The Danish star talks gods and monsters, and the magic of Marvel.

From Hannibal Lecter to Daniel Craig’s first foe in James Bond, Mads Mikkelsen is no stranger to the world of screen villainy and he’s at this evil best in the latest Marvel blockbuster as Kaecilius, an embittered former member of the Masters of the Mystic Arts, who is now intent on destroying The Ancient One.

Below, Mikkelsen talks about why always treats his bad guys as heroes, his childhood love of Marvel Comics and the joys of throwing Benedict Cumberbatch around a film set.

How does it feel to be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

I’m so thrilled to be a part of this universe. Growing up as a kid, I was always collecting Marvel Comics; especially Spider-Man comics. Basically, I was reading comic books half my life and the other half I was watching Bruce Lee. When [Doctor Strange director] Scott Derrickson pitched the story to me, he said, “There’s a lot of Kung Fu and flying stuff.” It was 10 minutes into the pitch, but I stopped him and said, “Whoa! Hold on, rewind. Listen, the Kung Fu bit… I’m in.”

Have you always dreamed of being in a superhero movie?

This is a childhood dream come true. It’s just amazing that you, at the age of 108, get the chance to fly around like this. It’s a big honor.

Kaecilius is a fairly obscure character in Marvel comic books. How was he described to you when you first discussed the role?

He was described as a demigod, or a man who believed the world could be a better place – not unlike Doctor Strange or the Ancient One. His thing is that his means of getting there are a little different than the other ones. He’s a little more radical. He wants to speed things up.

Doctor Strange: Mads Mikkelsen Q+A

How would you describe Kaecilius’ villainous characteristics?

The key to any good villain, which I think was very clear from the beginning in this script, is that they have a point; they are not completely crazy. Even in Doctor’s Strange’s eyes, he does believe that Kaecilius has a point. I always play all characters as a hero. That’s the key to a good villain; you have to have something the audience identifies with. Kaecilius doesn’t just go ballistic and say, “I’m going to take over the world because I can.” No, there’s a reason. His reason is eternal life. We tried to make him a man who utterly believes in every word he says.

What was the most memorable scene for you to shoot?

The big fight I have with Benedict [Cumberbatch, who plays Doctor Strange] really stands out for me. It’s the scene where I’m pushing him through a glass cabinet, which is filled with all the relics. I jump through the cabinet, go ‘swoosh’ with a sword and he ducks – and I just tear open a big cabinet. At that point, we were using a real metal sword and everything was getting really close. The sword was right over his head. I’m throwing him through all these cabinets. Normally, you continue to do five or six more seconds of action – but I couldn’t help it, I just smiled. It was the funniest thing I’ve ever done. It was like your daddy was paying you to smash your neighbors’ windows. It was crazy fun. That was a very memorable moment.

The special effects in the movie are mind-blowing. What was the most complicated special effects scene you tackled for the role?

Some of the chases were extremely complicated. We were flipping things around, going upside down and on our side. They had an animated version of everything, so we could keep track on what was going on – just to get the geography right. It was like, “Where is Strange now? Is he there? Is he there?” That was tricky for us.

Doctor Strange: Mads Mikkelsen Q+A

Was there a lot of green screen work, too?

The green screen work sometimes happened around us, but we always had an interaction with an actor, a real fight or real dialogue within this madness. We were not fighting a tennis ball that was supposed to be a giant monster or anything like that, so it was not as tricky as I thought it would be.

Did you tackle much comic book research before you signed on for the role?

I didn’t do much research because the bible is always the script in my world. But I was aware of Doctor Strange. I read it as a kid. I love the colours, I love the inner strength – but the philosophy and the level of intellectual material in the comic book was a little overwhelming for a seven-year-old kid. I don’t think I grasped the whole phenomenon. You would more easily do that when you are a teenager, but I read this as a little boy.

Marvel movies are often filled with fun Easter eggs for the fans. Were you aware of the hidden treats in Doctor Strange?

No, I did not know about them. I approach any film with open eyes, but I always get surprised with the little hidden gems. In Rogue One, there were certain Easter eggs in the film but I had no idea what they were. And I know that happened in the Hannibal universe as well. Dedicated fans of the comic books will be able to spot many things. Personally, I’m oblivious – but I love it when they are pointed out to me.

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