Tag Archives: Alicia Vikander

Interview: Alicia Vikander talks ‘The Danish Girl’

Alicia Vikander in "The Danish Girl" (photo: Focus Features)

By Tim Lammers

Alicia Vikander couldn’t be more thrilled over the release of the critically acclaimed drama “The Danish Girl” to the masses, considering it’s the seventh film here this year to feature the rising film star from Sweden.

But speaking louder than the volume of her work, the 27-year-old actress said, is the importance of “The Danish Girl” because it reveals the extraordinary true story of transgender Danish artist Einar Wegner/Lili Erbe and his wife, Gerda; a story that has remained a mere footnote in history until now.

“Everybody I’ve talked with who worked on this film but (director) Tom Hooper — who’s been working on it for seven years — seems to be in the same position, going, ‘Wow, how come I don’t know about this story? How come I don’t know about this extraordinary love story? How come I don’t know how pioneering these women were 100 years back and the transition Lili made?'” Vikander told me in a recent phone conversation. “I read the script and was blown away, and went online as we do nowadays, and I was surprised by the fact that there was not much information about her. That made it even more important for us that the story be told.”

Now playing in select cities and expanding into more theaters Christmas Day, “The Danish Girl” stars Eddie Redmayne and Vikander as Einar and Gerda, starting with their life together in Copenhagen, Denmark, in the mid-1920s. Their lives take a dramatic turn one day when Einar, a successful landscape painter, is asked by Gerda to sit in for a female model who was late to session of a portrait she was working on. Wearing the woman’s wardrobe proved to be a fateful event for Einar, as the realization set in that he was most comfortable identifying himself as a female.

Dubbed “Lili” by Gerda’s friend, Oola (Amber Heard), Einar begins his complex transformation into Lili Erbe, who has become a muse to his wife and her paintings. Despite the fame this brings Gerda and comfort it brings Lili, the revelation is also tearing their marriage apart.

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While the film is titled “The Danish Girl,” the film is just as much about the struggles Gerda faces when she comes to the realization that Einar’s transformation into Lili could end their relationship.

“Lili doesn’t have a choice to but to become who she is and be herself, while Gerda has to make a choice,” Vikander said. “She makes a choice and becomes so supportive, being the one who stands next to her loved one. She chooses to stay and remain loving, even though she had to risk the possibility of losing somebody along the way. I found it extraordinary that she had that bravery of doing that.”

Playing Gerda and her complex range of emotions — love, confusion and even jealousy — presented Vikander perhaps their most challenging roles to date.

“Both Eddie and I had so much to play with every single scene and every single take,” said Vikander, who to date with Redmayne have each been nominated for Screen Actors Guild and Critics Choice Movie Award honors. “It felt we could always push each other to explore different emotions and thoughts that weigh into a scene.”

Essentially, making “The Danish Girl” was a transformative experience for Vikander, making her admire the courage both Gerda and Einar had in a time where the defiance of social mores and in Lili’s case, gender reassignment, was virtually unheard of.

“I love that in the beginning of the film how Einar is a supportive husband to a woman who is not only an artist, but a working woman. I saw that in her marriage, too. She must have felt loved and supported,” Vikander observed. “But there were also a lot of issues that they went through that made it so difficult. Lili was going through a transition at the time where there were no references, and it was all illegal. They also faced a lot of issues, sadly, that are still current 100 years later.”

Although she’s won acclaim for her roles in such films this year as “Testament of Youth” and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” it was Vikander’s stunning turn as the android Ava in “Ex Machina” that catapulted her career into the stratosphere. But now that the actress has made such of an impact in dramatic films like “The Danish Girl,” don’t count her out to do more films in the vein of “Ex Machina.” No genre — especially science fiction — is beneath her.

“I love sci-fi. I said to my agent before ‘Ex Machina’ came to my table that I had seen ‘Moon’ for the second time and I would love to do something in sci-fi — and then the script for ‘Ex Machina’ showed up,” Vikander said, laughing. “There have been a lot of sci-fi films over the last few years, but because of ‘The Martian’ and a lot of films in the making it feels like the genre has a new swing.”

