Arriving exclusively on Netflix this Friday is Jonas Åkerlund’s adaptation of Polar, the Dark Horse graphic novel series that follows a highly skilled assassin named Duncan Vizla (Mads Mikkelsen) who is set to retire, but his boss deems him a danger to the future of his criminal organization, and dispatches a gang of killers to eliminate Duncan by any means necessary. As he deals with adjusting to his new life, and the constant threat of death looming all around him, Duncan meets a young woman named Camille (Vanessa Hudgens), who gives him a new reason to get back to work.
Daily Dead briefly chatted with Mikkelsen recently, and he talked about the appeal of Polar and his process for bringing his character Duncan to life for the project. Mads also discussed his approach to the physical demands of his role in Polar, fleshing out the complicated relationship between Duncan and Camille, and how the long-suffering fans of Hannibal shouldn’t give up hope on season four of Bryan Fuller’s series just yet.
There is a lot going on with Duncan, and I wanted to start off by talking about your process of digging into him. He’s not overtly verbose, and it seems like he’s working through some of the baggage that comes with the life he’s led, too. Was that the appeal for you when you came on board for Polar?
Mads Mikkelsen: Well, the graphic novels were the first appeal. Duncan Vizla is interesting because he's obviously a very cool character. And we wanted him to stay cool, but we also wanted him to be socially awkward. We wanted him to be not really ready to put his feet into the normal world. It's a territory he's not good at. So, when we meet him, he's a little pissed off by the fact that he's retiring. It's not really what he wants. So we didn't want it to be a character that's been haunted for what he's done and then he can't wait to retire. We wanted the opposite. We wanted a man who's really good at this job. He's trying not to think about his job too much. It's just something he's good at. So that was our approach. And also, in the fights and the way he fights, he's not some bodybuilder. He's skillful, but he's heavy and tired.
You just mentioned the fight scenes, and I noticed that as the movie progresses, a lot of the action is still super slick and polished. But then, in the third act, there’s a huge shift in the physicality of Duncan. How did you prepare for taking on the more arduous aspects of this character?
Mads Mikkelsen: Right. You have that physicality, and it's enormously important, especially so in this film. We wanted to release the beast, absolutely, but at the same time, we didn't want him to become a Superman, either. We just want him to be almost collapsing every time he's facing someone because each fight is like the last step for Duncan. Just one more step and he can move on, and that was our approach. In a way, he’s a man who was basically close to dying all the time.
There’s this endearingly awkward rapport that builds towards something very interesting between Duncan and Camille, Vanessa's character. I love the fact that she ends up representing something very different than I was expecting, and their relationship is so intriguing. Can you talk about exploring that back-and-forth in Polar?
Mads Mikkelsen: Yeah, that was one of the things we had this idea that we wanted to, not necessarily in the same manner, but we wanted to have that kind of sensation where audiences in those final moments are like, “Oh, so that's what it's been all about all along.” And with the character of Camille, the approach was quite sweet because, as I said, we had this thing we always talked about these two characters being two lost souls living in a fish bowl as they find each other. There's a certain sweetness, but there are also some comedy elements in their meeting, too. It’s an odd, odd friendship that we're evolving there, but at the same time, they don't seem out of place together, either. It's as if they fit somehow.
If things go well with Polar, it seems that there could be more opportunities for this character in the future. If you had the chance to come back and take on Duncan again, is that something you would be game for and where would you like to see the character go then?
Mads Mikkelsen: We are all absolutely game for more. We are aware that there are more graphic novels out there, and we took quite a few liberties with the story here, so they are not following the same path. But I would love to revisit this character. I think he needs a little vacation, then he would be fit to fight again. We also had some really cool ideas about what kind of gang he would end up with, after the ending of this story. There are a few interesting characters in Polar that we would love to revisit, too, and as a fan of the material, I think it would be interesting to see where this could go in another film.
When discussing memorable characters, obviously Hannibal is one of those characters, which is proven by the fact that the series is still very much at the forefront of fans' minds after several years. How great does that make you feel, knowing this is a character that people are still looking for, people are still talking about, people are still waiting to see if maybe he gets to come back? It must be pretty surreal, especially because that doesn't always happen when shows get canceled.
Mads Mikkelsen: We love it. Without those fans and their devotion and passion, we wouldn't even be talking about a fourth season. They are the sole reason why it's still up in the air, I guess. They're fantastic and they are great supporters of, not only Hannibal, but also of the other things we're doing simultaneously. They have even been very interested in Polar and that's just a fantastic situation for us to be in, because they are so supportive.