A couple of years ago, Mads Mikkelsen and the director Thomas Vinterberg were sitting together in a living room in their native Denmark watching a YouTube video that Vinterberg had found. It was called “Two Men and a Lock” and showed two men drunkenly trying to lock up a bicycle. Fodder for an easy laugh, it actually became Vinterberg’s pitch to Mikkelsen for a new film. (The pair, who are close friends, first worked together in 2012’s critically acclaimed The Hunt.)
Another Round, available for streaming on Amazon, follows a group of sapless middle-aged high-school teachers “who are in different places in their lives, but they come to a standstill, all of them in one way or another,” says Mikkelson, 55. That’s until they discover the work of the Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud, who believes humans are born with a blood-alcohol content that’s 0.05 percent too low. (Skårderud and his research are real.) The friends decide to put the theory to the test, slurping straight vodka in school bathrooms and hiding flasks in supply cupboards.
Though funny and lighthearted at times, Another Round is more a thoughtful meditation on aging, regret, and midlife restlessness than it is Denmark’s answer to The Hangover. “It’s clearly a film about embracing life,” says Mikkelsen. “The alcohol part is just a happy way to tell the story. And luckily, both audience and critics have seen the film like that.”
Beyond the brawls, bed-wetting, and general bad behavior included in the script, written by Vinterberg, it was the final scene, in which Mikkelsen sashays across a pier to the song “What a Life,” by the Danish band Scarlet Pleasure, that first gave Mikkelsen pause. “I think that if it’s not a musical where you get an excuse to dance, it’s very tricky to pull it off, especially in a realistic way,” says Mikkelsen. A trained dancer and gymnast, he nailed it.
The project itself was filmed under a shadow of darkness, owing to the fact that, four days into production, Vinterberg’s 19-year-old daughter—intended to play Mikkelsen’s teenage daughter in the film—was killed in a car crash. From that moment the film, much of which was shot at her high school, also became a celebration of her life.
Mikkelsen, who lives in Copenhagen, has just returned home from filming in London, having stepped into Johnny Depp’s role of Gellert Grindelwald in J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts series, following Depp’s much-publicized legal battle.
He’s also gearing up for a postponed awards season—Another Round and his performance have been nominated in four BAFTA categories, and it’s rumored they’ll receive Academy Award nominations, too. “If it doesn’t happen, I couldn’t care less. If it does happen, I would be over the moon,” says Mikkelsen. “That’s the only way to approach it.”
Another Round is available on Amazon
Bridget Arsenault is the London Editor for Air Mail