Mads Mikkelsen. The name just rolls off the tongue so easily, doesn’t it? You may know him as Dr. Hannibal Lecter from the Hannibal TV series, or his roles in Casino Royale, King Arthur, and The Hunt. But on November 4th, you will know him as Kaecilius. A man who wants to see our reality melded with shadowy powers of another dimension, even it leads to the destruction of our existence as we know it. We sat down for an exclusive Mads Mikkelsen Interview for Doctor Strange to learn all about this villain.
(Thanks to Disney for the all-expenses paid opportunity.)
Villains are a role that Mads Mikkelsen knows well, and when asked about being typecast, Mikkelsen said “I am to a degree over here”. But, “if it’s this kind of villain, I’ll take it any day,” he said, because “It’s Marvel” said Mikkelsen. Kaecilious is a villainous man and aside from his Zealot followers, he’s not well liked. He turned his back on The Ancient One and her teachings and in doing so, sees the answer to all mankind’s suffering within the forbidden powers…the ability to alleviate the pains of human condition. It wasn’t just the villainous aspect and Marvel that actually got Mads on board though, it was something else.
Scott Derrickson was pitching on the phone the story, and then I remember he said, ‘And then, it’s a lot of, you know, a lot of Kung Fu stuff, flying, but don’t worry, we got stunt guys for that.’ and I was like, ‘Wow, hold, wow, wow, hold on, what’d you say?’ and he said ‘We’ve got st-.’ and I said ‘No, no, rewind back, Kung Fu, I’m in.’ [LAUGHS] So, it’s like Marvel and flying Kung Fu, I think that could be a yes. I’ve always wanted to be Bruce Lee when I was a kid. [LAUGHS] Wait until I was 51 years old to be a slightly older version of him, just less good of course. But, it was fun. It was something I’ve always wanted to do when I was a kid. – Mads Mikkelsen
Tapping into a villain isn’t too hard for Mikkelsen. The script is always the most important tool for him, and as Mikkelsen put it, “the script is the Bible.” From there, he develops the character with the director. Part of that includes costume and makeup. Getting into costume for Kaecilius, for the first time, was fantastic for Mads. Three hours every day to get it all done, but “it was worth it, really” said Mikkelsen.
We went to do some of the tests and we were doing the makeup, and I insisted on, ‘can I bring the costume and have it on when we do the makeup, just to see how it looks together,’ right? And, they were spot on. We were sitting in there for hours trying out this makeup, and I was like, ‘Oh god, do I really wanna do this every day?’ [LAUGHS] You know? But then it turned out so fantastic, I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s it. Three hours every day, we’ll do it.’ – Mads Mikkelsen
After three hours of make-up, Mikkelsen would put on the quite heavy costume of Kaecilius. A costume that, “Every day, the more you were wearing it, the stronger you got. It felt feather-light in the end.” sad Mads. But in the beginning…
…but in the beginning it was like, serious? Am I gonna jump up there now in this? Like, wow. But, the more we worked out with it, the more it made sense. – Mads Mikkelsen
Aside from getting into costume and makeup, Mads Mikkelsen has a sort of ritual he does, that helps him prepare before going on the set.
It varies from the characters I’m playing, depending on what kind of energy they have, and what kind of scene they’re approaching. I will warm up. It’s not a specific ritual, but I will try to get into that energy by myself, somewhere in the corner. If it’s a different kind of scene, where everybody’s having a good time, I might spend a lot of time with the actors before we do it. But, I often walk around in a corner somewhere. – Mads Mikkelsen
After all the getting ready, what is was a typical day on the set of Doctor Strange like for Mads Mikkelsen? Well, a typical day kicks of around 5AM “because of the makeup” said Mikkelsen, but “depending on where you’re staying in the city” it could take longer and he was “smart enough to move to Windsor, so I had 20 minutes, as opposed to two hours.” The rest of the day looks like this:
5:20AM: “You go to set, and you sit in a chair for three hours, and you meet the other guys, and you talk about what we’re supposed to do, or we’re about to do.
8:20AM: “I probably smoke a cigarette, and we go in and work.”
6/7/8:00PM: “I go home at six, seven, eight in the evening.”
