The Swedish-born actress faced more than the usual burden of proof when she auditioned for the part of the Queen of Denmark in the upcoming A Royal Affair. On top of demonstrating her acting chops, Vikander had to convince director Nikolaj Arcel that she understood Danish. “One day he said something I didn’t hear, so I just smiled and nodded,” the actress, 23, recalls. “He looked at me and said, ‘You don’t understand, do you?’ I was just happy he didn’t walk out the door.” Vikander moved to Copenhagen for two months, becoming fluent enough to embody the tragic Caroline Mathilde, the British girl who married Danish King Christian VII—her cousin—in 1766, only to discover he suffered from schizophrenia. (The film is based on a true story.) When Caroline falls for the court doctor, played by Mads Mikkelsen, complications ensue.
Born in Gothenburg, Vikander studied at the Royal Swedish Ballet School for nine years before abandoning her professional dance career in 2009 to pursue acting. A year later, she garnered accolades for her portrayal of a troubled girl involved with an older symphony conductor in the film Pure. Next year, Vikander will begin shooting Seventh Son, based on the fantasy novel of the same name. She’ll also play Kitty in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina, for which she has perfected a British accent. “Next I will do a Hungarian film!” she says, laughing.