Flickering Myth’s Oli Davis sits down with Mads Mikkelsen to talk about Doctor Strange…
I expected Mads Mikkelsen to walk in stern-faced and abrupt. He’s the man who’s played Hannibal. He’s Daniel Craig’s Bond’s first villain. And in the film we were about to discuss, he played the black-eyed, dark-lord worshipping baddie Kaecilius.
But he tumbled in with a laugh and a beaming smile spread across his face. Suddenly, that clipped Danish accent wasn’t so terrifying.
“I got the phone call from Scott [Derrickson] and he was pitching a story for me,” Mikkelsen recalled about his first encounters with the movie. “First of all, it’s Marvel, right? Benedict is going to play Doctor Strange – which I thought was an amazing choice – and then within that brief pitching of the story he said the magic words to me: flying kung-fu. And then I was sold completely. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. Not necessarily be an actor, I didn’t even dream of that. I just wanted to be Bruce Lee.”
In another life, Mikkelsen was a gymnast and dancer. Then he found success an an actor in Pusher in the mid-90s. But his background came in handy. “Being able to flip around and land on your feet – not your nose, hopefully – that’s part of me,” he expressed, gratefully.
Still, he had to attend Hogwarts for “4-5 weeks” to “pick up all the moves.”
“We had to go to the boot camp and learn how to fly, basically. It was a fantastic part. Again, we don’t do a lot of that stuff back home. And when they put you on wires and the sky’s the limit, it is fantastic fun for us. Because it’s nothing we’re used to at all. But, as a kid, I was jumping around and doing things like that. It was coming late in my life but I’m so happy it arrived.”
The bootcamp can only prepare you for so much, though. In a film as visually bonkers as Doctor Strange – with its landscapes and chase-scenes folding into each other like an infinite Rubik’s Cube – how did everyone maintain their sense of place on a mostly green-screen backdrop. In other words, how do you know which skyscraper you’re running up the top of?
“[Scott] already had those thoughts,” Mikkelsen explained. “‘How am I going to explain this to people? If I’m going to stand here and gesture, it’s not going to work.’ So, smart enough, they made a little animated version of all the scenes so we could sneak peek and say, ‘oh, OK – upside down, there he is, that’s the corridor, thank you – let’s try it. Obviously we got it wrong a lot of times, but that was very helpful.”
“You can lose track of the geography because the world is being quite tricky around us. So we did often lose track, but we would go back and go, ‘ahhhh, OK, I get it – let’s reshoot that right’.”
“We saw the animation for every scene that we were doing. We didn’t see a full animated version of the film. But every stunt, every thing that was a chase between the streets or whatever, we saw a version of that. We could obviously anticipate that this would look a certain way, but I could not have hoped for what I saw on the big screen the other day. It was just absolutely mind-blowing.”
“You’re at the mercy of the CGI people. And the worst nightmare as an actor is that you can run around and you go ‘whoom whoom’, and they ran out of money and there’s a little rabbit jumping around in front of you. Luckily, there was no rabbit.”
But even with the bootcamp and animations, accidents still happened.
“They did a fantastic job of creating a little thing I could lean into and they padded it up as much as they could,” Mikkelsen recalled of his scene trapped in The Crimson Bands of Cyttorak. “Unfortunately, a couple of days before that, I had a little accident to my ribs. And I was leaning into that, so we had to remove some of the stuff so I wouldn’t injure the other ribs. It was tricky to get into and out of, because it took a while.”
“It was just me flying and landing in a stupid way. Sometimes it has to look as if you hurt yourself, and sometimes you do. When you repeat a stunt again and again you tend to hurt yourself in certain places. And then you tuck your elbow one way, and unfortunately I tucked my elbow under one of my ribs, and that was my mistake. I knew the second I did it. I’ve done it before. Not completely broken, but bad enough.”
Head to the next page for a Stan Lee surprise, how much Mikkelsen has seen of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and more…