It’s an odd thing to point out that Mads Mikkelsen, who has been acting now for over 20 years, is having a pretty big couple of months.
First up, he’s playing power hungry Kaecilius, who becomes the enemy of Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) in this week’s latest Marvel entry, Doctor Strange.
Then he’s playing Galen Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Galen, the father of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), is a scientist begrudgingly involved in the construction of the original Death Star who tips off the Rebel Alliance that a new super weapon is being built.
But, yes, as Mikkelsen himself points out, he’s appearing in the two biggest movie franchises going, about a month apart from each other. (Yes, he’s going to have a busy couple of months.) Ahead, Mikkelsen discusses his relationships with both superheroes and Star Wars, reveals his involvement in those now infamous Rogue One reshoots, and tries to trick me into thinking he’s never seen the original Star Wars.
This is weird to say considering how long you’ve been doing this, but you have a couple big moths coming up.
Do you think about that?
It’s starting to dawn on me as well. You know, when you do it you’re in a mist: You do your job and you try to fulfill the vision of the director. But stepping back a couple of steps and looking at it: It is a little crazy I’m in two of the biggest franchises there’s ever been in movies.
Did you know they’d come out around the same time?
I was a little surprised, I started with Doctor Strange, then we shot Rogue One and I thought there would be at least half a year between them. Nope! No chance. They are coming out now. And so be it.
You’ve been a James Bond villain, has Marvel villain been something you’ve wanted to do?
Yeah. I mean, why not? I was a big, huge Marvel fan as a kid. And I watched all the films as well, so it is something I’ve been a fan of. I think they’ve down a fantastic job of making these cartoons come to life on the big screen. And I think they keep expanding the qualities and ideas of what they want to do with the films. And it might be a “big machine” for someone, but it feels extremely creative when you’re in the midst of it.
I usually don’t like 3D. The 3D in Doctor Strange is great. It takes advantage of the weird visuals.
Obviously if 3D should work, it should be with this kind of stuff that is spinning your head around. But it’s still Marvel. You can still see Marvel all over it. But, the Doctor Strange comic books themselves were different: They were started in the midst of, I don’t know, some kind of acid trip as well. That was part of it. Then the kung fu, and magic and inner strength thing came in. I think they shaved the most crazy things off, but they kept the energy that was in the original books. And that’s smart, because we’re not in the ‘60s anymore.
Did you read Doctor Strange? Compared to other titles, not as many people read it, but it has a cult following…
It was not up there with the other guys, but for the hard-core fans he was. I was just reading everything at that point. I think it might have been too adult for me in some ways. It was very rich and intellectual and it was very philosophical, but I didn’t really notice that. I was just six or seven years old. I loved the fact that he could manipulate the world and I loved the colors. I remember vividly liking him a lot, but I think it was a little too intellectual for a kid then it would be a teenager.
What were your favorite comics?
I read everything. I also had a lot of European comics. I loved The Spirit. But as superheroes go, I think Spider-Man was much more accessible. He was like you and me. He didn’t have the biggest forearms in the world, he was just a kid who had a big mouth.
You get to fight with Tilda Swinton.
Yeah, I get to have a fight with Tilda Swinton!
Yeah. And a pretty good one!
It’s a very good one.
It looks as of she’s getting the upper hand, but I’ve got a couple of tricks up my sleeve.
When filming that I assume you were surrounded by green screen.
Yeah, but for us it wasn’t that tricky. We always had an opponent when we were doing a fight. But the surroundings were changing and we could only imagine what was going on, but it didn’t have a direct impact on what we did.
With Rogue One, have you been in a situation where someone has gotten mad at you for “spoiling” that the Death Star blows up?
[Laughs.] No, I have not been in that situation, luckily. But the interesting thing, and you put your finger right on it: Everybody wants to know everything about it, at the same time they don’t. It’s like little kids who can’t wait. It’s like, “Why don’t we wait and watch the film?”
You can say, “Go watch Star Wars, that’s how it ends.”
Yeah, that would be the way to do it, yeah.
That’s my advice.
You’ve mentioned how in Rogue One you have a lot of scenes with Ben Mendelsohn and that you two had a nice time. I assume that doesn’t include your characters. I get the impression they don’t like each other.
There’s a not a lot to laugh about. He’s not treating my character very well. It’s not a laughing situation. But, personally, he’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. He can definitely keep up the energy on every set in the world.
I interviewed him once. I do remember laughing a lot.
He’s Australian. They all have it somewhere.
Did you like Star Wars growing up? Was it as big of a deal where you were living?
It was enormous. I didn’t catch the first one at release because I think I was a little too young, but I caught up on them later as a late teenager. But I remember vividly people sleeping outside the cinemas waiting. I think the siege had hit Europe as much as it did in America.
The latest trailer gave us a lot more insight on Galen Erso. You don’t have to be quite as coy.
Yeah. I mean, the information that’s in the trailer is about all I’m allowed to say at this point. In a month, or something, we start all over and I will get some guidelines on what we’re able to talk about.
Well, the Death Star blows up.
I haven’t seen that.
No, in Star Wars.
I haven’t seen that one.
You haven’t? Yes you have.
Yes I have.
You tricked me.
There have been a lot of attention given to the reshoots. Which seems like every movie now until it comes out.
Yeah, and that feels pretty much like the case here. I had one day. It was a little bitty pick-up shot we were doing. And I did see all the fuss about it, but it’s all free commercials and free fuss about the film. I was not involved. If it was as dramatic as they say, [Laughs] I seemed to be a very lucky person who was not part of it. But I can’t imagine it was as big as they say.
“Free advertising” is a good way to look at it.
Yeah, that’s what they all want, right?
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.