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Mads Mikkelsen on murder, bad auditions, and what Benedict Cumberbatch smells like

We spoke to the actor about coconut shrimp soup and killing people with his bare hands

Mads Mikkelsen on murder, bad auditions, and what Benedict Cumberbatch smells like
16 March 2017

We chat to the great Dane about how he would kill someone, and whether or not Benedict Cumberbatch stinks.

Mads, you were a gymnast when you started out. Of all the athletes, are gymnasts the buffest?

Yeah, I’m tempted to say that. They are extremely technical and they are extremely fit and strong in a way that no one else is. If you ever get the chance to arm-wrestle a gymnast, you have no idea what hit you. They look like fucking monsters. I was a tiny one though.

In your prime could you have beaten anyone in an arm wrestle?

Yeah, I could beat pretty much everyone who was 20-30 kilos bigger than me just because there was a different kind of strength in it and a persistence that was surprising to everyone. And of course you have to cheat a little when you’re small.

Would you recommend gymnastics as an exercise to men?

Any time. Absolutely.

You grew up watching Bruce Lee films.

I was a dedicated fan. I kind of dressed up like him and I certainly believed that I had his skills as well. Him and Buster Keaton were two enormous icons when I was a kid.

What’s your favourite Bruce Lee film?

He only made five so it’s really hard to pick. The one he didn’t finish was a favourite of mine – Game of Death. There are some extremely iconic stunts in there.

You worked with Benedict Cumberbatch for Dr Strange. There’s lots of love and admiration for Cumberbatch but please tell us something about him that is unattractive.

Unattractive? Besides the fact that he’s British?

Besides that.

No, he’s a gentleman, he’s the hardest working man in the business. In all his films he’s always playing some kind of a specialist and he always takes his time and makes a great effort to understand it and master it as much as he can.

So he doesn’t smell?

He didn’t smell at all. He smelled well; he had a very nice odour.

Shame. You’ve spoken about auditioning for Fantastic Four and finding it an excruciating process. Can you remember any other particularly bad auditions?

I’ve had tons of them. We’ve all been there. We all show up and it’s a little office room with a desk and some books and they want you to do a scene where you have two lines – maybe not even two lines – maybe just “Bleurgh!” or “Get back!” And you’re hiding behind a palm tree that’s not there. It’s like, “Guys, couldn’t you have picked a different kind of scene to this? This is fucking mad.” You feel like an idiot.

Have you actually walked out of any?

I think I walked out on the Fantastic Four one. I think I actually said, “I can’t do it. It’s not about you, I’m sorry, this is wrong.”

Do you still have to audition these days, or do calls just come straight to you?

I have auditions. I auditioned for the Hannibal TV show.

Speaking of Hannibal – if you had to kill someone, how would you do it?

If it’s a passion thing, if it’s something you’re passionate about, you have to use your hands. There’s no way around it. A gun is out of the question. You’ve got to use your hands. If it’s personal life, yes, hands.

Why is a gun out of the question?

If you use your hands, it becomes more personal. If you can live with the aftermath of it, there is apparently a much bigger satisfaction, using your hands. And that will be the advice to all of you readers.

Good to be able to pass that on. Is there any Danish dish that you’re particularly proud of being able to cook?

There’s quite a few things I like from Danish cuisine but I’m not so good at doing it. So I tend to cook Asian food, Thai food – things where you can just throw it into a wok, with a lot of spicy chili on. Especially the coconut shrimp soup, which I have not yet tasted in any restaurant that was better than mine. They have to pull themselves together now.

How are Danes different from other Scandinavian people?

It’s a cliché to say but I think we have more in common than what separates us. The Finnish have always been quite different from the rest of us because they have a completely different family of language. But obviously Norwegians, Swedes and Danes have been conquering each other and stealing each other’s land throughout history. I would say we were probably the naughty boy in the class; to a degree, much more politically incorrect than the Swedes (everybody is actually, so that’s easy). I would say that the Danes have more in common with the British sense of humour; the irony, the sarcasm, the dryness.

You were in the music video for Rihanna’s song ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’. What’s your favourite Rihanna song?

I wasn’t really aware of who she was so I had to double-check with my kids. And they were screaming in my face: “You fucking moron! Don’t you know who she is?? If you don’t do this I’ll kill you.” So I’ve heard a few things. I think she varies a lot; she has a broad palette of different styles. But I have a soft spot for ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ because, after all, I am the bitch.

Star Wars: Rogue One is out on DVD on 10 April.