Interview: Oscar winner Alicia Vikander on ‘The Glorias’ and finding her voice
After more than a decade in the industry, and post-Oscar win, Alicia Vikander speaks to new AwardsWatch correspondent Christina Birro of Pop Culture Confidential about how she is learning to take small breaks, her focus (cooking helps!) and how she and Gloria Steinem connected in personal ways. How, early in her Hollywood career, an actress spoke up for her in an uncomfortable, sexist situation and how much that taught her. And how she wants to use her voice and her power to play women from all angles and all dimensions and to get smaller movies with interesting writer/directors off the ground, like her upcoming film Blue Bayou.
I thought a lot about growing up, about finding your own voice, who you are, what you want to do and the struggle of getting there.Alicia Vikander
We are thrilled to bring you this special and personal conversation with Alicia Vikander as she talks to us about starring as feminist icon Gloria Steinem in the upcoming film The Glorias (directed by Julie Taymor), about how she has has found her voice and what she wants to do with her Hollywood power.
CB: Alicia, thank you so much for joining me.
AV: Thank you so much for having me.
CB: I feel like, just indulge me for 30 seconds. A couple of years ago I was supposed to interview you live on stage and for my show, but I got sick – like hospital sick – which is a freelance nightmare. But that’s another story. I wrote you letter to apologize and see if we could set up something new and you sent me such a kind email and you apologized. You wrote that you had just finished a press tour on three continents, dozens of countries, hundreds of days, and just needed a break.
AV: Maybe not hundreds, but it was probably a lot of them [laughs].
CB: Well, here we are and honestly the fact that I get to talk to you ahead of The Glorias, it just felt meant to be because my listeners know that I stan Steinem. And so to quote her, “The art of life is not controlling what happens to us but using what happens to us,” so thank you so much.
AV: Thank you so much. Yes, I’ve listened to you podcast with Gloria and I felt the same way when I got to meet her for the first time of person. It was overwhelming.
CB: What did you do on that break?
AV: At that point I was probably still, if that was two or three years ago, I was still probably very close to getting onto another job. And then taking a break from press became quite important, I think. I had had two years when so many films came out and I kind of just wanted to focus on the projects that I had coming up. And it’s not probably until like the last year now or the last one and a half years when I’ve, for the first time in like 10 years, decided to actually take breaks. I not only do not do press, but I don’t work for a few weeks and I have time to actually now, I’ve over the last two weeks, so I’ve been taking a bit time off. I’m about to start working next week, but I’ve mostly spent time cooking. That’s my new thing. I’ve been baking and cooking. I had a Japanese friend over the other night who is teaching me Japanese cuisine.
CB: That’s amazing. I don’t know if I’ve heard this or if I’ve just sort of thought it but, are you a gamer?
AV: Well, that was probably during the time when I was promoting Tomb Raider. I actually did go and, you know play the new games before I made the film. I used to play Tomb Raider when I was a kid. I think I just realized, I was like in awe of the people who play, you know, because you need so much time. I’d spend like two days and probably realized that I’m not as good as I used to be at this sort of thing. I hadn’t done it in quite some time, but when I was a young teenager I really enjoyed both like computer games and video games.
CB: You seem like such a focused person. You learned Danish for a movie [The Danish Girl], you learned Japanese for Earthquake Bird, you train for your action movies and you always have like four movies in post. Can you describe the Vikander focus?
AV: I think focus comes out of love for doing something. So I don’t think I decide to focus on something, you know, and then I’ve started in the wrong end. I think I love when I come, you know, like the, of course I didn’t learn, I didn’t learn Japanese in the way I could learn Danish being Swedish, but you know, it’s the challenge that came to me and included a language from a country that since I was a kid I’ve been quite obsessed by and to get the opportunity to go there and embrace myself in that culture and then try and learn how to, or at least pretend that I know the language and of course learn a bit of it, was just such a little gift presented to me. So I think the focus kind of comes second hand in that I really wanted to do it.
CB: You’ve said, which I’m sure is sort of about your ballet background, that “I’m very good with pain.” Are you that way mentally also, that you can really sort of push through things?
AV: I mean, the physical pain, I’m not as good at anymore [laughs]. I actually put up point shoes on a while ago and I guess I realized that nothing gets as hard as those ballet years. But yes, I think that stress that you put your body through or in work or whatever kind of gives you, it gives you that payoff. And maybe that was my ballet training that was an early introduction to that kind of way of working. I like the kind of mix of highs and lows. If it’s, if it’s the feeling that comes after you know, as a stressful exercise or if it’s working really hard and then do nothing and be in my kitchen and cook.
CB: This is what Gloria Steinem has said about you: “Alicia and I are thousands of miles and five decades apart yet we both grew up wanting to first be ballet dancers and then a lawyer, a combination of art and activism. I think we would have been friends as children and it’s a miracle that we’re meeting now across continents and times.”
AV: Oh God.
CB: Do you see yourself in her the same way that she sees herself in you?
AV: I think when I picked up and read her biography, to hear her story, it was these tiny little details; where she grew up, the kind of journey she’s done through life. I think the first time I spoke to her it was a quote from a book where she mentions what it’s like to have your life on the road. And I realized that she said somewhere that she hadn’t been in one place for more than 10 days or something. I don’t know what number it was, but I was like, my God, that’s kind of true to me and it’s one of those things that a lot of other people I think would read that like, that’s crazy. You know? And even I did at first eyes on that row and then I realized no, but that is me. Like for probably eight to 10 years, I never spent, even if I had two, three weeks off, I was still moving between places every 10 days.
CB: How did you prepare for her [in the film The Glorias], other than sort of seeing those things that connected you?
AV: Well, in the film we’re four actors who play Gloria and Julianne Moore plays the latter part of her life. In one way, I think most of us have maybe more references of Gloria Steinem the woman and the work she’s done from, from age 40 and maybe above. There’s a lot of interviews. There’s a lot of videos to watch and we kind of know how to be this incredible speaker. What I found interesting, what I didn’t really know, was that this woman had fought so hard to find her voice and that it was the fact that no one allowed her written was to kind of be published because of the time she was living in. So she came to a point where she was like, well, if people aren’t gonna listen to me, I have to speak out loud. I had the pleasure of meeting her and getting to ask what that experience was like. It was interesting, I was given a Dropbox with a lot of little videos from her younger years that I hadn’t been able to find online or on YouTube and you see a very different kind of Gloria where you get the sense she doesn’t feel comfortable in front of a camera or a journalist but she still has these very intelligent, pointed things she wants to say. And it was that kind of fight that I tried to base my section, my part, my Gloria on. I think for myself, as a woman of soon 32, I thought a lot about my own journey, about other women I know about. I talked a about the feeling of growing up, about finding your voice, finding who you are, what you want to do and the struggle of getting there.
Continue reading and listen to the full interview at Pop Culture Confidential…
The Glorias premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was recently picked up by LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions for release later this year.