Movie reviews: ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,’ ‘Straight Outta Compton’

'The Man From UNCLE' (photo -- Warner Bros)

By Tim Lammers

“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” (PG-13) 2 1/2 stars (out of four)

Another 1960s TV spy series gets the big screen treatment following “Mission: Impossible” with “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” a Guy Ritchie film that oddly enough, doesn’t feel much like a Guy Ritchie film. Far less gritty and stylish than Ritchie’s previous work (the writer-director’s recent movies include the underrated “RocknRolla” and the hit “Sherlock Holmes” films), “U.N.C.L.E.” is sustained by the undeniable presence of Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander and to a lesser extent, Hugh Grant.

“Man of Steel” star Cavill slips comfortably into the role of Napoleon Solo (played by Robert Vaughn on the TV series), a dashing, Cold War-era CIA agent who reluctantly teams with Russian KGB Agent Illya Kuryakin (Hammer, assuming David McCallum’s role from the series) in a bid to stop a mysterious global crime organization from carrying through with its world-dominating nuclear ambitions. Left with few people they can trust, including each other, Solo and Kuryakin must put their faith in Gaby (Vikander), the estranged daughter of the missing German scientist who designed the weapon, although it becomes quickly apparent that she may have an agenda of her own.

While the producers of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” are probably hoping the title alone with be a draw, at least for diehard TV fans and Baby Boomers (millennials sure the hell won’t know anything about the original NBC series), that small segment of the audience won’t make or break this reimagining of the “U.N.C.L.E.” as a film franchise. After all, the film is essentially an origins story that methodically introduces its characters on its way to forming the “U.N.C.L.E.” (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) by the conclusion of the film; serving merely as a springboard to what Ritchie surely hopes will be a franchise, a la “Mission: Impossible.” Name recognition or not, the film stands on its own.

One thing’s for certain: “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” while not completely remarkable, fares far better than the first installment in the “Mission: Impossible” series, which was downright confusing. And while the tone is dramatically different than the Tom Cruise movie franchise (while there’s action and adventure here, it feels more like a tongue-in-cheek Roger Moore James Bond film), there’s no doubt Solo and Kuryakin can succeed with some more big screen adventures if Ritchie brings the sort of cinematic edge he’s built his resume on. With winning performances by Cavill, Hammer (although he’s a bit bland when toe-to-toe with Cavill) and Vikander (whose career continues to soar after “Ex Machina”) – a

s well as Grant in the pivotal role of British Secret Service honcho Alexander Waverly, and Elizabeth Debicki as the deliciously evil villain Victoria – the foundation is certainly there. If Ritchie doesn’t open things up a bit, somebody better hold the clapboard above his head until he says, well, “Uncle.”

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“Straight Outta Compton” (R) 2 1/2 stars (out of four)

While the gangsta rap music that fuels the movie is less than to be desired, there’s no question, the back story of the pioneering rap group N.W.A. is a fascinating one, if not for any reason for its lurid, behind-the-scenes look at the music business and its warts-and-all portrayal of man group members Ice Cube, Easy-E and Dr. Dre. Admittedly not a fan at all of rap, I am a fan of good stories, and there are enough in “Straight Outta Compton” – from accounts of crooked management and run-ins with police, to dangerous encounters with fearsome Death Row Records founder Suge Knight – to fill the film’s exhaustive two-and-a-half hour run time.

O’Shea Jackson Jr. plays his father Ice Cube in “Straight Outta Compton,” which tracks the origins of N.W.A. and its rapid rise to the top, giving the sort of voice to a group of ghetto youths that had never been heard before. But while stirring up controversy and calls for social change with inflammatory songs like “F— Tha Police,” based on their personal experiences with law enforcement – the group members become consumed by their own jealousies, greed and mistrust of one another, leading to long-running feuds with each other and people close to their inner-circle, and the group’s eventual demise.

The three leads in “Compton” are outstanding. Jackson is a dead ringer for his dad – the lyricist – with maybe less of a scowl; while Corey Hawkins is given the most range to play with as the group’s easy-going creative force who eventually develops the balls to stand-up to a highly volatile Knight (R. Marcos Taylor). Jason Mitchell shows the most vulnerability as the group’s money man and leader Easy-E, who puts his unwavering trust in his shifty manager Jerry Heller (the always great Paul Giamatti).

