With his sharply chiseled features, steely gaze, and enigmatic bearing, Mads Mikkelsen has made a career of playing sophisticated villains and intense antiheroes. He has a way of making even the most duplicitous criminal multi-faceted and interesting, thanks in part to the Old World charm he emanates.
Born in Denmark, he grew up performing on television, and is known even now for playing comedic roles in his home country. His first breakout American role was as the knight Tristan in 2004's King Arthur, where he met co-star Hugh Dancy, who he would so memorably play opposite years later in Hannibal. Since his early days in Hollywood, he's created a respectable filmography in some of the biggest franchises, where his unique countenance and charisma is always in demand. Here's 10 things you didn't know about Mads Mikkelsen.
10 YOU'VE BEEN PRONOUNCING HIS NAME WRONG
Like with many foreign-born actors that make their debut in the United States, there can be a transitory period where they consider changing their name because they worry American audiences won't be able to pronounce them. They may not be able to pronounce them, but if the actor's performances are memorable enough, they'll certainly remember them.
Mads Mikkelsen's name is pronounced the following way: "Mads" is pronounced "Mas", just like at the end of "Christ-Mas". "Mikkel" is pronounced just like "nickel", and "sen" is pronounced like "zen", resulting in a surname that, if pronounced properly, is "Mikkelzen".
9 HE WAS A DANCER AND A GYMNAST
Mads isn't afraid to let it be known he's worn some tights a time or two and twirled his way around the dance stage. Before becoming a gifted actor, he was a dancer in Denmark, which included various types of ballet and modern interpretive dance. He credits it with teaching him balance, control, and to be aware of his body.
Along with being a dancer, he was was also a gymnast, for eight years. It's helped his flexibility and stamina in action-packed movies inquiring lots of stunt work like King Arthur, Clash of the Titans, Casino Royale, Doctor Stranger, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
8 DANIEL CRAIG ONCE ASKED HIM A VERY INAPPROPRIATE QUESTION
Mads Mikkelsen achieved international fame when he appeared opposite Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, the first of Craig's appearances in a Bond film and based on the very first Bond book that Ian Fleming wrote. It seemed odd that an almost unknown Danish actor was cast as the villain Le Chiffre, a role almost as highly sought after as James Bond, prompting Craig to ask him if he'd slept with someone to get the part.
Mikkelsen defended himself, saying his filmography spoke for itself. Craig developed a respect for him as they worked together, and the feeling was mutual. Despite all the pressure Craig was under as Bond, Mikkelsen found his ability to shrug it off admirable, and worked diligently to emulate his nonchalance while under scrutiny.
7 HE STARRED IN A RIHANNA MUSIC VIDEO
Whether you're a fan of the singer or not, you may consider looking up the music video for Rihanna's song "B*tch Better Have My Money" if you want to catch a glimpse of Mads as a slimy accountant. According to an interview with GQ he was recommended for the cameo, flew in for two days of filming and praised Rihanna for her dedication and ability to make fun of herself.
In the video, the singer infiltrates his affluent house, and in a fitting comeuppance for the man who once played a Bond villain and tied up 007, Rihanna ties up Mikkelsen and proceeds to chop him up for embezzling her wealth. It's the fun sort of diversionary role that showcases his whimsical nature and the fact that his presence in anything elevates its material.
6 HE'S APPEARED IN MULTIPLE FRANCHISES
Like other foreign-born character actors Christopher Lee, and Hugo Weaving, Mads Mikkelsen has made a reputation for appearing in multiple franchises. He began by gaining notoriety for appearing as the Bond villain Le Chiffre in Casino Royale, cementing his talent for playing sophisticated and sinister archetypes.
He continued with roles in two of the biggest franchises currently going; Marvel and Star Wars. For the former, he starred once again as the main villain opposite Benedict Cumberbatch's Sorcerer Supreme in Doctor Strange, but got to play a hero in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, as the engineer who created a weakness in the Death Star which the Rebel Alliance uses to destroy it.
5 HE'S GOOD FRIENDS WITH HIS CO-STAR HUGH DANCY
Mads first met Hugh Dancy when the two appeared together as knights in King Arthur. The action-packed film was loosely based on the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the round table, and featured a character from ancient Rome that was said to have inspired it.
They would later go on to star opposite one another in the critically acclaimed NBC series Hannibal, with Mikkelsen playing Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and Hugh Dancy playing criminal profiler Will Graham. They remain good friends to this day (Mads was there when Hugh had his first baby!) and hope to reprise their roles in Hannibal with a fourth season said to be in development.
4 HE HAS A VERY SPECIFIC WAY HE APPROACHES HIS CRAFT
As far as the craft of acting goes, Mikkelsen is an economist. He will ask a hundred questions of his director before they shoot a single scene, because he doesn't want to "play around for eight hours and see if something happens". He feels that because many directors are "in their head", he has to force out their ideas.
Everything has to feel right for Mads to start work on a project. Of his own admission, he's said to not compromise, and that he can be "rather annoying to work with" for this reason. Some may find his method exacting, but the high standards inherent in his work are evident in the finished product.
3 HE'S A BIG COMIC BOOK NERD
Unlike some actors who get involved in the latest superhero film, Mads is a giant comic book nerd. He began collecting first editions as a boy, and as he matured he developed a love for graphic novels as well, finding their complexity and depth massively appealing as an adult. He recently starred in the comic-based film Polar.
Mads has a special preference for European comic books, especially Corto Maltese, the main antagonist in an Italian comic book from the late '60s. Maltese is an easy going sailor who has a heart of gold and penchant for adventure in the early 20th century. Mads has stated he'd love to play him in a film.
2 HE HAS A KNIGHTHOOD
Even though he doesn't go by "Sir", Mads Mikkelsen is a French Knight. He was awarded the honor of Chevalier of the Prestigious Order of Arts and Letters in 2016 at the Embassy of France. It recognizes contributions made at the highest level of artistic integrity with the presentation of a green cross medal.
Mads has always maintained that the French film industry has propelled his career. Outside of Denmark, he has legions of fans in France, who admire his dedication to an expressive, soulful, and emotionally rich way of performing. He's also fluent in French, as well as Italian, German, Danish, and Swedish.
1 HE'S A MOTORCYCLE AND BEER KIND OF GUY
For all his sophisticated tendencies on film, Mads remains a beer and motorcycle kind of guy. He's tried spirits before (mainly whiskey and scotch) and finds their taste and flavor unappealing. In Denmark, he's a Pilsner man, which is a pale lager to the rest of us!
As for motorcycles, he owns a 1937 Danish Nimbus, which is incredibly rare. He says riding on it makes him feel like Steven McQueen. It doesn't go very fast, which is just as well for his wife, who he's said worries when he takes it out for a joy ride. Riding a motorcycle gives him an unparalleled sense of freedom and a way to explore off the beaten path.