Exclusive: Casino Royale’s Le Chiffre!

When the new James Bond movie Casino Royale hits theatres in November, the eyes of the world won’t only be on the new actor playing 007, Daniel Craig, because Craig will have to face an equally talented Danish actor at the poker tables of Le Casino Royale in Montenegro, France. That man is Mads Mikkelsen, who takes on the role of Le Chiffre, the bad guy from Ian Fleming’s very first James Bond book, who is trying to make money at the casino to pay back a debt to terrorists.

Mikkelsen started out in a Danish movie called Pusher, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, which was just re-released here as part of The Pusher Trilogy and he’s also starred in some of the more noteworthy Danish movies that have made their way to these shores in recent years.

James Bond Hype! caught up with one of Denmark’s finest actors and found out everything there was to know about his high profile bad guy role… and he also gives us a few tips on how to play poker like a Bond villain!

James Bond Hype!: “Casino Royale” will be your second big budget English language film, right?

Mads Mikkelsen: This is the second English produced thing. I’ve done a couple things from a Danish producer where we do speak English, but this is the second one, yeah, and these are the only two ones I’ve done in this league.

JBH!: I met the casting director in the Bahamas earlier this year, and she said that she was familiar with your previous work, so I assume they approached you to play Le Chiffre. What was the audition process like?

Mikkelsen: Well, the thing is that I couldn’t make it for the first couple of auditions, because I was working on a revenge film in Prague, so I just thought that I might be number 2,000 on the list, but they kept calling me back three times. Eventually, I made it. I was dressed up and I was about to do a scene with Daniel [Craig], but at that time, they’ve all seen my work and they were quite busy, so I got the job without doing the casting, which was kind of an anti-climax, but still, I enjoyed that.

JBH!: Had you read the book before then and were you familiar with it?

Mikkelsen: No, I read the script at that time. Martin [Campbell] had given me the script, and that’s what I focused on. We’re doing that script and not the book, so I didn’t see any reason to go back to it. I will definitely read it now and I will see the films as well.

JBH!: Oh, you haven’t seen any of the Bond films before?

Mikkelsen: Yeah, yeah, the films, but not the “Casino Royale” versions. You got two versions of that, the comedy version and a TV version. It’s different, and it’s Orson Welles and Peter Lorre [playing Le Chiffre] and there’s no reason to look at what they’re doing, because those are major shoes to wear, so I’ll just do my own work.

JBH!: In the way they’re doing this, you really are playing Bond’s first villain, so what do you consider the secret of being a good or bad first villain for Bond to face?

Mikkelsen: Yeah, if you look at it that way, I’m the first one, but I don’t think about it like the first or the last or the man in the middle. I just look at it as the character, and the character is on the page and he’s in the mind of the director, and that’s where we take it from.

JBH!: In this case, is LeChiffre a terrorist or is he more of a banker-type like in the book?

Mikkelsen: He’s not a terrorist. He’s got people around him who are terrorists, he works for them, he launders money for them. He’s not in the slightest bit interested in policy at all. He doesn’t care what the course is as long as he can make some money on it. He has no political agenda at all, so I would say that he’s probably representing some of the countries and some of the major companies in the world right now, but is not even the slightest bit interested in what’s happening as long as there’s money in there.

JBH!: Did you get to go down to the Bahamas at all or were you mainly in Prague?

Mikkelsen: No, I didn’t do Bahamas. I was there last year on a different thing, but everybody came back from there with a tan, and I was waiting for them in Prague. Isn’t that terrible? Well, my character is a little more vampiric. He stays inside. He doesn’t like the sunshine, so that’s fine. I’m just pale and that’s good.

JBH!: Is there a certain amount of ruthlessness you wanted to bring to the character or is it more about being cool, calm and collected?

Mikkelsen: Every good character, if it’s good or bad, they have to have that dualism inside of them. If you play the baddie, you have to find something likeable about them, and that goes with the good guy as well, find something unlikable and that’s what we tried to do with this one as well.

JBH!: Tonni, your character in the “Pusher” movies isn’t really a bad guy, but he’s kind of questionable. Do you like playing that kind of character where you don’t know if they’re good or bad?

Mikkelsen: Tonni’s a different thing. He’s just a loser in the wrong environment, isn’t he? So that’s a totally different story. That’s a guy who thinks he’s on top of the world and everybody looks at him and laughs, that’s a different thing. The Bond villain is definitely on top of his world, but he’s been brought down by Bond, and he doesn’t like that.

JBH!: Did you get in on any of the action in the movie? I know in the book there’s a pretty serious car chase.

Mikkelsen: As I said before, I am pulling the strings. I got people around me to do the heavy stuff, but eventually, I do have to get my hands out of the pockets because I’m the only one left, so I have to do stuff as well, yeah.

JBH!: I assume that Le Chiffre would have a driver, but I also know there’s a lot of cool cars in the Bond movies. Did you get a chance to drive any of them?

Mikkelsen: I have some nice cars I’m driving in, but I’m not driving myself. I’m relaxing in the passenger’s seat. But I saw the stunts with the Aston Martins, and the stunts are unbelievable.

JBH!: But did you get a chance to drive any of the cars off-camera at least?

Mikkelsen: Yeah, me and Daniel went out for a spin with the Aston, but we couldn’t tell anyone because I wasn’t insured. I was in the passenger seat again…write that!

JBH!: Wait… you and Daniel were driving in a car together? Wouldn’t that ruin the image of you as a Bond villain?

Mikkelsen: Oh, yeah. Well, you can’t say that either… I was chasing him in the car!

JBH!: Okay, that’s better. I know that at one point, Le Chiffre viciously tortures Bond. Did you get any pleasure doing those things to Daniel Craig?

