Mads Mikkelsen stunned by diversity query on film set in 1750s Denmark
8th September 2023

Awkward moment Mads Mikkelsen is stunned to be asked about lack of diversity in the cast for his film set in 1750s Denmark

  • Mikklesen stars in largely white cast – but the film is set in 18th century Denmark 

A forthcoming movie set in 1750’s Denmark has been accused of lacking diversity and that it risks not qualifying for next year’s Oscars following new rules laid down in Hollywood.

The Promised Land stars James Bond actor Mads Mikkelsen as an 18th-century army captain struggling to raise his social status and maintain his values in an increasingly hostile climate. 

Mr Mikkelsen stars alongside a predominantly white cast, and during an interview last week, a Danish journalist quizzed the actor about the dearth of racial diversity – which left him furious.

The reporter asked him: ‘The film is entirely Nordic, it therefore has some lack of diversity you would say, there’s also new rules implied in Hollywood…?’

Mr Mikkelsen, who starred in Casino Royale as a villain, immediately shook his head and asked: ‘What are you on?’, before turning to his director in apparent disbelief.

The journalist then explained that Best Picture Academy nominees must align with new rules announced by the Oscars committee which state that movies must include diverse leading or supporting actors, or that a large number of the cast are from an underrepresented group.

He asked: ‘It’s not because of artistic reasons, it’s because of a lack of diversity, are you worried about it?’, to which Mr Mikkelsen, 57, replied angrily: ‘Are you? 

‘You’re putting us on the spot so you answer the question.’

During an interview last week, a Danish journalist quizzed Mr Mikkelsen about the dearth of racial diversity – which left him furious

Mikkelsen quickly bit back at the reporter before looking to director Nikolaj Arcel

Mr Mikkelsen, who starred in Casino Royale as a villain, immediately shook his head, and asked: ‘What are you on?’ and turned to his director in apparent disbelief

Director Nikolaj Arcel then intervened and explained that the movie does in fact feature an ethnically diverse character who was victim to racism.

‘We do have a big plot line about a girl of colour who is being subjected to racism, she was probably at the time the only [person of colour] in the entire country of Denmark.

‘It wasn’t a thought in our mind, I think it would be a little weird, it’s just how it was in the 1750s,’ Mr Arcel added as Mr Mikkelsen grinned beside him.

The historical drama is based on a novel inspired by a real person, Captain Ludvig Kahlen, and premiered at the recent Venice Film Festival.

In May the Oscars committee announced new representation and inclusion standards for a film to be eligible for the awards, though it applies solely for the best picture category. 

The standards, which come into effect next year, are designed to encourage equal representation on and off screen to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going and movie-making audience.

They require that the film must meet the criteria of either having at least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors, or that 30 per cent of the secondary roles, are from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.

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