With writer-director David Lowery’s The Green Knight now playing in theaters, I recently spoke with Alicia Vikander about the making of their fantastic film based on the 14th-century Arthurian poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. During the interview, Vikander talked about why she wanted to work on the project, the way the film dives into the complexity of the poem, how Lowery kept the film ambiguous, playing two distinct roles, why filming on location was so important in bringing the story to life, and more. In addition, she gave an update on Tomb Raider 2, how she’s currently filming with Olivier Assayas in Paris right now (it’s an HBO limited series based on Assayas’ 1996 feature film Irma Vep), and how she filmed all her stuff opposite John David Washington in director Ferdinando Cito Filomarino’s Beckett in two days.
If you haven’t seen the trailers, The Green Knight tells the story of Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), who must embark upon a quest to visit the Green Chapel to meet his fate. Along the way, Gawain encounters numerous obstacles which test his resolve and character. Trust me, you have not seen a movie like The Green Knight and Lowery has crafted something truly special that will leave you thinking about the experience long after the movie has ended. The Green Knight also stars Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris as King Arthur, Kate Dickie as Queen Guinevere, Sarita Choudhury as Morgan Le Fay, Erin Kellyman, and Barry Keoghan.
Check out what Alicia Vikander had to say below.
COLLIDER: What TV series would you love to guest star on?
ALICIA VIKANDER: Hmm, I would love to be, oh, maybe BoJack Horseman would be fun.
What movie do you think you’ve seen the most?
VIKANDER: Probably and this is the only until I was like 10 or 15, but I think The Lion King and Some Like It Hot.
That’s an interesting combo. You’ve been acting for a long time. When did you think that you had made it as an actor, in terms of you could do this for a living and pay rent?
VIKANDER: I think it was around the time when I did A Royal Affair in Denmark… maybe leading up to my first English speaking role after that, because in Sweden and Denmark, or in Scandinavia, you can’t make too many films a year, it’s hard to find work. I think when I did my first English-speaking part after that, then I was thinking, “Oh, now my possibilities are a lot greater if I would be able to continue making films in English as well.”
I’ve already seen Beckett, which is coming out very soon. John David Washington did a great job in the film. What was it about that project that said, “I want to do that.”?
VIKANDER: I was filming Green Knight. I flew in for two days. I was already friends with the director, Fernando, and I followed him, trying to get this film together. Then John David was going to be part of it. And in the end, they all said that I had to come and join, and I said, “I would love to.” Also, because I would love to work with John David that I had a wonderful time doing those things with. So I literally flew back and forth from Dublin in two days.
You filmed everything that you did in Beckett in two days?
I am completely shocked and amazed. I’m very surprised by that. Jumping into Green Knight…scripts like this don’t come around that often. How did you get involved in the project?
VIKANDER: Well, I met David, and I’ve been a huge admirer of him for a long time. When getting to know one another and the thing is like, oh, we hope to work together one day. Then he said, “Well, I am working on this thing. I had this idea of adapting this poem.” He did mention it. He’s like, “Burt there’s not really a lot of women in it, but it’s based on the Sir Gawain.”
He sent me the script and I was just blown away. I think he is such an incredible mind. I mean, we’ve seen obviously a lot of films or adaptations of knights around the round table, but I haven’t really seen anyone who dared to tackle one of the original poems in kind of its essence. There’s a reason why the doctors and people who have made essays and examined this poem for years in different eras in times.
He dared to bring his own take and wasn’t scared from bringing up the real complexity that this poem handled, the questions about morality and about life and endeavored to keep the film as ambiguous and as magical. I knew in his hands and also Andrew Droz Palermo, our cinematographer, that we were going to make something as beautiful and as enchanting, and honor the genre and be able to stand next to a lot of other big fantasy pictures as well.
So it was already this kind of mirror reference between these two female characters. I asked him about, and he said that it had been there when he wrote it. Then he hadn’t mentioned what role I was going to read for. We talked about it. But then he came back and asked if I wanted to play both. I would have said yes to be part of the film, but getting to do that double role was of course, a very fun challenge.
I was going to say that it’s not too often an actor gets to play two distinct roles that are both excellent in the same movie.
VIKANDER: No, no, no. It was. Then, of course, we worked a lot … I mean, I’m clearly the same person playing both. So we worked mostly on making sure that these characters were very different and then it’s that thing about it. I mean, it’s a coming-of-age story about a man who sees that the grass is always greener on the other side, and he longs for adventure and for riches. He ends up meeting a lady in a castle that he looks up to and admires enormously, but he can’t, or he chooses not to see that she might have the same face as the woman that was already with him and next to him back home.