Mikkelsen: Yeah, definitely. That’s always fun, to have people exactly where you want them and nailed down on a chair and I’m pulling the strings. That was a funny scene.

JBH!: Did you deliberately try to make mistakes so you’d have to do extra takes of beating him?

Mikkelsen: (laughs) No, I’m sure that Daniel thought that once in a while. He had a hard day. He was screaming for eight or nine hours, and maybe I was hanging a jacket somewhere in the background and it just fell down, so we had to reshoot it. At one point, I’m sure that Daniel thought that I was doing that on purpose, but I wasn’t. (chuckles maniacally)

JBH!: Do you have a favorite Bond villain yourself?

Mikkelsen: Oh, the guy that scared me the most was Jaws, and I realized later on that he wasn’t a bad guy in the second film he did, but I just remember him as a scary person.

JBH!: The sequels to your first movie “Pusher” were finally released here a few months back. Was it strange playing Tonni again after so long?

Mikkelsen: Yeah, that was kind of weird. It was almost ten years actually from when we did the first one, and it was weird because obviously I’ve changed a lot in ten years, but the character hasn’t at all. Heh heh. But once we took the hair off and started putting the tattoos on his skull, there he was, more happy than ever.

JBH!: So you had time to grow your hair back since then, but was that bald look your original look when you did the first movie?

Mikkelsen: No, no, we took the hair off for the first film as well, so those are the only two times I’ve been bald.

JBH!: Tonni took over the main role in the sequel, but we didn’t see him in the third movie. Any thoughts on what might have happened to him after the second movie? (POSSIBLE SPOILERS!)

Mikkelsen: Yeah, it’s pretty obvious that he’s taking the bus with the kid, and there might be a lot of cops waiting for him in a couple stops. And if he makes it, who wants to grow up with that kind of dad in a ways? It’s a lose-lose situation, but what he’s doing is he’s winning slightly in terms of the film.

JBH!: Now that you’re done shooting the new Bond movie, are you going to go back and do more Danish indie movies?

Mikkelsen: Yeah, I’m sure I will. Why not? Whatever happens over here, it’s just icing on the cake, a plus, so if I can do both, I’m a happy man.

JBH!: Do you think it will be hard to return to doing indie movies after what must have been a fairly cushy lifestyle on the Bond movie?

Mikkelsen: Nah, it’s not that hard. I’m Danish, I’m used to it.

JBH!: Do you think you’d try to work with Nicolas Refn again on something?

Mikkelsen: Oh, yeah, hopefully. We started out together, so hopefully, we’ll finish up together when we’re 90 as well.

JBH!: Maybe he’ll return to the “Pusher” movies in 50 years to pay off his lifetime as debt, since he told me that having debt was why he decided to do the sequels.

Mikkelsen: Yeah, that’s his way of approaching stuff. It’s not a bad something to do this as a business as well, but basically, he just made a fantastic script and we wanted to do that, and if he’s in need of money, it’s fine that this film can make some money for him.

JBH!: What’s the industry like in Denmark these days. Is it fairly thriving these days?

Mikkelsen: We make about 25 films a year. For a small country of 5 million people, it’s good. They all have been released in theatres, strong governmental support. I think it enables us to make a lot of different films every years, and I think that’s what makes a strong industry. We have like 35-40% of people watching films are Danish films and the rest will be American and English.

JBH!: What’s next for you? Are you playing the King of Denmark in a movie?

Mikkelsen: No, I think that’s a rumor thing that I don’t know where it started. I know there’s a Swedish project about the king as well. I’ve heard about it but I haven’t been in contact yet. I’ve been working on the Bond film. We’re going straight into PR and post-ADR stuff.

JBH!: By the way, I’m going to play poker later tonight, so do you have any tips you can give me, either as an actor or as LeChiffre?

Mikkelsen: Fold. Fold, fold, keep folding. Don’t think you’re going to get lucky. Just play the odds. Fold, fold, fold, especially if you’re playing a lot of people. If you’re playing four people, it’s a different situation. If you play ten people, fold, unless you have good cards.

JBH!: But as an actor, wouldn’t you want to use those skills to bluff a bit?

Mikkelsen: Yeah, once in a while, you will bluff and you play a sh*tty hand, so they know where you are, but try to fold more than you would normally do. You will see the big difference.

JBH!: I wouldn’t think that LeChiffre would be folding either.

Mikkelsen: Yeah, he folds as well, but you have to go in hard if you don’t have a lot. You have to scare people away sometimes, definitely.

JBH!: I played poker with Catarina Murino in the Bahamas, and she was very good, so watch out for her.

Mikkelsen: Oh, yeah? I never played with her. I’ve played with the rest of the cast, basically every night. We all practiced, but everybody was fairly good at this. [Producer] Michael Wilson was there playing us all the time as well; he wasn’t a bad player. We were just stealing each other’s per diems every night and that was the funny part of being there.

JBH!: So some people in the cast never ate at all, because they kept losing their money in poker?

Mikkelsen: No, always keep some money in your pocket.

JBH!: Another great tip! I know they plan to make a sequel to the story in this movie. I’ve read the book so I know what happens to Le Chiffre there, but do they want to have you return for the next movie?

Mikkelsen: That is a secret. It’s a BIG secret. You’ll see.

JBH!: Oh, okay. Well, thanks for the time and the tips.

Mikkelsen: And remember, fold, fold, fold… and then play. You have to play once in a while. Good luck!

To see Mads Mikkelsen as the baddest of Bond badasses–at least at the poker table–check out Casino Royale when it opens everywhere on November 17.

Source: Edward Douglas