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An intense presence in international film since the late 1990s, actor Mads Mikkelsen enjoyed considerable popularity in his native Denmark with turns as brooding, often violent men on both sides of the law in "Pusher" (1996) and on the television series "Rejseholdet (Unit One)" (DR1, 2000-04) before leaping to stardom in America as men of action in "Casino Royale" (2006) and "Clash of the Titans" (2010). Despite his flinty, often taciturn screen image, Mikkelsen also excelled in comedies like "The Green Butchers" (2003), as well as more sympathetic turns in the Oscar-nominated "After the Wedding" (2006). His performance as the icy terrorist Le Chiffre in the James Bond thriller "Casino Royale" (2006) brought him to the attention of Hollywood, which cast him largely in period action features like "Titans" and "The Three Musketeers" (2011). A Best Actor Award win at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival as a man haunted by child abuse allegations in "The Hunt" (2012) underscored his standing as one of Europe's most popular leading men. His subsequent casting as the iconic serial killer Hannibal Lecter on the TV series "Hannibal" (NBC, 2013-15) also highlighted an acting career on a skyrocketing trajectory.
Born Nov. 22, 1965 in the Osterbro district of Copenhagen, Mads Dittmann Mikkelsen initially pursued athletic endeavors, training as a gymnast in his youth, before studying dance. Acting soon became his primary focus, and Mikkelsen received his theatrical training at the acclaimed Århus School. His professional career began in 1996 with a critically acclaimed turn as a hapless drug dealer in Nicolas Winding Refn's directorial debut, "Pusher." A runaway success on the international scene, it led to not only a series of fruitful collaborations with Refn on subsequent features like the equally gritty "Bleeder" (1996), but also steady work for Mikkelsen in Danish cinema. His granite visage was well used in intense dramas like Ole Bornedal's "I Am Dina" (2002), which featured Mikkelsen as a tormented alcoholic, or the Dogme feature "Open Hearts" (2002), where his married doctor began an adulterous affair with the fiancée of a disabled patient. But Mikkelsen also proved an effective comic player in such offbeat farces as "Flickering Lights" (2000), as a minor hood who fell in love with the tranquility of his Spanish hideout, and the macabre "Green Butchers" (2003), with Mikkelsen in the lead as a lonely shop owner who found happiness after his meats - human flesh disguised as chicken - earned him a loyal customer following.
During this period, Mikkelsen also enjoyed considerable stardom on Danish television via the Emmy-winning, international crime drama "Rejseholdet (Unit One)." Cast as a brash, impulsive detective at odds with his superiors over his lack of advancement within police ranks, Mikkelsen won the Best Actor Award from TVfestival.dk for his performance. Following the series' conclusion, he made his American film debut as Tristan, faithful knight to Clive Owen's Arthur in "King Arthur" (2004), the much-maligned Jerry Bruckheimer take on the Arthurian legend. Mikkelsen soon returned to Denmark, where he reunited with Refn for "Pusher II" (2004), which revived his long-suffering dealer character for a series of humiliating misadventures endured in his attempt to win respect from his criminal family. Mikkelsen's versatility was underscored in 2006 by commanding performances in two major features that were wildly divergent in scope, budget and focus. In the Oscar-nominated Danish drama "After the Wedding," he gave a sensitive, nuanced turn as a man torn between his commitment to an Indian orphanage and the sudden discovery that the daughter of a terminally ill friend was actually his own child. Mikkelsen then shifted gears dramatically to play Le Chiffre, the brilliant but sadistic terrorist financier in "Casino Royale," which served as the official reboot for the James Bond franchise. Both films helped to introduce the actor to a global audience, which in turn boosted his profile on the world cinema scene.
In the wake of these acclaimed turns, Mikkelsen began dividing his time between international features and Hollywood projects. His growing status as one of Europe's sexiest male actors was given a hot-blooded spotlight in "Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky" (2008), which detailed the passionate love affair between composer Stravinsky (Mikkelsen) and the famed fashion designer (Anna Mouglalis). At the same time, he built upon his impressive résumé of action-oriented features with "Valhalla Rising" (2009), Refn's violent historical drama about a mute Norse warrior (Mikkelsen) en route to Jerusalem as part of the Crusades, and "Clash of the Titans" (2010) as the flinty, self-sacrificing soldier Draco, who joined Sam Worthington's Perseus on his search for the monstrous Gorgon, Medusa. The following year, he played the villainous Rochefort in Paul W.S. Anderson's over-amped take on "The Three Musketeers" (2011).
The year 2012 proved to be a high point in Mikkelsen's career, with critically acclaimed turns in two Scandinavian dramas. In "A Royal Affair," he played real-life 18th-century physician Johann Friedrich Struensee, who rose to power in the court of mentally ill Danish king Christian VII while indulging in an affair with Queen Caroline Mathilda. He then segued into Thomas Vinterberg's "The Hunt" (2012) as a man whose life was ruined by allegations of child abuse. For his powerful performance, Mikkelsen received the Best Actor Award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. The triumph was soon bookended by news that Mikkelsen had joined the cast of "Thor 2" (2013) as the resident villain. However, another major opportunity led to him depart the superhero sequel, with NBC recruiting him to play Hannibal Lecter in the dark drama series "Hannibal" (2013-15). Although a significant commitment for Mikkelsen, the lauded show led to even wider exposure for the esteemed actor.
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