Meet Hollywood's new sweetheart: Alicia Vikander


Meet Hollywood’s new sweetheart: Alicia Vikander

The actor from The Danish Girl has more power performances lined up

By Ben Dickinson  April 25th, 2016

There comes a moment in Alex Garland’s coldly brilliant thriller, Ex Machina, when Swedish newcomer Alicia Vikander — as Ava, a serious piece of AI work — stands in a boreal field under a bold summer sun, impassively awaiting transport but unmistakably telegraphing to us at the same time that she has opened a magic, transformative door and is now walking through it. It’s an apt metaphor for Vikander’s own arrival at your local multiplex, which is currently exploding like a fireworks display.

But wait — first, about that magic door, or rather a whole succession of them: Director Joe Wright happened to see Vikander as a teenager in a 2009 Swedish film, Pure, in which she portrayed a troubled young woman’s attempt to reinvent herself. “I thought she was adorable and beautiful,” he says bluntly. Soon she was earning critical recognition as Kitty in Wright’s Anna Karenina (2012). Vikander says she had no idea what Wright’s intentions were when he proposed meeting: “I didn’t ever think that he would cast a Swedish girl, I just thought, ‘Wow, I’m going to meet a director that I’ve been looking up to.’”

Even just getting to Pure, though, was a serendipitous transit. Vikander, whose mother is a stage actor (her father is a psychiatrist), dabbled as a child in plays and musicals but enrolled at age nine in the Royal Swedish Ballet School, embarking on nine years of training seven hours a day, six days a week. She left ballet for some work in Swedish TV but then was rejected admission to drama school — twice. Crushed at the time, Vikander now sees it as a blessing in disguise: “You go to school because you know that you’ll have three, four years of being fine with just failing in a safe environment” — but, of course, it soon became clear that she had better things to do with that time.

Vikander was about to begin law school when Pure’s writer-director, Lisa Langseth (now a mentor), gave her the film’s lead role, her first. “Lisa made me work for it,” Vikander says. “I think I had to do four line readings to win the part.”

But henceforward, there was no stopping her. As Wright says, “The thing about Alicia and that dance training is that those ballerinas, they get up on those pointes until their feet bleed, literally, and yet they keep this serene composure, as if they are floating through space. There’s part of that to Alicia. She’s incredibly determined and hardworking, and yet, from up above, it all looks simple and elegant and easy.”

So it happened that after her luminous turn as a tragic queen during the Danish Enlightenment in the 2012 foreign-language Oscar nominee A Royal Affair, Vikander began working toward her big 2015 moment. Following her role as Ex Machina’s Ava, she flawlessly embodied the Oxonian undergrad Vera Brittain in Testament Of Youth, devastatingly dramatising the famous pacifist’s coming-of-age as a nurse tending to her fallen, wasted generation in World War I. It was around this time that Vikander was named the new face of Louis Vuitton.

Vikander’s summer fun was playing East German escapee Gaby Teller in Guy Ritchie’s enormously entertaining The Man From U.N.C.L.E. But her most promising roles have yet to arrive in theatres: Tulip Fever, in which she stars opposite Christoph Waltz as a married woman in a love triangle in 17th-century Holland; and The Light Between Oceans, directed by Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine), with Vikander and Michael Fassbender — the two emerged from the project romantically involved — playing an Australian couple who adopt an infant they find in a lifeboat. She will also be seen in the fifth installment of the Bourne series, and as Lara Croft in the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot.

Vikander’s last release, The Danish Girl, directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) won her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in February (as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award last year). The biopic starred Oscar laureate Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe, one of the first surgically-transitioned transsexuals in history, nearly a century ago, and Vikander as her loving and loyal wife, Gerda Wegener.

Redmayne recalls about working with Vikander: “When she came and auditioned to play Gerda, I was sitting behind the camera, and Tom was filming it, and when it got to the end of the scene, I turned around to find Tom sort of — crying.” Redmayne adds, “She will make broad strokes and brave choices, and she will constantly challenge you to step up. She will continue surprising you, and you have to keep surprising her.” We’re keeping our eyes peeled.