The timing of the release of “Straight Outta Compton” is almost frightening in a way, because the film – while not afraid to portray its leads as deeply flawed individuals – plays heavy on the rifts the group had with police. The specter of Rodney King looms heavy over the film, as real-life footage of the beating and subsequent riots after the verdict acquitting the police officers appears prominently.

There’s no question the group’s surviving members and director F. Gary Gray wanted to make a statement with “Compton” in the wake of Ferguson and Baltimore; and one can only hope that the likes of Ice Cube and Dr. Dre will step up with voices of reason should the movie – and the revival of “F— Tha Police” – galvanizes people in the wrong sort of way. For N.W.A. in “Straight Outta Compton,” anyway, the whole idea of their music was about freedom of speech – not the freedom to destroy and wreak havoc.  If the film teaches us anything, it’s OK to be angry about perceived social injustices, so long as it’s not in a destructive sort of way.

Interview: Alicia Vikander talks ‘Testament of Youth’

Alicia Vikander in 'Testament of Youth' (photo -- Sony Pictures Classics)

By Tim Lammers

To say it’s been a whirlwind year is an understatement for Alicia Vikander, the Swedish-turned-Hollywood film sensation. In the past four months, she has had starring roles the fantasy adventure “Seventh Son,” the sci-fi thriller “Ex Machina,” and now, the lead as real-life pacifist and feminist icon Vera Brittain in the World War I drama “Testament of Youth.”

If that isn’t enough, she’ll star in August opposite Henry Cavill and Army Hammer in the 1960s spy drama “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” and later this year, opposite Bradley Cooper in the comedy “Adam Jones.”

If there’s anything distinct about those credits, the roles come five completely different genres — an actor of any age’s dream, much less a 26-year-old relative newcomer to the Hollywood scene.

“I don’t really have a great plan about what types of films to do, but I try to look for films, projects and ideas that are different from anything I’ve done before,” Vikander told me in a recent phone call from New York. “So it’s more really about that than planning ahead.”

Opening in New York and Los Angeles Friday, “Testament of Youth” is the big-screen adaptation of Brittain’s famed, best-selling memoir. It chronicles her time as a promising student who fought to get into Sommerfield College at the University of Oxford in England, only until the breakout of World War I compelled her to enlist as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse in 1915 to providing aid and comfort to wounded soldiers.

Despite several personal tragedies, Brittain pressed on as a VAD nurse throughout  the entire war and eventually, went on to become an author. She published “Testament of Youth” in 1933.

Directed by James Kent, “Testament of Youth” also stars Kit Harington (“Game of Thrones”) as Brittain’s fiancé, Roland Leighton; Taron Egerton as her brother, Edward Brittain; and Dominic West and Emily Watson as Brittain’s parents.

Vikander admitted that she was exhilarated to be cast as Brittain, but terrified at the same time. The literary legend has only been portrayed a handful of times before, first and most notably by British actor Cheryl Campbell in the 1979 BBC miniseries production of “Testament of Youth.”

“Vera Brittain is such a big British icon, so with me being foreign from Sweden, it meant a lot to be entrusted with the part,” Vikander said. “I not only wanted to pay tribute to the people who read her books, but her family — the people who loved her and adored her. As her book ‘Testament of Youth’ came to me, knowing they were going to make a film of it, I felt so much for this woman, and her story of  love and loss. I so much wanted to be a part of it.”

Vikander said she couldn’t help but be inspired by Brittain’s resiliency through all the personal tragedy she suffered during World War I, and playing

the role made the actor realize just how honored she was to have the opportunity to tell her story.

“In this industry, in general, it’s very rare to find deep, complex female leading roles, and this role was one of them,” Vikander said. “I admire her so much and was so intrigued by the chance to get to portray her. She became one of the biggest pacifists and feminists in history. I knew it was going to be very intense — and it was.”

Thankfully, Vikander said, she had Kent to help her ease into the role — and his background in documentary filmmaking came it quite handy.

“James allowed us to be very raw and in the moment, and in his documentary style, he tried to catch it while it happened,” Vikander explained.