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Alicia Vikander: “You just work through it”


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Alicia Vikander
Photo by Johan Sandberg © Artlist Syndication
Short Profile

Name: Alicia Amanda Vikander
DOB: 3 October 1988
Place of birth: Gothenburg, Sweden
Occupation: Actor

Alicia Vikander's new film, The Light Between Oceans, is in theaters now.

Ms. Vikander, how often do you cry watching movies?

Put me in front of Extreme Home Make Over and I’ll probably cry. (Laughs) I don’t cry because I’m sad myself, I cry more and more anytime anyone does something sweet, where someone says or does something nice to another person. When I grew up, my mum cried all the time because she was touched or it was so beautiful when you sang at school, she stood there in the corner crying, and it was like “Ah, stop it, mum!” And now ever since I turned 20, I’ve realized I cry less and less from pain, and more for the beautiful things.

I only tear up when I see sports stars achieve their goals.

(Laughs) It’s those things! And I think that’s a beautiful thing, that that makes you tick. It’s a very personal thing, too. If you do cry, people find it quite embarrassing and normally you don’t do it in front of people, you know, if it happens, it’s in your own home.

“It’s just been a while since I’ve kind of been swept away, been taken on those kind of big stories...”

Right, it’s considered a weakness to show your emotions like that.

And especially in film, melodrama can be so over the top — when the emotional aspects of a film don’t resonate, when it feels emotional without making you actually feel it in your core. I guess that’s also why emotional dramas are one of the most difficult genre films to make, to be honest. It’s not an easy job to try to make it resonate. It’s just been a while since I’ve kind of been swept away, been taken on those kind of big stories, you know like Gone with the Wind or something.

What attracts you to that genre?

I grew up with those stories! And I love watching films like that. I thought Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines was one of the best films I’d seen in 2012, for example. This year I worked with him on The Light Between Oceans, which also kind of dared to be a melodrama in a beautiful way. Part of me felt like it was old fashioned? In a nice way! It felt like a film I hadn’t seen in a while. I felt really engaged by this script because when it comes to wanting love, wanting family, losing people, miscarriages, heartbreak, pain… Those are things that everyone relates to.

I read that you used to think of pain as not necessarily a good friend, but a constant presence in your life because of ballet.

Right, during ballet school, I couldn’t drink because I had to work out and be in dance class seven hours a day. Eventually I started to really try to find friends that were not in this same very rigid school system. I remember when I found techno clubs and I was like, “What is this?! This is amazing!” I started going out like that because I love to dance. I haven’t been out in the last few years a lot, I guess because seeing friends, going out to a pub where you can catch up and get some proper chats going, that’s become more important. They also just closed down the London nightclub Fabric, which is so sad, that place is a cultural institution. But I do think that going out like that is a wonderful kind of teenage experience. Sometimes they would open up the school at four AM, so I went there and slept for two or three hours in my locker room, and then I went to ballet class.

“I know that I was often tired or in pain, but you just work through it.”

What kind of school would make you wake up at four o’clock in the morning?

No, I went straight from the club to the school! The school would sometimes open up at three or four because they clean the buildings and all that. We had codes because a lot of the ballet students normally get there before everyone else to warm up. If you wanted to get there at five-thirty or six to train, you could. So I would save probably an hour of sleep instead of getting back home to my flat and then returning back to school — at least I got straight to school and I was there! It’s weird though, that kind of goes your way. I know that I was often tired or in pain, but you just work through it.

Tom Hooper said that ballet is good training for film because you’re in serious pain but you always have to have a smile on your face.

I think as soon as you stop training though, your body goes back to normal, so the amount of pain you can take is not the same. I actually just put on a pair of pointe shoes for the first time in a long time, and I was a total sissy.

You better not tell that your old coach.

(Laughs) Yeah, I mean, just having them on now is pain. I was like, “Oh my god, I used to train in those for six hours a day?” I think they build up the amount of pain you can take from the age of like nine. In the school I trained at, they didn’t let you tape your toes for the first two years and it’s so much pain. You go home crying and your parents almost want you to quit but then you just do it. It requires a lot of stamina to not give up.

Do you use that stamina now on film sets?

Yeah, quite often, I would say. It’s normally quite uncomfortable to make films. Actually I did a film this summer where it was supposed to be summer and we were in Germany and magically it was 27 degrees everyday, which they normally don’t have apparently, so we were actually able to pretend it’s summer in summer weather. On a shoot, normally it’s like five degrees, and you have a little tank top on and you’re running around for like 10 hours in a day pretending to be really warm when you’re about to freeze your arse off really. It’s a recurring thing in a lot of my films — I always have to go into, like, ice cold water at some point. That’s a pain, I guess, I hate being cold! I’m from Sweden so maybe that’s the reason. I think of all of these crazy experiences I’ve had on set and it still just feels utterly surreal.

Why?

I don’t really relate that that’s me! In terms of acting, in Sweden the industry is a lot smaller than here. You can’t work as a film actor in Sweden, so when you dream of being an actor, you see yourself being on stage. My dream when I was younger was to be on the Royal Dramatic stage in Stockholm. There’s a lot of pressure growing up, people asking you, “What are you going to do with your life?” I wanted to work in theater but no one let me. I mean, I tried out for theatre school three times, got to the last round but I didn’t get in.

“I never thought that this would be the future for me.”

How do you cope with the pain of those rejections?

It’s tough. I don’t know how many auditions I’ve made and no one sees them, and then you get noes or you don’t even get a reply , which is even worse. (Laughs) It’s a tough industry.

Has it gotten easier to deal with over the years?

My mum is an actor and she was always saying, “Is this really what you want to do? Because this is the reality.” When you decide that you want to give it a go, you’re also accepting that you might get one job and then it’ll be a long time before the next one, if ever. When you start to get success, I think that’s perspective is still very grounded within you. I never thought that this would be the future for me. I never thought that I was going to be given even one opportunity and now I’ve been invited to work with so many incredible filmmakers and actors… It’s been amazing to be part of those projects.