By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
NEW YORK—Having starred in the acclaimed ”The Danish Girl” and ”Ex Machina,” Swedish actress Alicia Vikander now co-stars with Michael Fassbender in the drama ”The Light Between Oceans.”
Based on the 2012 novel by M.L. Stedman, the drama centers on Australian lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne (Fassbender) and his wife, Isabel (Vikander) a childless couple that take in a young castaway that drifts onto their island but then discover the consequences years later when the child’s mother (Rachel Weisz) turns up on the mainland.
The drama is directed by American filmmaker Derek Cianfrance, who also adapted the novel for the screen.
The 27-year-old Gothenburg native recently spoke about starring in the post-World War I drama, which was shot off the coast of New Zealand. She and co-star Fassbender, 39, reportedly are a couple now in real life, although they have not publicly confirmed their relationship status.
Q: This is a fantastically complicated, complex character that you’re playing here. Could you talk a little bit about who Isabel is and what you felt were the challenges of this role? What was it like working with Michael Fassbender?
Vikander: I loved working with Michael. I was a huge fan of his. I think he had proven himself being one of the most diverse and brave actors I remember so well when I saw “Hunger” and “Fish Tank” back home at my favorite cinema in Sweden many years ago. I would love to work with him again.
We all had a very wonderful time making this film and being given the chance, a gift from Derek to play Isabel, I really enjoyed. He told me she’s a fighter, and she is. She’s a survivor too, and she’s a girl with her heart on her shoulder. I loved that she was so transparent, to play someone that even I felt like I couldn’t really know where she was heading each day because she does things and say things without thinking, which is quite liberating sometimes to have that in the role because an actor can sometimes want to do things over that you feel comfortable that you’ve done before, which is of course a challenge to always try new things.
The thing is that in this film, the Sherbournes together are good people. Sometimes maybe don’t make the most right moral decisions or choices, but she acts from the heart always. That’s why I don’t think you could really blame her, but I love the challenge of making a woman that you had to get to the heart of her to understand her and her actions.
Q: It must have been emotional shooting Isobel’s miscarriage?
Vikander: I don’t have kids but I have five siblings, and ever since I was young, I’ve seen myself having a family one day. Trying to portray a miscarriage is something that is also a subject and it’s something that when I get older more and more of my girlfriends and male friends too tell me about their experiences. When you’re handing a subject like this, there is so much discussion coming up and people opening up about their own experiences. Michael was supportive. He was brilliant in that scene. You have someone to bounce off of someone that pushes you and protects you and the same thing with Derek. We all were extremely nervous. I felt like I was leading up to this marathon, an emotional one. We all knew that we had to do it justice, for all the people who have been in a similar place and for all of us to try and understand what it’s like.
Q: Given how there were so many emotionally devastating scenes, how did you shake off your roles emotionally? How did you unwind each day?
Vikander: (quips) We had BB guns. We played a lot of music. We fished. We popped a lot of popcorn in Derek’s trailer.
Q: Since you are from Europe and there is this tremendous refugee crisis right now, did that weigh on you in any way in terms of both the hostility and fear of foreigners and also the obligations you might feel to refugees, sacrificing for them versus benefiting from them?
Vikander: I feel like it’s been an eye opener. I’ve been away traveling now and coming back to just have a premiere in London, a place I’ve called my home for the last few years. Now, after Brexit, it was a very, very sad time of me returning. In one way, I see myself as a European. I wouldn’t have been given the opportunities to be probably here where I am in my career today if I hadn’t been able to move and go to the UK and study and work. They wouldn’t have been considering me as an actor for when you’re starting off, you’re simply happy to get the job. If I had been someone that needed a work visa there would have been a huge difference. It’s narrowing down now. It’s really affecting us in front of our eyes. It’s gone so far that I hope that everyone’s eyes will now soon be opened.
Q: What was that whole process like for you, working on location?
Vikander: I’ll start with just a little anecdote of how I wasn’t allowed to get on set on the first day when the film started shooting. That was because he was like, “No. You’ll have someone pick.” All the crew left. Michael had his first day and they were filming. I was left by myself at Dunedin but I had a pick up at 3 a.m., so I came and they drove me out and it was completely dark. I knew that the first scene I was going to shoot was Isabel on the first day when she’s arrived to the island.
I arrive and they make me close my eyes and take me down to this wood shed, which is next to the house. That’s the place where we’d put on makeup and costume every day, actually. Then they timed me, so they opened the door and told me, just head out and look for, Derek is out there with the cameraman and a boom somewhere. I head towards him. I opened the door and I knew we were rolling, so I got to be Isabel exploring the island whilst me, and then climbing up this hill where they were on top of the lighthouse. Actually, it was fun. I’ve been in the edit and seen this shot when Isabel flashes. It’s not really good acting. It’s Alicia getting quite freaked our because it’s the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen in my entire life, which ended up being new and different every single day.
I had never seen that kind of nature. Derek said we might just have everyone out there and maybe stay between Monday and Friday while shooting, have a crew there. Fun. I was like, “I don’t know about that.” When you’ve gone out there, it was really like a gift to get the chance to experience being in that kind of place. Sometimes the most luxurious things, with what we do, we get to go places and meet people that you normally wouldn’t, and it was extraordinary.
Q: Are you psyched to play your next role in “Tomb Raider?”
Vikander: As Lara Croft? Yeah.
Q: You’re known primarily for playing dramatic roles. It’s such an odd thing to be thinking of you doing a superhero type character.
Vikander: That’s good, I guess. Fun.
Q: Do you see you doing that as a step into really commercial cinema rather than something that’s sort of art? “The Danish Girl” and this? You, of course, co-star with Matt Damon in “Jason Bourne,” which is a big action movie.
Vikander: That is a huge franchise that I’m a big fan of and I get to work with Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon. (My choices) become more and more down to the people I want to work with, I get the privilege to work with, and I’m a big fan of those movies myself. I’ve always loved going to the cinema. Good films are in all genres. (Norwegian filmmaker) Roar Uthaug, who is the director of “Tomb Raider,” I loved what he did with “The Wave,” the ensemble that came out last year.