Mikkelsen, the 48-year-old star of NBC television thriller
"Hannibal," is no unknown to Oscar voters. The Danish actor has
starred in three Oscar-nominated films over the last decade from
the nation of about 5.6 million people.
Mikkelsen's work in Hollywood and his association with the upper
echelon of the Danish film industry underscore his ability to
maintain a high profile in both the United States and his home
But any mention of his global recognition may be greeted with a
shrug from the tall Dane known for his steely countenance.
"Denmark is a small country and if I can make two films a year
(here), people start getting sick and tired of you," Mikkelsen
said wryly. "So this is kind of nice. I can do more than one
(film) per year."
Director Thomas Vinterberg's "The Hunt" ("Jagten") is the fourth
Danish film to pick up an Oscar nomination since 2006. It is the
third Oscar-nominated film from Denmark to star Mikkelsen, who
was in the 2012 period film "A Royal Affair" and the 2006 drama
"After the Wedding."
Danish drama "In a Better World," by director Susanne Bier, won
the best-foreign language Oscar in 2011, but did not feature
In "The Hunt," Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a village kindergarten
teacher who is wrongly accused of sexually abusing children at
the school, after a friend's young daughter falsely claims he
exposed himself to her.
The accusations unite the tight-knit community against Lucas,
who is ostracized, arrested, loses nearly all his friends and is
forbidden from the local grocery store.
"When I read the script, without question, it touched me a lot,
and I was frustrated in the same way reading it as the audience
is watching the film," Mikkelsen said.
"The Hunt" will compete against Italy's "The Great Beauty,"
Belgium's "The Broken Circle Breakdown," Cambodia's "The Missing
Picture" and Palestine's "Omar" for the best foreign-language
Oscar on March 2 in Los Angeles.
Mikkelsen's portrayal earned acclaim from critics, who lauded
his ability to evoke subtle emotions from a character at the
center of a witch hunt.
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Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday called his performance
"astonishingly restrained and expressive," while the Wall Street
Journal's Joe Morgenstern praised his "intelligence and formidable
Mikkelsen, also known for his role as James Bond villain Le Chiffre
in 2006's "Casino Royale," is part of a generation of Danish actors
and filmmakers like Vinterberg and director Lars Von Trier that
helped reshape Denmark's image as a hotbed for cutting-edge film.
"Danish film was way behind at that time, and I think that little
groups started springing out and really wanted to make a change,"
Mikkelsen said, noting that actors and filmmakers of this generation
worked closely together.
"We are like a united team, and not as classical as one director and
(actors) just doing what we've been told -- instead, really
collaborating," he added.
Vinterberg said that Von Trier sat in on about 10 days of editing
"The Hunt." The two directors gained international attention
together in 1995 by establishing the now-defunct "Dogme" ("Dogma")
avant-garde film movement, which emphasized the bare basics of
"There's a very strong sense of community here, which means a lot,"
the 44-year-old director said, adding that he and Mikkelsen talked
through the role for "hours and hours and hours" at Vinterberg's
The film, to Vinterberg's surprise, was a box office hit in Denmark,
touching a social nerve as well.
"There's a lot of debate on the film ... it moved from the cultural
pages of the newspapers into the debate pages, which is a great
satisfaction," the director said. "It was a profound success, but,
hey, I needed that."
Mikkelsen won the top actor award for the role at the Cannes Film
Festival in 2012 ahead of the film's January 2013 release in
Denmark. He hopes his third try will be the one to win his homeland
another Oscar statuette.
"It's just a funny dream, and we're just eating up every second of
it and enjoying it," he said. "What way it goes we cannot know."
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Amanda
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