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Alicia Vikander received lots of love and the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival during its 57th edition, which opened on Friday.
The Oscar winner received a very warm welcome from the attendees of the opening ceremony, captivating the audience by mentioning her film A real deal she had filmed in the Czech Republic, which she had enjoyed in the country and which had been “pivotal” to her career. by Karim Ainouz Burning emberwith Vikander as Queen Catherine Parr, the last wife of Henry VIII, played by Jude Law, then kicked off this year’s festival.
In a large round table with The Hollywood Reporter and other media reps, Vikander shared how she decides which roles to take on and why learning lines is so important to her. She also discussed her work as a producer, including future projects, the Cannes and Busan film festival venues, Brexit and why she and husband Michael Fassbender decided to relocate to Lisbon.
Congratulations. Burning ember and your work in it has received so much praise. Do you already know how you will follow up on this film? Already have a plan for your next project or projects?
It’s very different, but it’s also an independent film, and we should start shooting very soon. I just want to say that nothing is super confirmed, but we tried to get this film off the ground with a French director named Fleur Fortune, called The evaluation, and with Lizzie (Elizabeth) Olsen, also an amazing actress. (According to reports, the two stars will play a couple living in a dystopian future where life and childbirth are controlled and streamlined.) I can’t really say more, but it’s very different. The role is at the point where I’m excited because part of me doesn’t know it yet. I’m doing all this preparation, but it’s a very physical part and something I’ve never done before.
Is there anything else you can share about this or any future projects?
This is a small movie. It has some genre elements, but it’s a very independent production. It has a European crew and the French director is a first-time director. But I read that script and I was like, “Uh huh.” And I had a chat with her. She is extraordinary. I’ve done my research. You’ve made some pretty amazing 30-minute shorts. She has worked with Travis Scott and Pharrell and is very visual. I spoke to her and was blown away. She’s such a beautiful woman and I’m really excited.
Then for the next year, they started shooting now in South Korea Hope with (director) Na Hong-jin. (The thriller about a mysterious discovery in a remote port city will also feature Vikander’s husband Michael Fassbender.) I Don’t Know If You’ve Seen (Na Hong-jin’s) The lament. I saw that movie in 2016, and I’ve seen it before The Chaserwhich was his first film.
What can you tell us about your experiences at film festivals??
My first international film festival I went to was Busan (in 2010), with Pure, my Swedish film that won the international award there (Flash Forward). Now everyone looks to South Korea. It’s the hottest thing there is right now. But back then, there were all these movies in Asia that I didn’t know about, and that’s where I started to educate myself about cinema. Na Hong-jin is someone I followed. I’m a big fan.
(After she approached him, the director even developed a project he was producing, but had to back out “in a very nice way” when he got a chance to make a big picture, Vikander noted.) But then he came back one and a half years later and said, “Well, do you want to be in the movie?” So now I’m going to be in his movie, and it’s going to be amazing. This is a very important film made outside the Hollywood system, fully financed by South Korea.
I went to Cannes the following year with the crew I had been with A real deal. It was interesting because I grew up with my mother who was an actress. Cannes, Venice and Berlin were these festivals that I had obviously admired and seen the images from.
But after being in Busan, it shocked me, because Busan is bigger. When I got to Cannes, I was like, ‘Oh, it’s not that big.’ It’s funny because Busan is also on the Croisette, so it’s built the same way. You should google the opening ceremony in Busan – it’s like the Olympics. That’s 8,000 people watching the cinema screen, it’s not 1,000.
When The Danish girl premiered in 2015, the subject of the film was quite controversial…
I was talking to some trans women and we sort of got into it The Danish girl. And I was very like, “Yeah, I’m totally aware that movie wasn’t going to be done today.” They said, “This is just part of the journey, and we showed it to our parents to introduce them a little bit to what we were going through.” It was nice to hear that. It’s nice to hear that people in the community can say that. So, I think that was part of something that was a fundamental shift. So in that sense, I’m very proud of the film.
