Profile: Alicia Vikander on Ex Machina

Profile: Alicia Vikander on Ex Machina

She's Hollywood's next big thing with a huge 2015 ahead, so we decided to find out more

Profile: Alicia Vikander

Background: Born in Gothenberg, Sweden, in 1988, Alicia Vikander trained as a ballerina for nine years before switching to acting. She's currently best known for her roles in A Royal Affair and Anna Karenina, and recently starred in Testament of Youth. With several films due for release in 2015 – including Guy Ritchie's The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – she's set to have a big year.

Her latest film is: British sci-fi thriller Ex Machina, written and directed by Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later). She plays Ava, a beautiful female A.I., whose human qualities are assessed by Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a young programmer invited to test the robot by Nathan (Oscar Isaac), Ava's reclusive, genius inventor.

On her preparation for the role: 'When you're doing these kinds of films, it's fun to read books and to look at documentaries and clips on YouTube and you kind of get into it. But with finding Ava, I didn't look so much for inspiration in how other people had done other robots, because Ava hasn't been done before. This is a new machine. Also, playing a robot is kind of a clean sheet - with all the other parts that I've done, the obvious thing you relate to is them being human and that wasn't the case with Ava.'

On finding the perfect robotic quality: 'Alex told me that this robot is made by a person and, in one way, he's aiming for perfection. So I wanted her to be very much a girl and then try to find the "off" beats that would then read as not being human within that. I had the idea that when you make something, you treasure it and you want to make it perfect. You aim for it, at least. I tried to do that in the way she moves and the way she talks – I wanted to find a purity to that, something quite elevated, something a bit polished. And funnily enough, the perfection in the way she moves and the way she talks actually ended up being read as robotic, because flaws are very human.'

On her favourite screen robot: 'My favourite screen robot is Maria in Metropolis. That was the first one that came out, so I think that's quite a good answer.'

On the film's feminist theme: 'It's interesting to talk to people who've seen the film. They have very different reactions to the end, without giving too much away. It depends on how you see things, it's the perspective of whether you believe that robots can have consciousness or not. So some people say the film is feminist and that makes me happy. Well, it's feminist in the way that it has a great female part – just that itself is quite a big thing in this industry. It's very rare to find really good female roles and when you look at the other films that Alex has written, he has very strong female roles.'

On re-teaming up with Anna Karenina co-star Domhnall Gleeson: 'It was great. There are actors out there who, if you get the chance to work with them, you're like, [punches air] 'YES!', and Domhnall is one of them, he's one of the great ones. He pushes me to go in new directions. There's a playfulness to him and he's such an emotional, organic actor. It was interesting – at the table read, we realised that we've been married on screen and now there's this film where we have five extremely long scenes together but, funnily enough, we never have any physical contact. When we did Anna Karenina, we remembered the way they touched once, with their fingers. It was so electric. Then in this film, we were in the same space but we always had a glass wall between us. And the space got smaller and smaller, and the tension between us increased. So that distance between us was something that we really worked on together.'

On her ideal week off work: 'I'd go to the market early in the morning, buy ingredients, go home and cook. I'd have my friends come over mid-day and they could drink wine and we could chat and have a good dinner. So I'd like to socialise and hopefully sleep a bit. That could be nice.'

Ex Machina

  • 4 stars
  • 2015
  • UK / US
  • 1h 48min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Alex Garland
  • Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander
  • UK release: 23 January 2015

Ambitious young coder Caleb (Gleeson) wins a competition to take part in a research experiment at the hmoe of his CEO (Isaac) – where he meets the experiment itself, robot Ava (Vikander). The ensuing battle of the sexes is played out through dramatic, witty and provocative discussion, making for smart, accessible and…