ALICIA VIKANDER – MOMENTUM
By Brittany Santos
When Alicia Vikander began her journey to gaining four kilos of pure muscle and becoming Lara Croft, good pal, and fellow Swede, Alexander Skarsgard was her ‘gymspiration.’ “I told my trainer I wanted to look like Alexander in Tarzan,” she giggles cheerfully. “He was my end goal.”
The pap shots of Vikander, alongside new husband Michael Fassbender, on a boat in Ibiza reveal her abs of steel, clearly showing the Oscar winner achieved her end goal. But will that be enough to please loyal fans of the Tomb
Raider universe, many resolutely loyal to Angelina Jolie’s previous efforts as the video game vixen? Vikander appears optimistic, and breathtakingly stunning as always.
With a dark purple shirt hiding the fruits of her gym effort – although she claims it’s more or less gone – the actress is understated, yet glamorous. Her light chocolate locks hang loosely past her shoulders while her dewy olive complexion and dark oval eyes cut a dazzling effect. She’s warm and chatty, but a glacial underlay is always present. And ever consistent, she remains steadfastly rooted in her desire to keep married life and all its details firmly under wraps. When it comes to Lara however, Vikander is entirely forthcoming, especially regarding her nerves for the upcoming big bucks epic which could make, or break, her fledgling superstar career. But the 29-year-old is keen to distance her version from the Jolie vehicle, claiming her origin story is an entirely untapped chapter in Croft’s life and will set the new movie on a different plane from its predecessors.
In a fun chat, Vikander talks about her reluctance to sign on and why Jolie is an inspiration. She also chats working out, Wonder
Woman, plans to direct, feminism, her Oscar and social media.
STRIPLV: Your career keeps gathering momentum with the Oscar for The Danish Girl, your Bourne film, and Light Between the Oceans. Now you’re starring in Tomb Raider. Playing Lara Croft, she’s one of the first feminist icons in video games and then Hollywood movies, to have an action franchise revolve around this bad ass; I assume a large part of the appeal for you?
VIKANDER: Yes, absolutely. I played the games with friends of my parents’ children, on their PlayStation and then grew up watching Angelina in the movies. You know, we know that video games are a very male-dominated world to have a female protagonist in this way was so intriguing to me.
STRIPLV: Is it important to you to play strong-minded and determined women?
VIKANDER: If possible, yes. I feel drawn to characters who have a lot of willpower and spirit, and I like to be able to go on a journey with them. The most important thing is to find a good project and make a film that you will enjoy being part of and create something that the audience will enjoy.
STRIPLV: Taking this on, were you concerned or are you still concerned by the comparisons with Angelina?
VIKANDER: I could never compete with what Angelina did. She’s perfect! She made her into an icon because she is an icon. But this is our different interpretation; we’re focused on the reboot of the game, which came out a few years ago. It’s the origin story; we’re not trying to copy or reinvent what she did.
STRIPLV: Explain how that works here?
VIKANDER: Based on [the] reboot game which came out four years ago, it’s an examination of how she becomes who she was to become, how she morphs into the Tomb Raider, so we see Lara at a very different part of her life. At this moment, she’s trying to understand who she is and what path to take and you get to learn how and why she goes on to become this icon. She’s the action hero, or she will become this action hero, but also a very relatable young girl who’s ordinary in so
many ways. She’s living in East London at the beginning, living her life and just trying to find her place on her way to her destiny. She still has the same fire and drive and spirit but without all the experience under her belt. (Laughs)
STRIPLV: Surely you were hesitant?
VIKANDER: You know, I was skeptical when they first spoke to me about it because why would you want to tinker with something already done. It’s done. Even when I told my mum about the movie, she immediately said, “Oh that’s the Angelina Jolie movie, yeah she was great.”
STRIPLV: What changed your mind?
VIKANDER: I met Roar and the producers and got a very concrete sense of what they were after and what they planned to do based on the new game which I had never played before; I had only played the older version. And getting to play the newer game, I realized there was this untold story to tell which separates it from the previous movies and that spoke to me. And that was it really.
STRIPLV: Do you like the idea of playing a very physical role in a big action film like this?
VIKANDER: Yes. I’ve always been such a big fan of these kinds of action and adventure movies, and I had been a big fan of the video game of Lara Croft, too. When I was a teenager, I would always watch the Indiana Jones movies and then, of course, it was such a thrill to be playing in the Jason Bourne film even though my character didn’t get to do action scenes herself. So playing Lara Croft is something I would never have dreamed of doing. But that’s how incredible and unpredictable this business can be.