How do clothes and costumes influence your acting?
I have these thoughts or ideas or a feeling that I’m looking for. I still don’t know what it is. And when you walk in for that first rehearsal, it’s really like you go to a wedding and feel like this is me or the version of me I want to be. Always change. I also feel my physicality a bit, depending on the role. But the costume is one of those pretty magical moments where you find just the right thing that fits your character.
You have worked with many different directors. Do you have a favorite way of working?
My job is never the same. I’m addicted up to a point. You have directors who are so different and approach their work, their rehearsal or whatever, and the way they shoot very differently. And I became more and more going with the flow. Now, if a director says something, “Yeah, sure.” I can’t try, I can try. Nowadays I’m more willing to embrace different ways of working and I realize that maybe I can be daring (do different things). Obviously, my time at home when reading my lines is my time, but I like to hear what these directors might bring that is new from the way I’ve worked before. I’ve been quite lucky. I’ve worked with some really great people that I really admire.
You said learn your lines. Anthony Hopkins once said that acting is about learning your lines…
I mean, this is the first step. I have nightmares about not knowing my lines, not being prepared. I will never let that happen. But then when you learn them well enough, you forget them. This is acting for me. When I see actors, and I know my profession, and I know what it is, but when it’s good, I forget about it. This is the essence of the extremely natural feeling.
You worked with Jude Law on Burning ember but also Anna Karenina Before. What is the acting dynamic between you two?
Even then we were both real. (laughs.) When I walked onto set with Jude Law and Keira Knightley, they suddenly became a part of my reality. That was one of the first times this happened to me in my work experience. Keira is about three years older than me, but she obviously has had a longer career than I have now because she started so early. She and she is the most beautiful, so sweet and so hardworking.
Jude and Keira and all the very experienced actors were so humble and really took the time. It’s when you notice that someone knows your name and really makes an effort to make you comfortable and feel that this is a safe space where you can work, and it’s okay. And that’s what Jude did, so I knew he was a wonderful man who cares a lot about his work. I was also a big fan because I had seen Karim’s films. I really wanted to work with him. Jude was already fond of it when I read it, so I knew it would be fun work.
Fun with serious drama?
Jude and I held a press conference in Cannes. And before that, we had one-on-one interviews, and he came in and said, “I ended up saying it was a really fun job and people are looking at me.” I said: “We had a lot of fun”. I think actually when you handle very heavy subject matter and you know you have to do it justice if you enjoy your work, you will be able to bring it out in a more authentic way.
A few years ago you launched your own production company Vikarious Productions. Are you still working on projects through that?
We have three movies that have been halted in development due to COVID, plus I was focused on my biggest project of my life when I had a kid. I also produce not through Vikarious but as the sole producer. I’m doing this now on another project. So, I’ve produced, but I’d really like to see one of the projects we’re developing at Vikarious take off.
Do you and your family live in Lisbon? Why?
Yes, the last five years. When we were based in London, I had been there for seven years and took my house and refurbished it. But Michael had been living there for 18 years or something, and he really wanted to move somewhere away from a big city. London is quite a hub for our industry and I wasn’t really ready for it, but then Brexit happened. I was really sad. I’ve always felt very European. We had a lot of friends talking about moving to Lisbon, and then we went over there, and I (loved) it immediately. And when we got back, it didn’t take more than a few weeks and we had bought what is our home. And everyone was like, “Really?” The weather is obviously a little better than in Sweden and Ireland. It’s a smaller city, but the people are so friendly. And in 25 minutes we are on a beach, or me and my friends’ kids can go skateboarding or surfing. It is a very family friendly place.
How do you manage to survive in show business and remain a good person?
You surround yourself with really nice people. I was mostly grounded. In my private life I have the friends I had when I was 20, my best friends. Many of them are Swedish, but many of them now also work abroad. Girlfriends and male friends who are in New York, Paris and Berlin. They’ve had some pretty interesting careers.
Interview edited for length and clarity.