markets, failed, and blamed his director

Mads Mikkelsen’s career trajectory was taking a familiar route. Scandinavian actor goes to Hollywood and gets typecast as the villain, again and again – in Mads’s case, normally with just one eye.

But then came the curveball. Mikkelsen returned home to star in two domestic blockbusters, and NBC came calling with one of this decade’s most sought-after television roles: the eponymous antihero in ‘Hannibal’.

Hollywood surely beckoned once again, this time offering a leading man’s role with normal vision. So what did Mads do? He took a part in a French-German production in which he had to speak a language he’s not fluent in. And judging by the response on Metacritic, where ‘Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas’ has scored a disappointing 35 out of 100, Mikkelsen is having turkey for Christmas whether he likes it or not.

“I took the role and said: ‘I will do my very, very best to learn French,’” he revealed to the Guardian.

He played le Chiffre, non?

It’s not clear whether the film’s director, Arnaud des Pallières, had opted for Mikkelsen after seeing his portrayal of the French Bond villain in Casino Royale. “I kept asking him: ‘Why me, why not a French guy who can ride?’” continued Mikkelsen.

The film, which can’t even decide what its best title is, debuted at Cannes earlier this year, but beyond France, Germany and two other European countries, it has stalled on the festival circuit and remains without an US release date (although the UK will be showing it from January 3).

Distributors are apparently baffled, writes the Guardian, by artwork that suggests Mikkelsen is a “Viking avenger”, when in reality it’s set in 16th century France, and while Mikkelsen carries a sword, he barely uses it.

Loudness of the Hacks

“Arnaud de Pallieres’s film succeeds neither as a decent adaptation of the book nor as a rewarding movie in its own right,” observes Time Out London.

“We’re expected most of the time to seek any depth or nuances in the many close-ups of Mads Mikkelsen’s tanned face. As good as he may have been in other fare, in this instance that is simply asking too much. Dullness prevails.”

Hollywood Reporter agreed, bemoaning “a rather plodding two-hour running time”, while Variety concluded it was one of Mikkelsen’s “least impressive characterisations”.

By the sounds of it, there was friction between the director and main star. “He was the first director who rejected all my ideas from the very beginning,” Mikkelsen revealed to the Guardian.

“His answers were quite radical – he had a vision for the film, a very strong one, and the film was radical and the character was radical. I fancy myself at being pretty good at understanding a script and finding the weaknesses, and then making them more radical than they are. People tend to listen to me. Except Arnaud.”