STRIPLV: Did you meet with Angelina?
VIKANDER: I haven’t, but I’m an admirer of her and her career. I’m inspired what she has achieved, and if I could do half of what she’s done, I would be so happy. Her path, she did a lot of varied, really complex character studies in these fantastic independents and moved on to these big blockbusters and is now making her own movies, producing and directing. She’s an inspiration to me and so many working in this industry.
STRIPLV: You’ve just produced Euphoria. Are you planning on directing?
VIKANDER: I don’t know. I like the idea of it, but the reality is entirely different, and it really would have to be the right story that I felt passionately connected to.
STRIPLV: What obstacles did you encounter while producing?
VIKANDER: Producing Euphoria was such a daunting challenge, but I was surprised how natural and quickly it came to me. I felt very comfortable in that role and I also liked being involved from the ground floor up. Sometimes as an actor, you can come onto a movie a week before they start shooting and you’re very detached and removed from the inception. Whereas here, I was there from the beginning, witness to this birth of a wonderful project. The entire journey was an education. Each task as a producer was a first for me, and there were the inevitable bumps along the way, it’s a learning curve that you appreciate and assimilate.
STRIPLV: Did you ever dream that one day, you’d be headlining a huge action blockbuster like this?
VIKANDER: I love going to the movies, it’s one of my passions, actually going to the movies and staring up at the screen. There’s a magic to it. And much of that enchantment comes from movies like Indiana Jones and The Mummy, real cavalier hero adventures. I must have seen The Mummy 20 times by now, and just dreaming one day being that hero; I’ve always wanted to be that.
STRIPLV: The training, how awful was it?
VIKANDER: Not awful at all. (Laughs) I learned more about physicality than I ever realized and I’m shocked how my body reacted to this training and lifestyle.
STRIPLV: Have you kept up the regime?
VIKANDER: No, it’s slipped a little by the wayside. Six days a week in the gym, a couple of hours a day— that is very grueling and rigorous. Without my amazing trainer, Magnus, I don’t have the discipline to do it on my own.
STRIPLV: But you’re quite used to it from your days as a dancer. Did that help at all?
VIKANDER: It’s a different world. But that’s a big reason why I wanted to do something like this, I’ve been after a role with high endurance physicality, and it doesn’t get more physical than Lara.
STRIPLV: What was the specific training?
VIKANDER: A lot of weights, lots of lifting. A combination of boxing, MMA, climbing and lots of high interval training.
STRIPLV: All the fun stuff!
VIKANDER: Yes, all the fun stuff.
STRIPLV: And you can lift your own weight now, can’t you?
VIKANDER: I never thought that would be possible. I’m not sure if I can do it now, but that was a very empowering moment.
STRIPLV: Wonder Woman was the biggest hit of the year and a huge step for women in the industry.
VIKANDER: I went to see that while we were shooting, and I think to see the opening sequence with all women in this amazing fight scene, I was blown away
by the idea that I don’t think I had ever seen that before, which I was sort of taken aback by that revelation.
STRIPLV: Tulip Fever saw you play another period piece. Do you enjoy these kinds of historical dramas?
VIKANDER: I love exploring different times. It’s exciting to do the research and understand how people behaved in different ways and there were different sets of rules governing their behavior. You try to put yourself in the position of a woman in past times whose world was much more restricted, and you try to imagine how you would feel and how you might want to rebel against those limitations. It’s very fascinating.
STRIPLV: Do you become very philosophical or caught up in the lives of a woman like Sophia or other women characters like the one you played in The Light Between the Oceans?
VIKANDER: I become very invested in my characters, and I try very hard to understand their emotional world and their psychology. What’s interesting for me is being able to push myself and get outside of my comfort zone. It may seem strange, but I usually look for roles which scare me and make me worry about whether I can really pull it off. I feel that the more I challenge myself, the more I will evolve as an actor and as an individual.
STRIPLV: How do you view the evolution taking over Hollywood?
VIKANDER: Society is changing for the better, and as long as the conversation continues and continues to continue, positive change will come from that. We cannot accept the norm for what it’s perceived to be. Diversity is the key to telling all stories and where is diversity without women also telling those stories? And I want to actively be involved and do whatever I can in my power to working with incredibly talented women, propelling this shift.
