Interview: Alicia Vikander for Louis Vuitton
The coterie of muses and close friends of Nicolas Ghesquière, is famously tight-knit and exclusive. No wonder Alicia Vikander is a part of the clique, then.
Alicia Vikander is one of those women who make you hate yourself. Let me explain.
She is, first of all, a prodigiously gifted actress: She channels a steely inhumanity in the Alex Garland-directed sci-fi movie Ex Machina, playing a female robot. Here, her training at the Royal Swedish Ballet School shows: a mastery of her physicality rewards us with a discomfiting robot who throws us headfirst into uncanny valley. In Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl, Vikander manages to sensitively capture the confusion, frustration, and unrelenting love of the wife of Eddie Redmayne’s Lili Elbe, a transgender woman who received one of the world’s first prominent sex reassignment surgeries. She then surprised us with her comic ability as a ’60s mod mechanic turned covert agent in The Man from U.N.C.L.E..
To top it all off, Alicia Vikander is painfully beautiful. On the surface: stormy eyes, a tawny complexion, and a softly sculptural bone structure. She has the kind of simmering charisma that wordlessly demands you gaze at her for just a little bit longer. It would be easier to dislike her (out of jealousy, mostly) if she weren’t so charming.
How did you feel about becoming the new muse of Louis Vuitton?
“I was overwhelmed! I started buying fashion magazines when I was 13 and I looked in awe at all the fashion adverts, but it never occurred to me that I’d be the face of one of those brands. My work as an actress is my main profession and any commercial work I take on would have to be integrated with it. I had to say ‘yes’ to Louis Vuitton because they have always used strong, adventurous women in their campaigns.”
Muses and creators work hand in hand. What made you say yes to Nicolas Ghesquière?
“I like that he portrays other Louis Vuitton muses such as Jennifer Connelly, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Michelle Williams as strong, independent, as well as beautiful. I’ve always admired free-thinking women and it’s a huge honour being in the mix. I was a bit nervous about meeting them because they’re all women whose careers I’ve followed, but they were so warm and lovely that my nerves fell away – and we were united by the fact that we’d all collaborated with Nicolas.”
What do you like about Nicolas’ Louis Vuitton?
“I’m amazed how he always makes me feel as though I’m seeing things I’ve never seen before. I see, for example, a spiky shoe in leather or crocodile and it’s made up of so many different things that I’m almost a bit scared of it. And then, after a while, I find myself very drawn to it. Nicolas seems to be some kind of visionary. I think of him as a futuristic designer; if I look back at a show from a year earlier, he has somehow just captured now.”
Do you have any early memories about Louis Vuitton?
“Yes! When I was 15, I went with three other girls to audition for the Royal Swedish Ballet company in Stockholm. We stayed with my friend’s grandmother and before we set off for the auditions, she made sure we all had the right water bottles and a picnic lunch. I brought out a carrier bag to put all my things in and the grandmother told me to wait. She reappeared with a vintage Louis Vuitton bag and said I could borrow it. The colours were faded because she’d had it since she was very young. I’d never seen such a prestigious and expensive bag with a history you could feel when you held it. I remember sitting on the tube being worried that someone might steal it. It’s important to me that Louis Vuitton has a considerable history; I loved the idea that my friend’s grandmother had owned her bag for decades and intended to pass it on to my friend at some point.”
Is history and legacy important to you?
“Even though I have moved away from my home country, I have a very strong sense of my roots and my heritage. I’m very proud of being Swedish. I mostly work abroad now, and I haven’t had the chance to do a Swedish film in two or three years. I’m hoping to work with a Swedish director in the near future but it comes down to the fact that Sweden doesn’t produce many films because it’s a small country. As an actor in Sweden, you can’t only work in film. You have to do other jobs too.”
What else have you worked in?
“I used to train as a ballerina but I got injured – I had surgery on my foot and back problems that still haunt me today – but the main issue was my commitment. As a dancer you have to be 150 per cent committed. It’s like being in an elite sports team. My classmates had limitless passion: they would turn up early to fit in an extra hour of practice before the day even started – you have to want it that much.”
Was it easy making the switch from ballet to acting?
“The decision to become an actor instead of a dancer was the toughest decision I’ve ever made, and it took me at least a year to make up my mind. It was scary, but I reached a stage where I no longer thought dancing was the right thing for me.”
We think it’s a blessing you went into acting, but how do you feel about it now?
“It was absolutely the right decision! When I found my true passion as an actor, the commitment came naturally. I’m fine with having two hours of sleep every night because I’m so excited about the work I’m doing. I didn’t go to theatre school, so I see my dance education as my artistic foundation.”
It’s very apparent in Ex Machina! Ava, the sentient female robot that you play, leaves us feeling very uncomfortable: she’s graceful and elegant but certainly not organic or human.
“I was certainly aware of my dance training when I played Ava. Her physicality and the way she moved was really important when I was playing her. My dance training is a direct tool for getting into character, whether it’s the way they move, carry themselves or talk.”
Your filmography reads like a list of Academy Award nominations now. With that probably comes the luxury of choosing your roles. What do you look for in a script?
“I have a very instant response to scripts. When I read Alex Garland’s script for Ex Machina, for example, I couldn’t stop turning the pages and I was completely immersed. The people who are involved matter as much as the script to me – the filmmaker, actors, the director of photography. It’s all about the collaboration.”
Speaking of collaboration – can you tell us about your most memorable experiences with the many talented actors and actresses you’ve had the chance to work with?
“I’ve had to pinch myself I don’t know how many times over the last couple of years. To watch Julianne Moore coming out of her trailer in her jumpsuit when we were shooting Seventh Son? Incredible. She was holding a coffee and I was almost shaking. I’ve also worked with Michael Fassbender and Rachel Weisz and they really pushed me to give my best performances. Their impulses and reactions are so fluid that you end up exploring very different directions. I’ve had to learn through making mistakes – be it at ballet school, on set, or in front of other actors – but the great actors and directors I’ve worked with have made me feel like I’ve been in a place that’s safe enough to take risks. It’s not about passing on advice or telling me things; it’s about instilling a sense of calm.”
This story first appeared in L’Officiel Singapore.