The man in the bowling jacket, with a mystifying disregard for the unspoken code of the Chateau—do not talk to celebrities—approaches the table. He apologizes at length for interrupting, but continues to interrupt. “Viggo, right?” he says to Mikkelsen, confusing him for another actor of Danish descent.
“Yes,” Mikkelsen says, apparently trying to end the moment as quickly as possible. But the man keeps going: “Can you do a straight American accent?”
Mikkelsen says he cannot, and then clarifies for the man that he is not Viggo Mortensen. “My name is Mads, Mads Mikkelsen.”
The man feigns recognition, and Mikkelsen gamely tries to shepherd him back to safer chit-chat, asking him about his accent (Scottish). The man rejects the rescue. He says he has a film that Mikkelsen—or Mortensen—would be perfect for. When he makes his exit, an awkward moment of silence follows.
Mikkelsen says he is mistaken for his doppelDaner (even though Mortensen is technically American) with some regularity, including one memorable occasion when paparazzi saw him leaving a hotel he was staying at during the Toronto International Film Festival. “I was a little famous at that point, but not that they would necessarily recognize me,” he recalls. One photographer saw him, then the others, and suddenly the clicks of cameras rose around him like cicadas. “Viggo, Viggo!” they called out to him; the next day, several publications misidentified him in their photos.
He later ran into Mortensen at another festival, and told him about the incident. Mortensen, he recalls, did not believe him. “And then we went in on the red carpet, me first and then him after. And they all shouted ‘Viggo’ at me. And he was right behind me! It was so fucking immaculate,” he says.
Mortensen lived in Denmark briefly but left before Danish cinema hit its renaissance, Mikkelsen explains, and then he landed Lord of the Rings. “He was a movie star before the rest of us started doing interesting things in Denmark. And he’s slightly older than me.” He points at my notebook. “Put that down.”
He would be pleased if the sort of roles that come his way in Denmark—or the sort of American roles that come to Mortensen and Coster-Waldau, whom Mikkelsen remembers militantly practicing British and American accents by reading aloud from newspapers—were offered to him as well. But in Hollywood, he observes, the leading men and women of blockbusters still tend to be very all-American—“which I’m not.” If you’re not Harrison Ford, you’re a character actor.
An American accent doesn’t come easily to him, either, and he worries that it would be distracting if he put one on. Except for leaning British in Hannibal—not “full British,” but enough to give his character a spooky over-educated lilt—he does not typically diverge from his Danish accent.
He could surely deliver an unaccented yeehaw if he felt called to do so; he could easily shape-shift into Matt Michaelson, all-American leading man. “Mads can do anything,” Mangold writes, adding that he’d love to see him in a musical. “Absolutely anything.”