Breakout stars come in two kinds: those who hit the big time with their first film (Lupita Nyong’o), and those who bubble under the surface for years (Brie Larson). Alicia Vikander was the ‘it’ girl of 2015, starring in almost every second film to critical acclaim. The 26-year-old actress’ career trajectory has taken turns most performers could only dream of; working under esteemed directors and alongside A-list acting royalty over just a couple of years.
Like fellow 20-something stars including Jennifer Lawrence, this Swedish actress takes chances, throws herself into many confronting situations, and has never been afraid of the spotlight. She is already Hollywood’s most accomplished actress under 30, with a grace and presence different to any blonde bombshell, action-badass archetype, or Keira Knightley/period-piece type.
In the early 2010s, two films, A Royal Affair and Anna Karenina, showcased Vikander’s raw tenacity and talents in a limited space of time. The actress, learning Danish over two months and immersing herself in the main cast and crew to perfect her dialect for the first of these two films, wished to become a part of the production more so than standing out as the ‘talent’.
Placed on the BAFTA shortlist after A Royal Affair, the actress outlined an all-star cast in Joe Wright’s re-imagining of the Leo Tostoy classic. Playing naïve lovebird Kitty, the actress overshadowed Keira Knightley in her first English-language project. Vikander’s momentum continued to pick up steam, starring in key roles in docudrama The Fifth Estate and war-drama Testament of Youth. Opposite everyone from Benedict Cumberbatch to Bill Condon, her on-screen presence has become difficult to ignore.
Her performances in three 2015 films, in particular, showcase her phenomenal range, charm, and respect for the craft. Her most-talked-about role is as human-esque cyborg Ava in Ex Machina. British writer/director Alex Garland’s sci-fi flick provided Vikander with one of the year’s most challenging and thought-provoking roles. Thanks to phenomenal visual effects, along with co-stars Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac, she portrays a soft, delicate balance between human and machine.
In contrast, her role in spy flick The Man from U.N.C.L.E. took a swift turn from her preceding roles in dramas and think-pieces. Stealing scenery from Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, her character is a potent mix of boisterous and determined. Throughout the film, her endearing charisma elevates the familiar material. Her dramatic and comedic sides harmonise with the film’s light-hearted tone.
Most recently, her Oscar-nominated performance in The Danish Girl proved she could overcome being the best thing in a polarising film. Eclipsing Oscar-winning leading man Eddie Redmayne, Vikander portrays her real-life character with subtlety and punch. Her character, forced to watch her husband transition from male to female over several decades, is a tough, relentless role for any actress. Peppering the overwhelming dramatic moments with touches of humour and sarcasm, she comes into her own throughout the film’s confronting journey.
Vikander’s run of projects of varying genres, scopes, and pedigrees is only growing stronger. Upcoming Australian drama The Light Between Oceans sees her star opposite real-life partner, and fellow A-lister, Michael Fassbender. Tulip Fever will push her into a different stratosphere, playing opposite veteran acting titans Judi Dench and Christoph Waltz. She will then star opposite Matt Damon in the 5th Bourne flick.
Images courtesy of Universal Pictures