Alicia Vikander has not had a home in three years. The 25-year-old Scandinavian actress, who first gained stateside attention for her roles in Anna Karenina and The Fifth Estate, has eschewed mainstays like say, a well-worn boucherouite rug and a postal address, for two suitcases and a blossoming career that has taken her from movie set to movie set, holding her own against A-list talent like Keira Knightley, Julianne Moore, and Jeff Bridges. If anyone can make vagabond en vogue, it’s this gal. (Even her makeup tricks are shorthand, i.e. dabbing a vamp lipstick on both lips and cheeks.)
No surprise then, that when we caught up with Vikander at the Marrakech International Film Festival, she had just flown in from London after wrapping the Guy Ritchie remake of the ‘60s spy thriller, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The lithesome beauty, who trained for nine years at the Royal Swedish Ballet School before refocusing on acting, was in the Red City to accept the Best Performance by an Actress award for Lisa Langseth’s knockout indie drama, Hotell, in which she plays Erika, a new mother who is suffering from extreme postnatal depression and finds solace in the anonymity of hotels.
We sat down with the actress at the opulent Hotel Es Saadi and talked everything from acting crazy, traveling light, and nixing that trick-candle rumor about a certain True Blood hunk…
I can’t tell you how much I loved this film. It was so affecting, I think I stopped breathing in a few of the scenes.
“Thank you! I was really drawn to the script, especially after working with the director, Lisa Langseth, on Pure. Many women go through [postnatal depression] if they have a family, but it’s still a very taboo subject; I’ve never really seen it portrayed on screen. I mean, I didn’t even really know how it would work just by reading the script. I would end up laughing just two, three pages straight after some extremely moving, horrific scene. I was quite amazed at how Lisa was able to bring it all to the screen.”
The scene when Erika and her husband Vikard are in the hospital for the emergency delivery — it’s as if the camera brought you beside, so that every excruciating breath was taken as your own. What was going through your mind?
“When we did that scene, I think I channeled my own very big fear of birth. I don’t have any kids yet, and I want to have them, but I’m terrified. So, just to go through that scene was quite difficult, and we did one really long shot in real time — I think it was 25 minutes — we did it with real nurses and real doctors in a real hospital. We prepared for that scene for two days, and it felt like 25 minutes is how long an emergency delivery would take.”
I’m not a sap at the movies, but the tears were on overdrive. Do you remember the first film that made you cry? I mean, really bawl…
“The Lion King — as difficult as it is to say! That was the first film that I saw in the theater, when I was six or seven, and I even begged my babysitter to take me for a second time. I was bawling over it….and I still am. These days, I’m becoming more and more like my mom. I remember when I was a kid, I hated the fact that around Christmas, you gather in school and you sing songs, because my mom was always crying in the background being totally moved and touched. I was like, 'Aghhh — I don’t get it.' And, now, I find myself crying less and less with actual, horrific things and more when I am touched or happy.”
Your mom is a longtime stage actress. Did you catch the acting bug early?
“I lived in two homes — with my mom. When we didn’t have a babysitter, I would accompany her to the theater. I loved being there. It’s a very nice context for a child to grow up in and to play. I remember the adults would let me be a part of rehearsals and ask of my opinions. Sometimes, as a child, you remember walking into a room and everyone treated as if you were a kid — but in the theater, that never happened.”
I wonder if you’re inclined to these slightly manic, passionate characters because of your upbringing in drama and theater.
“Yes, because I want to explore things within myself. I’m drawn to roles that scare me. I only use my own emotions as my tools, but also, you want to do things you haven’t done before.”
I’ve heard you’ve been bouncing from movie set to set for the past few years. Do you travel with any lucky charms?
“I don’t travel with anything, because I haven’t had a home in nearly three years!”
Where’s all your stuff?
“It’s amazing — I started off having storage in both Stockholm and London. I still have things in L.A.; I still have things in Denmark. The thing is, I started to like how I’m not attached to material things anymore. I have two pairs of black jeans, I have my favorite blazer, and I have a couple of Acne T-shirts. It’s nice when someone can pick up the phone and say, ‘Can you be here tomorrow?’ and I can say, ‘Yeah, I just have two bags.’”
So, how long is your stay here in Marrakech?
“I’m actually going to stay until Wednesday, because it’s my first vacation this year. I’ve been here once before, and I had the best experience with a Moroccan friend. We stayed in amazing riads; we visited places in the medina where there were no tourists; we went to villages in the Atlas Mountains with just a shitty Range Rover and our hiking boots. It was great.”
Mads Mikkelsen, your coactor in A Royal Affair, has said that you have a “gift from heaven,” which is that the camera loves your face. Why do you think that is?
“I, as most girls do, wake up, look in the mirror, and see flaws. You try not to, but it’s human nature. But, it’s interesting when I’m making films, especially with the films I’ve been making with [this director]; I want to be emotionally naked and raw. If you strip me down, I can be this way in front of a camera, more than I dare myself to be in real life. If I really dig deep down emotionally, I don’t care about the way I look — and that’s a relief. Whereas, when I see a photo from a red carpet, I’m like, ‘Ugh, look at that angle!’ I never do that with film. I’m going to be meet Marion Cotillard tonight, who is one of those actresses who is completely true to her roles. That’s the kind of actress I want to be. I think that’s what makes you able to connect and be loved by the camera.”
Who are some other actresses you admire?
“Oh, there are quite a few. Tilda Swinton, Isabelle Huppert, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, and Michelle Williams.”
All right, shall we put the rumor mill to rest? Are you, or are you not, dating Alexander Skarsgård?
“No, I’m not dating Alexander Skarsgård. [laughs] He’s a sweetheart, and he’s a friend of mine. But, we are just friends.”