STRIPLV: It’s nearly two years since you won your Oscar but I know you left it behind in LA the day after. Firstly, how could you do that and have you been reunited?
VIKANDER: Well yes, it’s nice, we’re reunited now after a long-distance relationship. It’s tough. (Laughs) Because I was working so much, I envisioned it getting lost with all the travel and it’s also really heavy, there’s no way I could drag it around. So I thought it was a safer option to leave it with my friend’s daughter who I knew would be so careful and caring of him. She was always sending me updates and messages, lots of Facetiming, letting me know he was OK, so that was sweet.
STRIPLV: So your Oscar’s with you in London now? Is it on the mantelpiece?
VIKANDER: I still haven’t decided where he’s going to go. He’s quite eye-catching, you need the right spot.
STRIPLV: You’ve said in the past how you were looking to take some time off, but it doesn’t seem like you’re going to be able to do that?
VIKANDER: I don’t think so. Even after the Oscars (where she won for best-supporting actress for The Danish Girl) I had to rush back and go back to work on the Bourne film. But I still find time here and there where I can turn off my phone and disappear for a while and do yoga and enjoy my time away from the movies. And when I wanted to take several months off I got a call from Wim Wenders (for his new film, Submergence, with James McAvoy) and how was I going to say no to a legendary director like that?
STRIPLV: Do you have any fear when to comes to the added pressure of becoming a major star?
VIKANDER: When you’re working, you never think about any of that. And when I have some free time, I spend it with friends and family I’ve known for many years, and I never feel strange or as if people are treating me differently.
STRIPLV: What’s the oddest thing about traveling so much?
VIKANDER: Once I had a Skype dinner with my friends. We each decided to buy a bottle of wine and cook something for ourselves and then sit at a table and Skype each other. The whole thing started as a joke, but it actually worked. We had such a good time that when it was over, we thought we would all go out for a drink together until of course we quickly realized that we were in different parts of the world. But it was a great night anyway!
STRIPLV: Alicia, you’ve been traveling and working virtually non-stop the last several years. Does it ever seem like a dream?
VIKANDER: Sometimes, but it’s one of those beautiful dreams that keeps unfolding. I love the work that I’m doing, and it’s hard to say no to all these projects that are coming my way because you remember how hard you fought to reach this point. There’s also this fear inside you that tomorrow it’s all going to be over which is something that probably stays with you as an actor your entire life. It’s the nature of the job. And I will always have moments when I’m nervous about how audiences react to my work. It keeps me focused.
STRIPLV: Do you still get nervous when beginning a new film?
VIKANDER: Not as much as before. I remember when I was starting to work on The Danish Girl and Eddie (Redmayne) would keep telling me: “Oh, sit down and relax.” This really made me feel so much more at ease that I could finally bring to the camera the level of performance I wanted to give. I always place very high
expectations on myself.
STRIPLV: You mention Facetiming, but I know you’re not a fan of social media. Has that changed?
VIKANDER: No, not at all. I’m not interested in it; I stay in touch with my friends and family, so I fail to see the need, at least in my life.
STRIPLV: Did you ever have any accounts?
VIKANDER: I did have Facebook, which I used for a while but my interest sort of waned. And I did have Instagram, but I didn’t like the idea of posting pictures every day, there’s a pressure there to post good ones and I lost interest. I’m just not good with it. And I like privacy; I like keeping things to myself.
STRIPLV: Do you think it will be difficult to keep your private life with Michael Fassbender from receiving too much attention?
VIKANDER: It’s something that I’ve chosen not to speak about, and I think that is the best way to deal with it. He’s an amazing actor and the rest I want to keep private.
STRIPLV: Do your parents also still play a big role in your life?
VIKANDER: We’re very close. They know me very well, and I have a lot of confidence in their opinions. It was my father who called me and convinced me to do The Danish Girl because he said it was the best script he had ever read.
STRIPLV: You’ve become close to fashion designer Nicholas Ghesquiere. Do you consider yourself a fashionista?
VIKANDER: I love to wear designer clothes on special occasions and I’m very interested in design and the sheer beauty and art that goes into fashion. But at home, I’m much more comfortable sitting around in my pajamas.
STRIPLV: Your parents separated when you were very young. Obviously, you’ve stayed close to both of them?
