FanBolt’s Mike McKinney had the pleasure of interviewing Mads Mikkelsen, star of the new film Arctic. The film tells the story of a man, played by Mads Mikkelsen, who is stranded in the Arctic after a plane crash. After months of surviving in the tough environment, he must decide to stay in his makeshift camp or embark on a possibly deadly trek through unknown territory.
Interview with Mads Mikkelsen
Mike: When you read the script, what drew you to take the part?
Mads Mikkelsen: The honesty and simplicity of the story. The fact that the script didn’t walk into the trap of going down memory lane with flashbacks. We are just stranded with a person who we will eventually get to know. We don’t know much about his past, but we will get to know him as the film moves along.
I love the fact that when we join the story, he has already been there for quite a while. It’s refreshing to see a character who has the skills to handle those rough circumstances that he finds himself in.
Mads: Right, that was a deliberate choice from both the director Joe Penna and the co-writer Ryan Morrison, that you didn’t know anything about his past. If we saw him fly the plane and have a quarrel with his staff before he crashes, that would be a very different movie. We just wanted it to be where it could be you or me who is stranded out there.
You shot this film in nineteen days in Iceland. That had to be a rough shoot.
Mads: It was an insane shoot. We were supposed to shoot for thirty days, but we didn’t shoot for many days because the weather was fighting us a little. So we had to condense the shoot and film for very long hours each day.
The continuity must have been difficult to keep because of the weather.
Mads: Yeah they have a saying in Iceland that if you don’t like the weather, then just wait five minutes and it will change. That is absolutely true. In the beginning, we were chasing the conditions that we wanted to shoot in. After a couple of days of waiting on the weather, we decided to rethink it and just shoot in the conditions that the weather provided.
Your director Joe Penna is Brazilian. How the heck did a Brazilian come up with an idea to make a film in Iceland?
Mads: I think he was always wearing two parka coats while we were there, while everyone else was wearing one. If we found the conditions brutal, then he found it worse, he was almost crying. But he manned up and was tough about it.
Did you know Joe Penna before the film?
Mads: No, not at all. I read the script and then got on Skype with him and his co-writer Ryan right away. We were scheduled to talk for a half-hour, and it ended up being three hours. Before we hung up, we all said let’s do it. Three months later were in Iceland shooting the film. It was all very rock and roll.
Did you develop a back story for your character because we, as viewers, never learn anything about his past?
Mads: Yeah, I made a little back story, but I wasn’t too elaborate on it. Obviously, he is missing something; whether it’s a family, a wife or a dog, he misses something. We tried to be very subtle about it. When he rescues the woman from the helicopter crash, she becomes very important to him. That obviously tells us something about what may be waiting for him back home.
When that woman shows up it seems to give your character some hope and purpose. Do think it renewed his hope that he would get out of his predicament?
Mads: I think it completely did. When we first see him, he is climbing the mountains and using the location device, but he has no hope of being rescued, he is basically just surviving. Once she enters the film, he becomes alive again. That’s the main story of the film, the difference between just surviving or being alive.
There is very little dialogue in this film. Is it easier or harder to be on screen the whole time and have almost no dialogue?
Mads: It sounds easy on paper because you don’t have to remember your lines. But it kind of tricky and there are some acting traps there as well. You take away one of the biggest tools for an actor, and you might fall into the trap of trying to entertain. There is nothing wrong with being entertaining, but you have not to be aware of the audience when you act. You have to be very aware of producing something that is not legit. You have to be honest with the situation. You know if you have a scene where you bring up the fishing rod and the hook is gone, and you don’t have a fish. It would be easy to say ‘damn.’ But this character wouldn’t do that; he would just look at it and move on to the next one. We had to be careful of not overproducing stuff.
Your character seems like not only a very resourceful guy but also very determined, like when he went every day up to the mountain tops to power up the location signal.
Mads: The only thing we know about him is that he is an engineer. That’s just about the only thing we know about him, so he is very capable, but he is also all about getting a system in his life, getting a routine. That routine helps him not go crazy. If you don’t do that, then everything would meld together and would become like a groundhog day. So he is very adamant about keeping his routines as a survival mechanism.
Even though the woman is almost comatose throughout the film, there is some nice chemistry between you and the actress who portrays her, Maria Thelma Smaradottir.
Mads: Yeah, I am glad you said that. It’s the turning point of the film when she shows up. It’s quite essential that she shows up in the film to get him to move to action. I think it is relatable that he is a practical man. He rescues her from the chopper and brings her back to the safe place in the plane. There is a brief moment when he is about to lay her down on the bench, and he realizes it’s been a long time since he has been this close to a person. So he hugs her and even though she isn’t aware of him doing that, he is basically reestablishing his connection with another human being. I love that moment; it’s a very tender moment in the film.
I love the opening scene of the film because we don’t know what you are doing. I thought you might be taking soil samples.
Mads: Yeah, it shows you the brutality of nature. You see that he is very focused on something and then you realize, oh God, this is a bad situation.
Have you seen your film and were you as cold as I was watching the film?
Mads: When I watch the film, I remember every sequence and how cold it was filming those scenes. It was insanely cold! However, these type of films can’t be done without a crew, and the Icelandic crew we had was fantastic. You have never seen anyone work as hard as this crew did. Everybody pitched in move wires and ladders; it was a fantastic crew. This type of film couldn’t have been done with a big Hollywood crew.
Well, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and I hope you have great success with it. Thank you so much for talking with me.
Mads: Thank you!
Arctic premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, and it was released in theaters on February 1, 2019 (limited). It opens in Atlanta on February 15, 2019!