France honours ‘villain’ Mads Mikkelsen and star director

France on Wednesday honoured Bond villain Mads Mikkelsen with a top civilian award, paying tribute to him as a "fascinating" actor whose "face tells it all".

France honours 'villain' Mads Mikkelsen and star director
Best known for playing villains, Mads Mikkelsen stepped into the hero role on Wednesday. Photo: Frit/AmbassadedeFrance/DK
The 50-year-old Danish actor, best known for playing baddie Le Chiffre in the 2006 Bond film “Casino Royale” received the honour at a ceremony in Copenhagen alongside Danish film director Thomas Vinterberg.
Conferring the honour of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres), France's ambassador to Denmark François Zimeray described Mikkelsen as “an all-round actor, whose face tells it all: the hardships and joys of life”.
“Mads Mikkelsen takes a risk every time he embodies a new character, a fascinating actor like a man on the edge of the abyss,” he said in a statement.
The former professional dancer won the best actor prize at Cannes in 2012 for his role in Vinterberg's psychological thriller 'The Hunt' (Jagten).
“My return to Cannes as member of the jury next month will be a new chapter in my love story with France,” he said.
In addition to his Bond role, Mikkelsen also gained international fame by portraying Dr. Hannibal Lecter through three seasons of the US series 'Hannibal'. He'll also feature prominently in the upcoming 'Doctor Strange' and 'Star Wars: Rogue One' films.
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Mikkelsen and Vinterberg were presented the honour by French Ambassador François Zimeray
Mikkelsen and Vinterberg were presented the honour by French Ambassador François Zimeray. Photo: Frit/AmbassadedeFrance/DK
Conferring the same honour on Vinterberg, 46, Zimeray described him as a film-maker who “exposes the dark sides of human nature with audacity”.
The film director co-founded the Dogme 95 movement, an avant-garde filmmaking movement, with Lars von Trier, and won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 1998 for The Celebration, the first of the Dogme movies.
“I am particularly proud to be awarded this distinction by France, a country which relentlessly fights to protect, encourage and respect arts and culture,” he said.
Vinterberg found himself at the centre of controversy in February while promoting his newest film ‘The Commune’ (Kollektivet) which is based on his own experiences growing up in a Copenhagen collective in the 1970s.
The director told media at the Berlin Film Festival that he was ashamed to be Danish in light of the current political climate in Denmark. 
“I’m very shameful to be a Dane. I’m very shameful about the political life in our country and if there’s anything that can be brought from this film to inspire people to share and not humiliate other people I would be very happy,” he said to applause.

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‘Another Round’: a spirited Oscar-winning ode to life

Danish film ‘Another Round’ (‘Druk’ in the original Danish), which won an Oscar on Sunday for best international feature film, is a dark existential comedy about the joys and dangers of being drunk, and letting go to embrace life.

'Another Round': a spirited Oscar-winning ode to life
Thomas Vinterberg accepts the Oscar for International Feature Film on behalf of Denmark.Photo: A.m.p.a.s/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

It is the fourth Danish film to win an Oscar for best non-English language film, after ‘In A Better World’ in 2011, ‘Pelle the Conqueror’ in 1989 and ‘Babette’s Feast’ in 1988.

Filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg, who is also nominated for best director, gave a moving, tearful speech, paying tribute to his daughter Ida, who was killed in a car accident four days after shooting began in May 2019.

“We ended up making this movie for her, as her monument,” Vinterberg said at the gala in Los Angeles.

“So, Ida, this is a miracle that just happened, and you’re a part of this miracle. Maybe you’ve been pulling some strings somewhere, I don’t know. But this one is for you.”

The movie is set around four old friends, all teachers at a high school near Copenhagen. Martin, played by Mads Mikkelsen, is a history teacher going through a midlife crisis, depressed about his monotone life.

To spice things up, the quartet decides to test an obscure theory that humans are born with a small deficit of alcohol in their blood, resolving to keep their blood alcohol level at a constant 0.05 percent from morning till night.

At first, they experience the liberating joys of inebriation, before things quickly go from bad to worse. 

But the film refrains from passing moral judgement or glorifying alcohol.

“‘Another Round’ is imagined as a tribute to life. As a reclaiming of the irrational wisdom that casts off all anxious common sense and looks down into the very delight of lust for life … although often with deadly consequences,” Vinterberg said when the movie came out last year.

Vinterberg was devastated by the loss of his daughter, and production on the movie was briefly halted, but he soon resumed shooting.

He said he was spurred on by a letter she had written about her enthusiasm for the project, in which she was to have had a role.

But the film took on a new dimension.

“The film wasn’t going to be just about drinking anymore. It had to be about being brought back to life,” Vinterberg said in the only in-depth interview he has given about her death, in June 2020 to Danish daily Politiken.

Selected for the 2020 Cannes Film Festival which ended up being cancelled due to the pandemic, ‘Another Round has already won several awards, including a BAFTA for best film not in the English language, and a Cesar in France for best foreign film.

The film is carried by Mikkelsen, who previously teamed up with Vinterberg in the 2012 psychological thriller ‘The Hunt’ (‘Jagten’).

In one of the most talked-about scenes in ‘Another Round’, Mikkelsen even shows off his dance talent — the former Bond villain was a professional contemporary dancer before becoming an actor.

READ ALSO: How Danish Oscar-nominated dark booze comedy was inspired by director’s tragic loss