Not since Ingrid Bergman’s 1939 debut in “Intermezzo” has a young Swedish actress made such a splashy transition from her native cinema. In this case, Alicia Vikander, age 24, stars in not one but two award season pictures. Vikander, a trained ballerina who opted to act instead of dance, stars in Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina,” in the pivotal role of Kitty, who breaks her lover Levin’s heart, as well as Danish Oscar entry “A Royal Affair,” in which she plays a lonely English noblewoman who marries the King of Denmark. He turns out to be awkward and distant; eventually she falls instead for the radical intellectual doctor who looks after the childish king (another trained dancer, Mads Mikkelsen).
It turns out that Vikander’s feat starring in a Danish film was more challenging than acting in English, in which she is fluent. “A Royal Affair” director Nicolaj Arcels “couldn’t find anyone who had that regal quality,” he says. “We were desperate, almost sad that we couldn’t do the film. We went to Sweden, it’s a different language but you can understand what each other is saying. She was so good, but she didn’t know a word of Danish, she sounded horrible, but her expression was great. She’s an amazing professional; she went to Denmark and stayed two months to learn the language.”
Wright was also a bit worried about hiring a Swedish actress, but got over it, he says: “I’d seen her in ‘Pure,’ a film she made in Denmark. And I thought she was extraordinary. I met her, she read, and I thought she was one of the most determined people I’d ever met in my life. She studied at the Royal Ballet in Sweden from 6 to 18, then when she was 18 she was offered a place in the Royal Ballet in Gothenburg. She chose to start acting instead. So she has that incredible discipline that dancers have. So she could play that kind of sweetness and superficiality of the younger Kitty and the sincerity and authenticity of the later.”
Vikander is now up for all sorts of roles in Hollywood. She has already filmed Sergei Bodrov’s “The Seventh Son,” an 18th century adventure starring Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes and Kit Harington. You’ll be seeing more of her.