News that Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen is almost definitely in Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding video game has received very little attention. While nothing has been announced, the alleged evidence frankly seems very hard to refute. Whatever the truth may bear, and whatever Death Stranding actually is, Mikkelsen would undoubtedly pull off any part with flying colors.
Kojima loves to drop hints about his work in plain sight. In the weeks leading up to the mo-cap session, the director tweeted more than once directly referencing Mikkelsen, while his assistant posted a collage of Hideo hanging out with various creatives at Comic-Con, including the actor. Meanwhile, Kojima also tweeted every picture with commentary from his own account except the one with Mikkelsen. Given Kojima’s history for trickery (recall that he deliberately fooled an entire industry about MGS2’s main character), this kind of reading between the lines isn’t that far-fetched.
Even with Kojima’s friendship with Norman Reedus (in that creepy GIF above) at the seeming fore of Death Stranding, the director has previously named Mikkelsen as his favorite actor. Considering his fantastic range, the project would be all the better for it. Far more than just being a megalomaniacal Bond villain, Hannibal Lecter or a Dr. Strange nemesis, Mikkelsen is a killer performing artist for characters of all stripes – and here are some films that prove it.
Chances are if you know Mikkelsen from anything beyond his work above (or the fact that he’s in Rogue One) it might be 2012’s The Hunt, one of his best roles. The work of former Dogme 95 director Thomas Vinterberg, the film follows Lucas, a compassionate caregiver at a Kindergarten in a provincial Danish hamlet.
When Lucas is accused of sexual abuse with one of the children, the quiet bonds of the once-friendly community are shattered. Mikkelsen plays the sensitive Lucas across an emotional spectrum from despair to anger to fear, but neither Vinterberg’s script nor the character ever veers into cliché. Mikkelsen should have won an Oscar for this.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is Nicholas Winding Refn’s seductively brutal pre-Drive pulp fable Valhalla Rising, where Mikkelsen is cast as a mute Viking warrior simply called One-Eye. With a massive scar covering half his face, One-Eye’s appearance reflects the physicality of the role as well as his name suggests, and it’s indeed through force he dominates the screen.
As primal as any of Refn’s studies on masculinity – and in the absence of women, surrogate sexualized violence – Valhalla Rises might not have worked as well as it does without Mikkelsen. Despite his complete lack of lines – the tension of whether he’’ll speak never bows – you’ve witnessed a complete (if opaque) arc by the time the credits roll. Since Kojima and Refn are friends and Mikkelsen got his start in the latter’s Pusher trilogy, it makes you wonder if Hideo asked for an introduction.
Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas
Don’t let the made-for-cable name (which is simply Michael Kohlhaas in its native France) or equally straight-to-DVD Netflix cover art scare you away – Age of Uprising is sumptuously shot and brilliantly, understatedly acted. As Kohlhaas, a successful horse trader in the French countryside of the 16th century, Mikkelsen brings both dour determination and incensed pride to the film.
Assumedly the “Age of Uprising” bit of the title was added to entice people expecting a more typified rebellion story, but since this tale is based on a 19th century novella from Germany, the narrative is decidedly more European in its tone – and Mikkelsen’s burning, brooding, hubris is wonderful to watch.
Men & Chicken
One of Mikkelsen’s weirdest and most unrecognizable roles, he plays Elias, a nervous, hare-lipped and possibly mentally ill 40-something with a penchant for compulsory masturbation. When their father reveals they are not his biological sons, Elias accompanies his academically-minded brother Gabriel on a journey to a provincial island to meet their real dad, becoming acquainted with the rest of their dim siblings in the process.
From that description you might think Men & Chicken is a particularly melancholic drama, but youd be wrong – it’s a Three Stooges-esque dark comedy about a family of misanthropes who hit each other with large, pointy taxidermal objects in a dilapidated, animal-infested mansion (there is, perhaps surprisingly, a genuine soul buried underneath all the mayhem). Without spoiling anything, it’s not like any other Mads performance you’ll see.
Flame & Citron
Based on the exploits of two Danish resistance fighters during the Nazi occupation of Denmark during WWII, Flame & Citron is a frank and cynical war drama that would almost feel like a crime film if not for its historical trappings.
While Mikkelsen (as Citron) splits the screentime here with his co-star Thure Lindhardt (Flame, naturally), the film nevertheless provides a good portrait of Citrons morally questionable character, motivated to murder by politically-minded passion and anger. Though you’ll wish Mikkelsen was in more scenes, this is arguably still one of the best war films in recent memory.
Photos via Kojima Productions, Music Box Films