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Jan 2015
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IRISH TIMES – It is an exciting time to be Alicia Vikander. Poised on the cusp of fame, fortune and everything they entail, the Swedish actor has an impressive eight cinematic releases this year, with directors such as Guy Ritchie, Alex Garland and Justin Chadwick suggesting magnitude as well as multitude.

Her co-stars, meanwhile, read like an who’s who of Hollywood’s A-list, with Jack O’Connell, Henry Cavill, Hugh Grant and her rumoured boyfriend Michael Fassbender sharing screen time.

That’s not even the impressive part. At a time when multidimensional female characters are a rarity, Vikander (26) has already shown an aversion to standard roles, even if it meant she almost pushed herself out of the industry to which she aspired.

“I don’t believe in trying to make the perfect career, but looking back, I’ve chosen to work with great film-makers, or take parts that challenge me,” she says with glow of confidence at the London hotel where we meet. “I can read 30 or 40 scripts and to find one character-driven, complex part is difficult.

“I have said no to roles, which was hard to do when I was starting out and all I wanted to do is work. This was three years ago, when I couldn’t afford my rent. I even considered going back to university because it was just too difficult to get inside the industry. But I dared to gamble.”

That chutzpah paid off in 2011 when she got her breakthrough as the scene-stealing Kitty in Anna Karenina, opposite Kiera Knightley. She moved to London (sharing a room with Swedish duo Icona Pop) and earned a Bafta Rising Star nomination. The offers came pouring in, although timings mean we’re only seeing her work now.

First out of the blocks is Testament Of Youth, a BBC-backed biopic telling the story of the first World War from the perspective of peace advocate Vera Brittain. Saoirse Ronan was attached to the lead part initially, but scheduling conflicts meant it went to Vikander, a repetition of the casting change in Anna Karenina. Do the two share the same taste in film?

“It’s just part of being a young actress,” Vikander shrugs. “I’ve met her; she’s a lovely girl. It’s not uncommon that the same people go for the same roles. Most of the girls I’m competing with, I’m very good friends with. If I audition and they tell me there are another 10 girls going in for it, I’d know eight of them.”

Perhaps the small pool is due to the scarcity of solid young female roles? “That’s why this part was a gift.”

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