Photographs: KS; Styling: Elodie David-Touboul/Artlist; Make-up: Christelle cocquet/Calliste; Hair: Damien Boissinot/Jed Root

 

There comes a moment in Alex Garland’s coldly brilliant thriller, Ex Machina, when Swedish newcomer Alicia Vikander — as Ava, a serious piece of AI work — stands in a boreal field under a bold summer sun, impassively awaiting transport but unmistakably telegraphing to us at the same time that she has opened a magic, transformative door and is now walking through it. It’s an apt metaphor for Vikander’s own arrival at your local multiplex, which is currently exploding like a fireworks display.

But wait — first, about that magic door, or rather a whole succession of them: Director Joe Wright happened to see Vikander as a teenager in a 2009 Swedish film, Pure, in which she portrayed a troubled young woman’s attempt to reinvent herself. “I thought she was adorable and beautiful,” he says bluntly. Soon she was earning critical recognition as Kitty in Wright’s Anna Karenina (2012). Vikander says she had no idea what Wright’s intentions were when he proposed meeting: “I didn’t ever think that he would cast a Swedish girl, I just thought, ‘Wow, I’m going to meet a director that I’ve been looking up to.’”

Even just getting to Pure, though, was a serendipitous transit. Vikander, whose mother is a stage actor (her father is a psychiatrist), dabbled as a child in plays and musicals but enrolled at age nine in the Royal Swedish Ballet School, embarking on nine years of training seven hours a day, six days a week. She left ballet for some work in Swedish TV but then was rejected admission to drama school — twice. Crushed at the time, Vikander now sees it as a blessing in disguise: “You go to school because you know that you’ll have three, four years of being fine with just failing in a safe environment” — but, of course, it soon became clear that she had better things to do with that time.

Vikander was about to begin law school when Pure’s writer-director, Lisa Langseth (now a mentor), gave her the film’s lead role, her first. “Lisa made me work for it,” Vikander says. “I think I had to do four line readings to win the part.”

But henceforward, there was no stopping her. As Wright says, “The thing about Alicia and that dance training is that those ballerinas, they get up on those pointes until their feet bleed, literally, and yet they keep this serene composure, as if they are floating through space. There’s part of that to Alicia. She’s incredibly determined and hardworking, and yet, from up above, it all looks simple and elegant and easy.”

So it happened that after her luminous turn as a tragic queen during the Danish Enlightenment in the 2012 foreign-language Oscar nominee A Royal Affair, Vikander began working toward her big 2015 moment. Following her role as Ex Machina’s Ava, she flawlessly embodied the Oxonian undergrad Vera Brittain in Testament Of Youth, devastatingly dramatising the famous pacifist’s coming-of-age as a nurse tending to her fallen, wasted generation in World War I. It was around this time that Vikander was named the new face of Louis Vuitton.

Vikander’s summer fun was playing East German escapee Gaby Teller in Guy Ritchie’s enormously entertaining The Man From U.N.C.L.E. But her most promising roles have yet to arrive in theatres: Tulip Fever, in which she stars opposite Christoph Waltz as a married woman in a love triangle in 17th-century Holland; and The Light Between Oceans, directed by Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine), with Vikander and Michael Fassbender — the two emerged from the project romantically involved — playing an Australian couple who adopt an infant they find in a lifeboat. She will also be seen in the fifth installment of the Bourne series, and as Lara Croft in the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot.

Vikander’s last release, The Danish Girl, directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) won her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in February (as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award last year). The biopic starred Oscar laureate Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe, one of the first surgically-transitioned transsexuals in history, nearly a century ago, and Vikander as her loving and loyal wife, Gerda Wegener.

Redmayne recalls about working with Vikander: “When she came and auditioned to play Gerda, I was sitting behind the camera, and Tom was filming it, and when it got to the end of the scene, I turned around to find Tom sort of — crying.” Redmayne adds, “She will make broad strokes and brave choices, and she will constantly challenge you to step up. She will continue surprising you, and you have to keep surprising her.” We’re keeping our eyes peeled.

Photographs: KS; Styling: Elodie David-Touboul/Artlist; Make-up: Christelle cocquet/Calliste; Hair: Damien Boissinot/Jed Root