NPR's Scott Simon speaks with director Thomas Vinterberg and actor Mads Mikkelsen about their new movie Another Round.
As a character notes early in the film "Another Round," we drink a lot in Denmark. The story opens with students racing with cases of beer around a lake, stopping to chug, upchuck and chug some more.
SIMON: But some of their middle-aged male teachers feel stale in life and decide to undertake what they insist is an experiment. Will keeping their blood alcohol level up through the days make them livelier, less inhibited, more interesting? What do you think?
"Another Round" is directed by Thomas Vinterberg and stars Mads Mikkelsen. He was a Bond villain, of course, in "Casino Royale." And the star and director are both legends in Danish and international film. And they join us both now, one from London, one from Copenhagen. Thank you very much, both of you, for being with us.
THOMAS VINTERBERG: Thank you very much.
MADS MIKKELSEN: Thanks for having us.
SIMON: Mr. Vinterberg, let me ask you as the director, our research people looked into this. There is a totally insupportable hypothesis by a Norwegian psychiatrist that human beings are born with a blood alcohol deficiency.
VINTERBERG: Right, I don't think it levels off to be a real academic theory. It's just something he said, really. But I found it very amusing. And I found it interesting to test in this movie of ours, which, of course, is about much more than just alcohol.
SIMON: Well, it's about feeling stale in the middle of your life. It's about looking for ways to be vital and pertinent and feel like you're contributing to the world. Mads Mikkelsen, why did you want to play Martin?
MIKKELSEN: I like Martin, first of all, and I like Thomas Vinterberg, so that was a good combo. One of the things that Thomas is so good at is to place ordinary people in extraordinary situations. And Martin is standing on the platform, and the train has left him. And he realizes that within 10 minutes of the film. And luckily, he has got good friends that will cheer him up with a theory and a solution to his problems, and hence comes the alcohol.
SIMON: And they do have some interesting results at first - don't they? - intriguing results. Let me put it that way. They briefly become more imaginative teachers. Mr. Vinterberg, did anybody drink on set while this film was being made?
VINTERBERG: No alcohol was served on set, no. We did do a alcohol boot camp because it's very difficult to play drunk. So we did need some rehearsal time, but that was prior to shooting. We did look at a lot of material, video material, to see how people are falling around when you get really drunk. We did have fun with it, won't you say, Mads?
MIKKELSEN: A lot of fun. And then it's always a test for an actor to play drunk. And most actors will approach it with the idea of trying to hide that you're drunk, a little like in real life. You had a couple of beers, and you don't want your wife to notice. You try your very best to be sober, and that makes your movements slightly slower, a little more precise. But we obviously had to go on a completely different level. We had to go Charlie Chaplin drunk as well. And one of the things we learned was that you can't really overdo it because it's insane what they're doing.
MIKKELSEN: And one of the primary things is that they fall. And when you fall, you do not use your hands to stop the fall. You use your face. So we experimented a lot with that.
SIMON: Wow. And, of course, there is a scene where they - one of the characters uses his face to stop a wall. Let me put it that way.
VINTERBERG: That's true.
MIKKELSEN: The excuse to make the film is this theory of a 0.5% of alcohol in the human body. But Thomas always makes films about life, and this is not an exception. For me, it's a film about embracing life, you know? Do not look into the future and envy that. Do not look into your past and regret everything. Try to live in your present. And for me, that's what the film is all about. The alcohol is just an excuse to tell that story.
VINTERBERG: There is this thing in our lives that - they're very measured, very controlled. The iPhone that I'm holding in my hand is measuring how many steps I take. My daughters have to lay out their plans for the future very early in their lives. But when you put the bottle to your lips, you open the door to the uncontrollable, to something which can be more inspired and less framed.
The uncontrollable can be beautiful things. Like, falling in love is uncontrollable. It's not something you can buy on the Internet or you can ask for in a supermarket. The movie's a lot about that. It's a lot about inspiration. The word spirit is embedded in the word inspiration. And it's about living in the best possible way, I guess.
SIMON: Yeah. And you don't need a drink to do that.
VINTERBERG: Not necessarily, no. It's the risk. It's the exploration. It's the lack of control that's interesting, not the drink itself.
SIMON: Yeah, because the message I get from your film is that drinking has its place, and we should keep it in its place.
VINTERBERG: Yeah, but that place can be quite good.
MIKKELSEN: We can't ignore the fact that it's here. And it's been here for as long as we've been writing down stories. So let's see what it actually can achieve. And just do it with modesty, of course.
VINTERBERG: Well, like Humphrey Bogart said, it's like the world has always been a couple of drinks behind.
SIMON: I never heard that one. OK. I got to tell you, Mr. Mikkelsen, I was amazed by what a superb dancer you are (laughter).
MIKKELSEN: Thank you so much, sir. Thank you so much. You should've seen me 30 years ago.
SIMON: Well, I don't want to give away any plot points. I've subsequently learned, I guess you were a gymnast. But it's a flabbergasting and delightful scene.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT A LIFE")
SCARLET PLEASURE: (Singing) What a life. What a night. What a beautiful, beautiful ride.
MIKKELSEN: And I was quite reluctant to do it. Not that I don't want to dance, but I was - I thought, you know, it's a realistic film. And I always imagined it to be like heightened fantasy or a dream. And Thomas kept insisting on, no, no, no, this is reality he's doing in the midst of all these young people. And I just couldn't picture it. But I gave in. And we did it. And I regret to say that he was absolutely, 100% right, and I was wrong. It works.
VINTERBERG: Get used to it.
SIMON: Boy, Mr. Vinterberg, that must be nice to hear an actor say that.
VINTERBERG: I love that. And it's on tape. I think that's great.
SIMON: We'll send you a copy. OK, we'll send you a link so you can...
SIMON: ...Use it against him. Mr. Mikkelsen, when you raise a glass of wine, do you look at it differently now?
MIKKELSEN: No, not really. I always say that I have to be a little smarter than the character I play. I knew what we were doing. I knew what my - what kind of trouble my character was in. And I knew what he was facing. So not really. But I think that it's a contribution to the drinking culture around the world that, you know, we know the dangers. But we should also, once in a while, just briefly remember the beauty of it.
SIMON: Mads Mikkelsen stars in and Thomas Vinterberg directs "Another Round." Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us. Skol (ph) - is that - no, that's not a Danish phrase.
VINTERBERG: That's correct.
MIKKELSEN: That is very Danish.
SIMON: Oh, all right.
SIMON: Inadvertently. Skol to you both. Thank you.
MIKKELSEN: Thank you so much for having us.
VINTERBERG: Thank you.