You may know him as the villain Le Chiffre from the James Bond movie Casino Royale, or as the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter in NBC’s TV series Hannibal. He has also starred in a number of Hollywood blockbusters, including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Doctor Strange. But before he became an international star, Mads Mikkelsen was just a shy boy from Denmark who never expected to achieve such fame.
From humble beginnings to becoming an acclaimed actor on both the big and small screen, this is Mads Mikkelsen’s story. Here we will explore how he rose to fame, discuss his greatest achievements and shed light on some lesser known facts about the man behind the character. Along the way you’ll discover what drives him, what makes him special and how he has stayed true to himself while engaging with Hollywood superstardom.
The Early Life of Mads Mikkelsen
Mads Mikkelsen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, on November 22nd, 1965. As a shy boy growing up in the small city of Østerbro, Mads had few ambitions beyond going out with his friends and staying out of trouble. He didn’t consider himself particularly talented or even interested in acting until a teacher noticed his potential during an extracurricular theater class.
With his teacher’s encouragement, Mads attended the National Theater School of Denmark—an experience that would transform his career. In addition to traditional acting classes, students at the NTSD are also trained extensively in movement, voice acting and stage combat. Mads excelled in all these areas and after graduating from the program he began landing leading roles on both stage and screen.
Thanks to these early successes, Mads quickly became one of Denmark’s most sought-after actors and by the late 1990s had introduced himself to international audiences through roles in Danish films like Open Hearts and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.
Breaking Into Acting in Denmark
Mads Mikkelsen was always a shy, introverted boy growing up in Copenhagen, Denmark. His parents were both avid theatergoers, though, so he had a good appreciation for the stage from an early age. But it wasn’t until after he left college that he decided to become an actor professionally.
At the age of 25, Mads headed to Vienna, Austria, to study at The Otto Falckenberg School of Performing Arts. After two years of training there, he returned to Denmark and began appearing in theater productions for the Royal Danish Theater. His debut performance as a star came in 1995 when he played Mephisto in the Faust production.
From then on his career exploded. He won several awards at one of the largest festivals for new European plays and started appearing in more prominent theater productions across Europe. His first major feature film was Nicholas Winding Refn’s Pusher (1996) where he played a drug dealer–an ironic role considering Mikkelsen’s own past struggles with alcohol addiction earlier in life.
Becoming a Household Name in Denmark
Mads Mikkelsen is a household name in Denmark—but it wasn’t always that way.
In the early 2000s, Mikkelsen rose to prominence in his native country with a series of iconic roles. He starred in the Danish television drama Rejseholdet from 2000-2004, an intense police procedural that gained critical and commercial acclaim. He also starred in several Danish films, including Open Hearts (2002) and Adam’s Apples (2005).
His star continued to rise, and by 2005 he was featured on Time magazine’s list of Europe’s most influential people. This international recognition opened the door for Hollywood roles. He was cast as nefarious French bond villain Le Chiffre in 2006’s Casino Royale and has since gone on to star in blockbuster films such as Doctor Strange (2016).
Today, Mads is one of Denmark’s most recognized actors—and it all began with his breakthrough roles in early 2000s Denmark.
Transition to International Fame
Mads Mikkelsen rose to international fame with his portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the acclaimed series, Hannibal. The show, based on the popular psychological thriller novels of Thomas Harris, was a huge success and brought Mikkelsen worldwide recognition and a plethora of awards.
Mikkelsen’s performance as Lecter was praised for its complexity and subtlety; he humanized the character in ways never seen before while still maintaining the charm and menace that had become such an integral part of Dr. Lecter’s persona.
Mikkelsen seized every opportunity to make sure his performance was as convincing as possible. He trained with experts in criminal psychology in order to fully understand how a serial killer would behave and think, even going so far as to take lessons in French cooking so that he could replicate Lecter’s culinary skills on the show accurately.
The hard work and dedication paid off; Hannibal earned Mikkelsen an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, solidifying his place as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors.
Memorable Roles in Hollywood Blockbusters
Despite being relatively unknown in the United States, Mads Mikkelsen soon became a household name after starring in Hollywood blockbusters such as Doctor Strange, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Fury.
Mikkelsen has played villainous roles to great effect, most notably as Bond villain Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. He also portrayed the enigmatic Galen Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a role for which he received much critical acclaim.
In Doctor Strange, Mikkelsen played Kaecilius – a powerful sorcerer who seeks to unravel the fabric of reality and use it for his own sinister purposes. His performance was widely praised by critics for its complexity and nuanced portrayal of the character.
The actor has also appeared in other major films such as Clash of The Titans, The Three Musketeers, The Hunt and Men & Chicken. His diverse range of roles demonstrate not just his amazing acting talent but also his impressive versatility and range.
Mads Mikkelsen continues to build on his success as an international star. He is set to appear in the 2021 movie, ‘Candyman’. He will also star in the upcoming Danish-Swedish original series ‘The Resistance Banker’ and have a role in the new film ‘Chaos Walking’.
Mads has also expressed interest in directing and producing films, as well as writing plays. He is currently developing a series for Netflix called ‘The North’, based on his own novel of the same name. The show is about a group of Norse gods who travel to present day Reykjavik and become embroiled in a murder mystery. It promises to be an exciting and original take on Norse mythology and culture.
Mads shows no signs of slowing down as he continues to take on bold roles and challenge himself with each endeavor. With more projects on the horizon, audiences can expect even more dynamic performances from one of Hollywood’s favorite actors.
Mads Mikkelsen is an international star and one of the most respected actors of his generation, having earned himself Hollywood’s respect with his intense and compelling performances. From a shy Danish boy, Mikkelsen has emerged as a global superstar with a career spanning film, television, and the theatrical stage. His remarkable journey is testament to his talent, hard work, and dedication, having overcome his shyness, language barriers, and the prejudice of nationality to make a name for himself across the world.