Mads Mikkelsen has already had a very busy—and cold—start to 2019. 

Over the last week, the Danish actor's film Polar, Netflix’s adaptation of Victor Santos’ neo-noir comic book, was released on the streaming service, while his upcoming performance in Arctic really needs to be seen to be believed. More on that later, though. 

When it comes to Polar, Mikkelsen takes on the role of renowned assassin Duncan Vizla, effortlessly switching from brooding to intensely violent with aplomb.

“There is a certain film noir to him,” Mikkelsen tells Metro. “He’s retiring, he’s lethal, but not a bodybuilder, he’s just heavy and tired. There are two worlds here. There’s the film noir world and then there is this colorful world of other characters."

 

Mads Mikkelsen talks Polar and Arctic

Juxtaposing these two worlds, and making sure that the film honored the beloved source material, was something that Mikkelsen, who also produced Polar, and the rest of the creative team worked tirelessly to perfect. Especially when it came to the unique color palette of the graphic novels. 

“It was tricky when we had to imagine some of the other characters who were like ten times bigger than some of the other characters physically,” says Mikkelsen. “Obviously that’s a trick you can get away with in a graphic novel. So we had to figure out how to give the characters an edge that had the same feel.”

“The graphic novels are amazing. I just love them,” he adds. “The red, white and black colors, the brutality of them, the exploitation kind of feel to them and the film noir. I just think they were brilliant.”

Shooting Polar was a stroll in the park compared to Arctic, which sees Mads Mikkelsen play a man stranded in the Arctic waiting for rescue, only for the intended helicopter to crash when it arrives, leaving him with just hours to try and get her to safety. 

“It was insane, madness,” says Mikkelsen regarding the shoot, which consisted of just a small movable crew. “The conditions you see are the ones we went through. You can’t have too many props and too many costumes in a situation like that. We had to move fast and quick. If there was a blizzard we had to be able to move within two minutes.”

The conditions were so brutal that its 30 day shoot was reduced to just 19, meaning each day devoted to filming had to be twice as long. Mikkelsen admits that, by the end of each day, he couldn’t even “walk any more.”

“It just became more and more brutal. But God is the main character,” says Mikkelsen. “The weather and the landscape, they were our biggest obstacle and also our biggest friend. Because of all the freebies it gave us. You just can’t create that with money.”

Not that Mads Mikkelsen could ever truly appreciate just how incredible the locations would look on film. “I tell you, I don’t think I had the energy to imagine how it was looking,” he recalls. “I was just basically like, ‘Left foot. Okay. Now right foot.”

Mads Mikkelsen

Ultimately, though, Mikkelsen doesn’t see Arctic as just a survival film. 

“Of course, on the surface, it is a survival film,” Mikkelsen explains. “But what we’re addressing on a different level is there’s a big difference between surviving and being alive.”

“Being alive takes at least one more human being in your close vicinity,” he adds. “In many ways, she is his savior as well. She’s making him give up that base camp dwelling and go out and live life. They depend on each other to stay human.”

Arctic is in select theaters on Feb. 1. Polar is now on Netflix.

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