During a wide-ranging conversation for THR‘s Awards Chatter podcast at the Campari Lounge at the Cannes Film Festival, Oscar winner Alicia Vikander went through her career from her upbringing in Sweden and background in ballet to her Oscar-winning role in The Danish Girl and her latest film Firebrand, which will screen in competition at the festival.
Vikander’s big break in her native Sweden came with 2010’s Pure. She then turned heads in the 2012 Danish film A Royal Affair, co-starring with Mads Mikkelsen, but it was her role in Alex Garland’s Ex Machina that gained her notoriety in the U.S. “Everything that needs to be there, is there and nothing else. A lot of it you had to understand by reading the action and understanding what is happening in the scene emotionally,” she said of the Garland- written screenplay. For the self-tape audition for the film, she remembers pulling her hair back in a tight bun and putting “a full bottle” of sunscreen on her face in order to gain the shiny appearance of the robot, Ava, she would eventually play.
The actress earned an Oscar for her role in the 2015 film The Danish Girl, in which she plays artist Gerda Wegener, the wife of Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne), one of the first known recipients of gender-affirming surgery. “It’s incredible to see where we are now in comparison to when Danish Girl came out. My journey making The Danish Girl was huge because I got to personally meet and become friends with so many people from the trans community,” said Vikander. “Obviously, with the way the conversation has gone now, that film probably would not have been that way now but it was one of the first steps. So, in that sense, it was an important one for the conversation.”
Following The Danish Girl, Vikander appeared onscreen with her now husband Michael Fassbender in The Light Between Oceans. She said, “He’s my husband and best friend but I also consider him one of the greatest actors of his generation.”
In between indies and awards season features, Vikander has also had her turn in the occasional blockbuster, including Paul Greengrass’ Jason Bourne, in which she starred opposite Matt Damon. She says she took the role because “I was a huge Jason Bourne fan,” adding, “It’s funny going to work when you are the fan.” Vikander also played Lara Croft in the latest attempt at a Tomb Raider movie, taking the role having played the computer game as a kid.
Her latest, Firebrand, which is screening in competition at the festival and hails from director Karim Aïnouz, sees Vikander star as Queen Catherine Parr, the final wife of Henry VIII, played in the film by Jude Law.
Vikander did a historical deep dive on Parr, noting that she has received less attention in history than the to the ill-fated first wives of Henry VIII. “No one really cared that she was the first woman in British history that published books under her own name,” said Vikander. Adding that she was “managing this danger and person next to [her] all the time. To survive that, you have to be very delicate and clever.”
In recounting her career, Vikander also spoke about the night of the Academy Awards at which she earned the Oscar for The Danish Girl. Vikander’s date that evening was her mother, who recently passed away. “Over the past few months, I have had tons of family and friends sharing photos,” she said, tearing up. “One of the most shared photos (was) of my mom and me that night.”