Meet Voller: Mads Mikkelsen on what to expect from the Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny villain
Mads Mikkelsen is no stranger to playing the villain in a major franchise, but unlike his stints in the James Bond or Star Wars universes, his role in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny holds special meaning for him.
Unlike those other films, the Danish actor says he grew up watching Indiana Jones and his many mystical onscreen adventures. "When I was a kid, I had no idea that you could end up becoming an actor. I was just watching [these films] like everybody else. It's always been part of me; it's been with me always," Mikkelsen tells EW, adding, "so that is a special thing to be part of now, like 40-something years later."
It was a particular treat for Mikkelsen, who plays former Nazi turned scientist and mathematician Jürgen Voller in the film, to meet Indiana Jones in the flesh. "Actually," Mikkelsen recalls, chuckling, "I met Indiana Jones before I met Harrison Ford, because he stepped out of his trailer after he had a costume fitting. And he stepped out with the hat, the jacket, and the whip, which was fun."
So was Ford in character during this brief meeting? "It's hard to tell," Mikkelsen jokes. "There's an overlap between Harrison and his character, right?" But, on second thought, he says, "No, no, no, he wasn't. Harrison, you get to know him. He's like that, but he's also a little what you expect him to be and what you're hoping him to be. So maybe he's already a character himself, by just being Harrison. And I do like that character, a lot."
Where character ends and actor begins was a bit of a different beast for Mikkelsen, given that he plays, well, the film's dastardly villain, who comes up against Indy as the two seek the titular dial, which supposedly has the ability to change the course of history.
"I think the passion for what he does and passion for what he's looking for, without giving too much away, and the passion for him knowing that this can make the world a better place — all that I can identify with," says Mikkelsen of how he found common ground with Voller. "[But] what does a better place look like? This is where it gets tricky. So I just have to leave that out, and then I can replace the end goal with something else [in my mind]. And then it's recognizable, for me at least."
Lucasfilm Mads Mikkelsen as Jürgen Voller in 'Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny'
Though he wouldn't reveal what Voller's end goal specifically is, the character does suggest in one of the film's trailers that "Hitler made mistakes," mistakes which he could presumably undo with the dial.
Of this, Mikkelsen teases, "Well, if you're a believer into a certain ideology, obviously, your end game would be that that ideology will be the winning hand, right? And that can come in many shapes and forms. I do think that he disagreed with Hitler on a lot of things. And [his ideas] might even be a better version than Hitler's, but still, one man deciding everything is never a good solution."
When it came to creating the character of Voller himself, Mikkelsen says he didn't do any specific research, because frankly, he didn't have to. The actor considers himself a "history buff" and was already familiar with real-life secret U.S. intelligence program Operation Paperclip, which took scientists from Germany, many of whom were Nazis, to the States to work in government jobs, such as NASA. Voller, then, is partly inspired by these scientists, but Mikkelsen says he didn't look to anyone in particular.
He and director James Mangold did, however, have many discussions about how German the character should sound. "We didn't want to go full-blown German accent because we've seen it a lot, and it can become borderline cliché, right? So we found a few vowels where he's insisting on being German, but that's about it," Mikkelsen says.
When we first meet Voller, he's working in Germany in the 1940s, which should give the audience "a hunch" about what he's doing, says Mikkelsen. The actor explains at this time "he's a man who is very, very passionate about his job, the science of what he's doing, and less so with the ideology of what he's doing. But if they can go hand in hand, that will be a good day for him."
Ultimately, he's a dreamer, much like Indiana Jones, Mikkelsen says. And when they meet again in the late '60s, the actor says they're both "men stuck in time" but they still have "the passion for that one single goal in life."
Getting to spend so much of this screen time with Ford, 80, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the Danish star, who describes his costar as "a legend that is on his A-game," as well as "an amazing person" who has a penchant for cutting on-set tensions with a well-timed joke to make everyone feel at ease. "Besides that," says Mikkelsen, "he's just a fantastic actor. He knows exactly what he's doing wherever the camera is. And he doesn't use enormous means to tell a story. For me, he's like Buster Keaton, who kind of invented the close-up. He didn't run to the camera, he made the camera come to him. And it's wonderful to be that close to see him work. It was just a wonderful experience for me."
The rest of the process of making the film was akin to "movie magic" for Mikkelsen, who says he's still eagerly waiting for his chance to see the final product, which will mark Ford's fifth and final time as the beloved, adventure-prone character.
So, is he nervous for the project, which holds such deep personal meaning to him and countless other cinephiles, to finally hit theaters? "I think I'm always nervous when we start out," he says. But, "It's not paralyzing nerves. It's just what we call the butterfly dust. This is going to be exciting, and it's gonna be great to meet these iconic characters."
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny — which also stars Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Toby Jones, John Rhys-Davies, Boyd Holbrook, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Thomas Kretschmann, and Antonio Banderas — hits theaters June 30.
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