There’s so much in this movie that I love that I can’t wait to talk about with people. You just brought up one of the things. I love learning about the behind-the-scenes of the making of a movie. What do you think might surprise people to learn about the making of Green Knight?
VIKANDER: I think he’s done such a brilliant job. Nowadays, when you make, especially more smaller sized, budget-wise, genre movies, you fight with the reality that those films are going to be standing next to films in the same genre that has a lot more muscle behind them. With this, I know he wanted to make this lyrical, complex story, but he also wanted it to be honoring this world of fantasy and to know when you look at it … I mean, it looks to me, so stunning and so large and big, and I’m totally invested in and think that I’ve traveled into this world that David’s created. But it’s really down to the fantastic crew and artists that he gathered in all departments that brought it to the highest of levels everywhere, to make sure that this film that doesn’t have the highest budget was able to make it feel as big and grand as it should be. I haven’t seen the behind the scenes, but I hope that, that comes through, that people see that.
I think also the practical locations that are used really amplify the film, because you can’t recreate that on a soundstage.
VIKANDER: Yeah, that’s not fake film smoke. That’s real. It’s super cold, it’s rainy, but it’s also the most spectacular, beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. And suddenly you feel very close to history, that the poem that is 700 years old feels like it was just describing things you’re looking at. Even when you see, again, what I talked about, it’s not CGI. The Green Knight’s, you can see in the trailer as well. You’ve seen what it looks like. It was fantastic for an actor to step up, and the makeup and the work that was put into creating the creature was incredible. That also brings to the magic that happens and that you feel on set.
Obviously, it wasn’t your crown, but did you possibly take the crown home? And what do I need to do to get it from you?
VIKANDER: Oh, I know. It’s cool. Isn’t it?
It’s very cool.
VIKANDER: Yeah. Well, I totally forgot to steal it, but thank you for reminding me. No, I don’t know where it is now, but one thing that happened though, I’ve got a photo, like a few weeks ago from David. It was not the crown, but Essel’s hair. The wig had made it into Peter Pan and Wendy somehow. Yeah, so I thought that was cool, and she’s with him in spirits. She’s there.
So have you seen the finished film of Green Knight?
VIKANDER: Yes, I have.
I was going to say, this is one of those movies where everything David did in post-production in this film, from the music, to the VFX, it really brings everything together. Can you sort of talk about your reaction to the finished film?
VIKANDER: I saw quite a few cuts along the way…so it started with him sharing his Spotify list, when I read the script. I must say that, I think that was the first thing that made me get a sense of … It’s a wonderful, easy access into the mind of the person who’s writing and directing, because I was like, “Oh, so this is the tone.”
He also sent a lot of images, a lot of references of things that we don’t have in the film, but that made me get a sense of the world that he was after. So I think it was gradually that I got that experience. But yes, in the end, he’s created his own universe. In one way, I think he kind of mixed up and heightened the impact that I think the poem now will have for a modern audience. I think he leaves a lot of possibilities open and so many subjects open, so it also makes it possible for all the emotions, with the music and the visuals to echo a lot deeper, in very individual ways for each person who watches it.
I completely agree. I think the last time I spoke to you, might’ve been for Tomb Raider. I was curious are you making another one? Is a sequel actually happening?
VIKANDER: Yeah. Pre-COVID, I would’ve said yes. And now I think it’s a yes still. It’s not greenlit, but the script is in the making. And I think everyone is excited, and I would love to revisit Lara again.
Is it one of those things where you’ve actually read multiple versions of the script, or is it been something that’s being worked on for a while?
VIKANDER: No, it’s very recent. It’s really now when the world is up and running again, and Misha is on board and she’s working on the script right now. So I’m very excited to sort of read something very soon.
Do you know what you’re going to be doing later this year in terms of movies or TV?
VIKANDER: I’m shooting with Olivier Assayas and A24 again now in Paris. It’s a limited series, kind of influenced by Olivia’s film Irma Vep.
Oh, nice. It’s very tough having to spend time in Paris. It’s very hard.
VIKANDER: Yeah, exactly. Very, very tough being there for four months.
No, no, it has to be very rough, eating croissants and drinking espresso.
VIKANDER: Yeah (laughing).
The Green Knight is now playing in theaters.
‘The Green Knight’ will ride into theaters on July 30.
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