Lunch With The Danish Girls And Their Director

by HFPA September 6, 2015

Alica Vikander and Eddie Redmayne at HFPA luncheon

Luca Celada/HFPA

There are ways to break up an exhausting junket day. “How civilized!” is how Eddie Redmayne put it happily as he walked to his lunch with the HFPA at the Sala Stucchi in the Excelsior Hotel. The star of The Danish Girl was joined by Alicia Vikander and director Tom Hooper. Over vitello tonnato, insalata mista, verdure grigliate, penne con pomodori, salmone and other delicacies Redmayne confided to being very emotional after Saturday’s world premiere. “I just hadn’t seen the film before and it was quite overwhelming.” He got up three times to refill his plate – “I like buffets, it’s all you can eat!” the slim actor laughed, adding: “We had dinner with the cast after the premiere late last night but I had so much Adrenalin going that I could not eat very much.”

One might think that director Tom Hooper – an Oscar winner, Golden Globe nominee and veteran of such films as Les Misérables and The King’s Speech – is used to applause and adoration, but even he said: “I have never experienced a night like the last one. We got a standing ovation that was lovely and the credits were at the part where the caterers come up, so it was really at the end of the credits and the audience was still standing. I was very humbled, and having just finished the film and see on people’s faces how moved they were, people of different ages and the connection they made to the story was very important.” Alicia Vikander, who plays Gerda, Einar Wegener’s (Redmayne) wife, teared up between bites as she recalled the amazing reception the film received: “I am still crying, it was so moving.” Vikander looked beautiful and vulnerable in a mustard-colored crochet dress by Dagmar, a new designer she discovered recently. The busy young actress – she is starting to shoot the next installment of the Bourne franchise with Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass next month in Teneriffa – is not yet aware of the impact The Danish Girl will have on her career. For the last 24 hours the festival has been buzzing about “the breakout star of the year”. She is just happy to be settling into her new place: “I bought a new flat in London which is my home base. Right now I am making drawings to decorate it”, she laughed and showed us an abstract piece inspired by the Lili character in the film on her smart phone.

Her co-star is two weeks into shooting Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, based on the book J.K. Rowling wrote for the Hogwarts library and attributed to a fictional author named Newt Scamander. “I am completely forbidden to tell you anything about the film, otherwise they’ll kill me!” he laughed. “Except that it is that book from the Harry Potter films in the library. I play Newt Scamander.” We decided not to pry since we do not want to endanger Eddie’s life. It may seem that Redmayne works nonstop, but he told us: “I took five months off after The Danish Girl. Hannah and I went to the Maldives, it was wonderful. I had never done a holiday like that. Of course I used SPF 500 and still burned after three minutes in the sun.”

All three – Redmayne, Vikander and Hooper – believe that the time is right for their film: “Of course there is still a lot to be done in terms of acceptance of the transgender issue but yes, I do believe that it has changed for the better in the past couple of years.” said the actor. The project has been around for over ten years. At one point Nicole Kidman was attached to play Einar, in a reverse version of the story. In another incarnation Gwyneth Paltrow was supposed to play Gerda Wegener, a role Charlize Theron and Uma Thurman were also mentioned for. And then there were several directors, among them Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy helmer Tomas Alfredson and Swede Lasse Hallström.

“When the project came to me during the Les Misérables shoot, I was able to start with a completely clean slate.” Hooper said. He immediately chose Redmayne for the male lead: “He keeps surprising me. He is just so normal when you deal with him and you can’t imagine his talent. I mean, he is very clever and articulate. But when you turn the camera on ... it’s the mystery of talent to me.” Fame has not changed the Golden Globe and Oscar winner at all: “I was filming with him on a Friday and then again on the following Tuesday and he had won the Oscar in between. He came back and in the first scene we shot he is being examined by the doctor and he has to take the clothes off in front of the camera. And we talked about the Oscar for maybe three minutes and then it was back to work. His humility is not an act.”

And it looks very much like the same will be said about Alicia Vikander.

Elisabeth Sereda

Here are some candid shots of Alica Vikander and Eddie Redmayne at the HFPA luncheon: