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Alicia Vikander: One Tough Kitty

Gorgeous young Swedish actress Alicia Vikander had to overcome a lot in taking on the challenging role of Kitty in ANNA KARENINA. The character must move from being an immature, flirtatious girl infatuated with Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) to a wise woman who, with the help of Levin (Domnhmall Gleeson), the suitor she previously spurned, begins to understand the true meaning of love. Critics are already hailing her fine performance. The Independent's Geoffrey Macnab writes: “In the early scenes, flirting with Vronsky, whom she hopes will marry her, Vikander's Kitty is a flighty, immature coquette. She seems oblivious to the unhappiness she causes Levin, the suitor from the country she so casually brushes off. She is very pretty, very immature. However, late on, seen in the frozen limits of Russia tending the ill, Kitty shows steeliness and tenderness. There is more to her – and to the actress who plays her – than we could have guessed.” ANNA KARENINA really required Vikander to dig deep. For a start, she had never made an English-language movie before, and had to convince director Joe Wright that she could perfect an English accent. “Alicia grasped the opportunity of this role with both hands,” says the film's producer Paul Webster. In addition to speaking English and plumbing the character’s inner depth, Vikander had to take on the physical challenge that wearing such constraining outfits demanded. Despite joking that she had “corset training” from having made the period drama A Royal Affair, Vikander actually fainted from the tight dresses she had to wear on ANNA KARENINA. Shooting in St. Petersburg, however, was maybe the most grueling experience. "It was 40 below, we didn't have hot water for five days and slept in a cabin, on a bench," Vikander told The Guardian. "On our call sheets it actually said: 'Beware of wolves. They are known to attack lone humans.' We saw a wolf one time, and a bear, but there were some very tough Russian security guys who came along." She adds with a laugh, "It was one of the most fantastic adventures I've ever had in my life. But I don't need to do it twice."

Alicia Vikander: From Dance to Film

The daughter of theater actress Maria Fahl Vikander, Gothenburg-born Alicia Vikander grew up around performers. “Theatre has always been a part of my life,” she recalled in a recent interview. “When we couldn't find a babysitter, I always slept in the wings.” It was no surprise then that she decided at the age of nine that she wanted to follow her mother onto the stage –– but as a ballerina, not an actress. She proceeded to spend the majority of her teenage years going through arduous training at the Royal Swedish Ballet School, however injuries dogged her. At 15, she had her first operation on her feet. The following year, she impulsively attended an audition for a TV show directed by TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY director Tomas Alfredson called En decemberdröm. When she got the role, she discovered that acting was her true passion, and left ballet behind. Some of the qualities instilled in this former trainee ballerina remain, though, most notably a toughness, steely determination and a good work ethic. Returning to dance with ANNA KARENINA, for the first time since her teens, was a welcome opportunity for Vikander. “Domhnall and I worked with [choreographer] Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui to get into contact with the characters through movement,” she says. “How Kitty walks or runs into a room at the start of the story and how she is in the last scenes, there’s a complete difference. She proves herself to be very un-judgemental, considering her status in society, and this better prepares her for what comes later.”

Alicia Vikander: Shooting Star

From her initial foray into acting with director Tomas Alfredson, Alicia Vikander moved on to a role in the hit Swedish TV drama Andra Avenyn and then a string of short films. In 2010, she made her big screen debut with a scintillating lead turn as the emotionally vulnerable Katarina in writer/director Lisa Langseth's Pure (aka Beloved), an intense portrait of a young woman with a suicidal alcoholic mother who enters into an ill-advised affair with an orchestra conductor. For her performance, she won Best Actress at the Guldbagge Awards (Sweden's equivalent of the Oscars) and was selected as the Swedish winner of the European Shooting Star awards, with the jury for the latter declaring, “From tomboy to temptress, from street kid to secretary, Vikander shows a sheer range in her big-screen debut that's utterly hypnotic. Her grace and physicality make her transformation in Pure totally believable.” Her startling performance in Pure also brought her to the attention of ANNA KARENINA's casting director, as well as helped nab her other major role of recent times, that of Caroline Mathilde, Queen of Denmark, in A Royal Affair, opposite Mads Mikkelsen. (That film required her to learn Danish almost from scratch, and Vikander actually learned her lines for the audition phonetically after a Danish friend recorded them on her iPod.) For Vikander, selected for Variety's vaunted “10 Actors to Watch” list in 2012, the future is certainly bright. Due out next year is The Seventh Son, a fantasy adventure in which she plays a half witch/half human opposite Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore and ANNA KARENINA co-star Olivia Williams. After that, Vikander reteams with Pure's Langseth for their second collaboration, Hotel. Pondering what makes Vikander so special as an actress, Langseth says, “I think Alicia has something which is very uncommon. Maybe it's a cliché but I think it's true that some people have faces that the camera loves. You can look at her face and you can see so many different levels of her soul at the same time. Her face tells a story in every picture.”

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