VIKANDER: Yes. They’re both very important in my life, and I always maintained a close relationship with my father. He was the one who convinced me to play in A Royal Affair (the 2012 Danish film which won a Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination) because he loved the story so much. It meant that I had to study Danish for eight weeks, but I saw that as a great challenge, and I’m glad that I did it.
STRIPLV: Was it difficult to grow up with two sets of families?
VIKANDER: No, because there was always so much love in each house. I always felt a sense of security and support from both my parents. I never saw them living together, so I grew up thinking that this was the normal situation that they were apart.
STRIPLV: You grew up first wanting to become a ballet dancer. Was acting a natural transition for you?
VIKANDER: After working in Swedish TV I went to study law and I was very interested in becoming a producer. But then I had the chance to do this very important Swedish film, Pure, and that changed everything. After that, I thought that acting was something I loved doing and that I would probably be able to earn my living that way.
STRIPLV: It’s amazing to look back at how far you’ve come since you initially started out wanting to become a dancer growing up in Sweden. What are your memories when it comes to dancing?
VIKANDER: I trained as a ballerina until I was injured and had to have surgery on my foot and I still have problems with my foot and my back today. But I never had the kind of commitment I would have needed to become a professional dancer. My mother was an actress and when I started getting serious about acting, I did so without knowing whether I would ever even get the chance to work outside of Sweden. My dream was to go on stage at the Royal Theatre in Stockholm and try to earn a living working in Swedish films. I was very realistic when it came to my ambitions. But then I saw (fellow Swedish actress) Noomi Rapace play in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which had international success and opened doors for her, and that was when I started thinking that it might be possible to have a career abroad. I moved to London and I worked very hard on practicing my English because I knew that being able to speak the language without an accent would be my biggest challenge competing against other actors in the US and the UK. I’ve worked with some very good English teachers over the last several years, and I still feel I can improve.
STRIPLV: How badly do you miss your life in your native Sweden?
VIKANDER: Sweden will always be a huge part of me. But you know the funny thing? You only start to appreciate your cultural heritage when you’re traveling, and you’ve left your country, which is what happened to me. I’m very glad to have this wonderful opportunity to live and work in so many different cities and see things from a different perspective, but I still feel very close to my country and that special feeling you have for your own culture. That will never change.
STRIPLV: Do you look forward to going back to Sweden whenever you get the chance?
VIKANDER: Yes, but it’s been very hard because I’ve been working so much. I sometimes get homesick for my family and friends but when you’re traveling so much and living in hotel rooms your life becomes very different. I would still love
to go and spend some time on these beautiful islands that we have in Sweden. It’s very peaceful there.
STRIPLV: What’s the most difficult aspect of your life in the film business?
VIKANDER: It’s being out of touch with my friends and family for long periods of time. It’s almost impossible to plan getting together because you never know exactly where you’re going to be because new projects are constantly popping up and you’re often shooting in different parts of the world. I’ve spent the last four or five years living out of three suitcases and going from one hotel to another. But that’s also what makes this life exciting because you don’t know what lies ahead for you.
STRIPLV: You have an advantage in that your English is excellent.
VIKANDER: Thank you! Being able to speak English very well is definitely the most important thing if you want to be able to work internationally. When I did Anna Karenina, I worked very hard on trying to get my accent right. That was a very important step for me because all the work and effort I put into perfecting my English enabled me to keep working in American or British films and it’s like the whole world has opened up to me now and given me a career outside of Sweden.
STRIPLV: You’ve become a fashion icon of late. Designers seem to be rushing to offer you fabulous outfits for every event?
VIKANDER: I love fashion, and for me, these designer outfits are works of art. When you look at the stitching and the attention to detail you can see the handwork that goes into it, the workmanship is incredible. I never had that much money to buy myself clothes like that, and now that I’m able to wear these beautiful outfits it’s unbelievable.
STRIPLV: Do you try to dress very chic when you’re not attending big events?
VIKANDER: (Laughs) I’m starting to pay more attention. But usually, I’m a jeans and T-shirt girl during the day. I’m trying to shop around more for myself and look for interesting pieces whenever I get the chance.
STRIPLV: Do you ever feel like you’re caught up in some strange whirlwind that is taking hold of you?
VIKANDER: It does feel like there’s momentum of its own. It’s a lot of fun, though, and I don’t want it to stop, at least not now! (Laughs)