Film

Alicia Vikander: "We've been fighting to tell this story..."

Rising star Alicia Vikander will be on screen a lot this year. "I hope it won't be too much," she tells The Big Issue

You have at least eight major films coming out this year…

Finally I get to see them! All four films I made in 2013 ended up being long in post-production then there were four films I did last year, so by strange coincidence they are coming out all at the same time.

Good planning?

It’s definitely not planned. I hope there’s not going to be too much of myself.

It would be impossible for people to get sick of you because the roles are very different: World War One heroine Vera Brittain in Testament of Youth, a German car mechanic in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a robot in Ex_Machina… What range!

It’s fun though. You couldn’t get more different films. I don’t want to repeat myself. The parts I go for, the parts I really want, are ones that scare me a bit, make me work hard and push myself. Trying to do another accent immediately makes you go into a different character.

Ex-Machina

Are Swedish people good at different accents?

Since I was young I’ve enjoyed playing with language. I was probably 10 when I started English at school and early on I tried to see if I could read sentences losing my accent.

It’s not just accents you’ve learnt but a whole new language for Oscar-nominated Danish film A Royal Affair.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve always been quite terrified. When I did A Royal Affair I felt sick every morning. Thank God my co-star Mads Mikkelsen had done films in French and German and knew what I was going through. He was a big support. Two seconds… [At this point Testament of Youth co-star and Game of Thrones heartthrob Kit Harington enters the room and Alicia bounces off to greet him.] Sorry, I haven’t seen Kit in a very long time.

I’m honoured you came back to me at all! It was recently the 100th anniversary year of the start of World War One. We heard a lot about the men who were lost in battle but not as much about what women and people on the homefront went through.

We’ve been fighting to tell this story because there hasn’t been a feature film about that. Testament of Youth is probably one of the most-read war novels – and for that time unusually it was written by a woman. It’s also a testament to the people Vera lost – her brother and her dear friends and fiancé. She wanted to keep them alive through telling her story.

Vera Brittain does not seem like a girl who lived 100 years ago.

She is definitely a woman who, emotionally, feels like she could be alive today. Someone my age who could be my friend. That’s why I connect so deeply with her story and what she went through. Then it’s strange to know that this extraordinary woman lived at a time when she couldn’t even walk outside the house without a chaperone.

Was it by reading her book that you felt that connection?

It was the letters that she wrote to her fiancé and her family that were my main source of inspiration because these words were written by the girl who went to war, while the book was written years later by a woman looking back on her life.

When researching a character like that, do you inevitably think about how you would cope in her situation?

You wonder how she survived going through all the loss and trauma. I think her decision to write her book was a big part of her being able to continue to live. She had a real purpose after the war.

Testament of Youth is in cinemas January 16 and Ex_Machina is on the big screen from January 23

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