Quite different from the TV series work he was doing on Hannibal, but it’s also a little more limited on a movie set because “you also have the main character who, you can’t kill him. He has to be alive the next day somehow,” said Mads Mikkelsen. Preparation is a bit different too, as the role of Kaecilious included a lot with stunt guys from the very beginning. Mikkelsen said “We were taught some basic martial arts things, some moves that will go again and again in the film,” and they had “fairly small people teaching us bigger people to do things on the floor like that, we felt like clowns, right?” With all that prep, what did Mikkelsen find challenging on the set of Doctor Strange?
Logistics is obviously, you’ve seen the film, you know that it’s upside-down mirrored. We try to kind of cope with all that, and we might be hanging upside down on the ceiling, so it’s like, ‘Wow, where’s Strange now? Is he on the left side or the right side? Am I hiding that way or that way?’ And we constantly had to go and see the previous little videos they have of what we’re doing, with animated characters, and try to stand and go, ‘Okay, so he’s there, and he’s, okay, so that means he’s up there.’ It was very tricky to get that right. – Mads Mikkelsen
We’re going to go from a scene that was challenging, to a scene that’s one of Mikkelsen’s favorites. Okay, it’s a favorite, and also one of the most emotionally and physically challenging scenes of filming Doctor Strange for Mads Mikkelsen. A fight sequence that took three weeks to shoot, and “it’s not two hours, it’s probably eight or ten hours fighting each other every day” said Mikkelsen. But as he said, “I though it was a brilliant sequence to do,” even if he did hurt the next day.
The great encounter I have with Benedict, which starts out with a long fight, and ends up with me making the speech that makes a lot of sense. I mean, he’s onto something. He has a point. . – Mads Mikkelsen
Challenges aside, lets get down to the on set antics. What was Mads Mikkelsen’s funniest moments on set? There were quiet a lot of them so at first he had to think about it. It’s funny how you have great memories, but can’t remember them when you want to. Happens to me all the time but a little tip from Mikkelsen, “If you sit down and drink five beers, they all come back, right?” Right. 😀
There was one thing, I was hitting what Benedict had, with a real metal thingy. So, we swapped out Benedict so if something went wrong, at least we still had the main actor. But it was quite elaborate. I had to jump over something, jump down, and then just like right across his head, as he was bending down, and go through this glass cabinet, double glass all the way. So, I had to really swing for it, right? And we did it, and it was so awesome, everything was awesome over here. Actually, that wasn’t cut, but you can only go on for a while. I couldn’t go on. I just left. I thought it was the funniest thing ever. [LAUGHS] – Mads Mikkelsen
Mikkelsen remembered Doctor Strange from growing up, but said “maybe I was too young to understand that he was quite intellectual and written in the acid period.” He was no Spider-Man, who kids easily identify with, but hopefully Marvel’s Doctor Strange will change that! One thing it already changed is the fact that Mads can now collect himself as Kaecilius Action Figures!
I’ve been waiting 51 years for that. So, I think yes. I wouldn’t mind playing this character (Doctor Strange). Not saying he’s doing a bad job on that. I’ll take the villain. I mean, in terms of playing characters, I think that any good hero, or any good villain has to be interesting, having both sides of the coin. And I think that’s exactly what Marvel always does, right? – Mads Mikkelsen
When it comes to all the villainous roles Mads Mikkelsen has played, he gets a bit of inspiration from a few of his favorite actors. Who just so happen to play villains as well.
Christopher Walken is a hero of mine, and I think he has the ability to somehow make the villains likeable. Whether it’s his personality, or whether it’s that he chose a part that was dualistic written so it makes sense, I don’t know. Some of the great actors can do that, The Joker is a fantastic example. We love to hate him, you know? – Mads Mikkelsen
Next up for Mads Mikkelsen is Rouge One: A Star Wars Story, that hits theaters on December 16th. Not only has Mads added is name to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he’s also added it to the Star Wars Universe as well.
It seems appropriate. No, it feels fantastic. I mean, as a Dane who started out acting 20 years ago back home, late starter, I never imagined that I would work in America at all, a little less that I would work in a Marvel film. So, it feels as if I’m a very fortunate person. – Mads Mikkelsen
That’s it for our Mads Mikkelsen Interview, but there is one last thing. I will leave you with these thoughts on Kaecilious. What do you think? Good or bad?
He has a point. He’s saying stuff that makes sense to a degree. He wants to make the world a better place, and different means to get there. But he still has the goal of making the world a better place. Obviously he’s not only talking, [LAUGHS] he’s also being quite physical. But, as with all good dictators, it takes some sacrifices, right? – Mads Mikkelsen
Catch Marvel’s Doctor Strange in theaters on November 4th!