The Frame

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Alicia Vikander planned on law school before acting took off

by John Horn and James Kim with Elizabeth Nonemaker | The Frame

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Alicia Vikander stars in "The Danish Girl" Focus Features

By all accounts, 2015 was the year that Alicia Vikander cemented her position as a leading big-screen actress. She appeared in seven films, including "The Danish Girl," which has landed her an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress.

Not too long ago, the 27-year-old actress from Sweden was considering a career in law, partially as a means to fund her drama pursuits. But a few weeks before her law school classes were to begin, she was offered her first leading role in "Pure." That movie won her the Swedish Guldbagge Award and launched her career.

Now she's received multiple award nominations for the "The Danish Girl," including from the Screen Actors Guild. Vikander plays Gerda Wegener, a painter who both struggles with and encourages her husband's transformation into a woman. 


Alicia Vikander met with The Frame's John Horn to talk about her career, the fear she confronts going into new roles, and how she manages her schedule by booking motorcycle lessons.



I'm quite terrified going into new roles. That's also a fear that I hope will never go away. I think it's an edge coming into a project not really knowing how to approach it. When I did my first film it was with Lisa Langseth, a woman that had directed her own script. And she trusted me — a girl who hadn't done any feature film in any smaller or bigger part before. Giving me the lead was an incredible trust and she gave me a great chance. 

I think she helped me build a confidence. Lately now, talking about "The Danish Girl," Tom [Hooper] was so keen on always encouraging both me and Eddie [Redmayne] to fail. So I think even now, even after I've been given the chance to do several films, I think it will be as nerve-racking to step into whatever role lies ahead. 

Is that fear part of what's attractive to you in new roles? That it's something you haven't done that is a little terrifying?

I've been so lucky doing quite different films. That [difference] comes to the genres or characters and ways that filmmakers work. So each project has been a very different experience as a whole. I think that is definitely what I get excited about when I read a script or hear about a character or meet a film director.

How do you do that when you're working as steadily as you are? When you're making so many movies and things are coming fast, and when you're not filming, you're doing press interviews. How do you get those life experiences that make you a better actor? 

I actually made a list, when I had done my first feature, of things that I would do if I had a bigger time off, [when] I could have never have thought that I would be as lucky and busy as I have been. That [included] going to France. I've already booked a sommelier course because I'd love to do it. That was a dream since I was a kid. I would love to get motorcycle lessons done. So that's also booked in to do. 

Are these all things on your list? 

Yeah! That's like little passion things, but also, I tried out for theater school and I did not get in the two years when I tried out. I'm so fortunate calling my passion my job today, but that thing of being open-minded — I got into university and I realized that I loved film. And I had met producers in theater and film and a lot of them said they have gone through law to be able to produce. So I got into law school and strangely enough, that was when I got my first role. So suddenly I had to put that on hold, but I think that's a very important thing to step away from this industry. 

When two theater schools say that you're not qualified to attend, do you have family members or someone close that assures you to keep going? 

I think I've had a family who's been extremely supportive throughout these years. I moved away when I was 15. It was very sad to leave that early, but it was because I went to ballet school. It was tough for my mom just to let me go and live by myself at that age. She was always like, I'll be there for you. I'll support you. My dad did the same thing. 

Do you miss anything about making movies in Sweden? It's obviously different than making movies in Hollywood. 

The films I've done in Sweden are very raw, very emotionally real, about real people. I would love to go back and work in my native language. It's a different kind of relationship you have with your emotions and thoughts when they come through your native language.  

Are there things about the job that have been a tough adjustment, like talking about a movie and doing press for a movie? 

Yes, like in this year, because I had so many films. I must say, Thank god it gets a bit easier. I remember my first time I was in Berlin Film Festival five years ago for "The Shooting Star." Domhnall Gleeson was also another one of them. That was before we had done our two films together. 

I was so nervous that I stuttered my way through and my English was not very good. It was very difficult for me to try and explain and talk to about emotions in a film because I didn't have the tools to express myself. I didn't go to theater school, so my education has been with the people that I've been given a chance to work with and to see work. But since January of last year, I hadn't done much interviews [laughs].

You talked about being fearful before you start shooting. Was there a scene in "The Danish Girl" that you were most fearful about, and did that scene turn out to be the most scariest to do? 

Do you know what? I have this thing when I get a script ... I make like one, two and three stars next to different scenes. If there are scenes that have popped out while reading the script that I really like and treasure, in one way, they become the ones that I am both the most excited about and also that I want to give justice. So you're nervous. I'm putting three stars on one point, and then I know on Wednesday in two weeks, I start to count down to that day to do that scene.

"The Danish Girl" is currently in theaters. 

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