The Conversation: Actor Mads Mikkelsen on Hannibal, Hollywood remakes and the paparazzi

'Hannibal Lecter is the happiest man I've played'

The reaction to Hannibal has been really positive, you must be pleased?

I've kind of been a bit detached from everything because once we wrapped the show this year I went straight to South Africa to shoot a Western.

How did you go about differentiating your performance from that of Sir Anthony Hopkins?

When I got the first script I couldn't tell what direction it was going in, so I was reluctant. He did it to perfection, so how should we approach it? But I realised this was taking place before he's captured. Normally when you're dealing with psychopaths, there's a reason they are how they are, and in Hannibal's case it's non-existent. He kills because he finds people banal. I call him the fallen angel: he finds beauty in things the rest of us find horrible.

TV and film in Denmark is booming; why now?

It's been like that for a while; I think maybe people have opened their eyes to it. In the mid-Nineties something happened with a lot of directors and actors changing the way of making films in Denmark, and we're still riding on that wave. England and Denmark have a sense of irony and a darker sense of humour that you don't necessarily find in Germany and Sweden. I'm not so surprised that some of the stuff we're making travels well to England.

What do you think of English-language remakes?

What can I say? If the audience doesn't want to embrace the original, I can definitely see the reason for a remake. I felt perhaps The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a little premature. It was a huge hit around the world – it was still running in the theatres – and the Americans at that time were already shooting the remake and I was like, woah! Give it a break of five or six years and get a little inspired and then do it.

In The Hunt you played a man accused of being a sexual predator. Was that difficult?

I try not to carry any character back home because that would be extremely frustrating for my family. It stays with you, of course, if for 14 hours a day you're being accused of something you haven't done and you can't get your frustration out anywhere. Whereas with a character like Hannibal, he's probably the happiest man I've ever played, even though he's doing horrendous things. He's a happy duckling and life is beautiful.

Do you live with your family in Copenhagen?

Yes I do. There's been no real reason to move to LA. The stuff I've done for America has been done in Europe anyway. We made a decision early on that we'd find our base and not shake the children's world as much as mine.

Do they have a paparazzi culture in Copenhagen?

It's nothing like you guys have over there, but it does exist, and there are some quite spectacular shots of me buying a piece of furniture or cigarettes. It's super annoying every time, especially if you're caught with your family. My kids are at the age where they want to stand on their own feet and if they have a new job somewhere and nobody knows who they are, they like that, and all of a sudden they pop up in a magazine out shopping with dad and then they have to start all over again. They want to be themselves and not be looked upon as the daughter or son of me.

Biography

Mads Mikkelsen, 47, was born in Copenhagen. He played the villain in Casino Royale and won Best Actor at Cannes last year for The Hunt. He's the eponymous star of Hannibal, season 1 of which is released on DVD & Blu Ray on 2 September

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