Don’t let her diminutive stature fool you. Alicia Vikander, movie megastar in the making, is one tough cookie—and her determination is taking her higher with each successive box office victory.
As tired as we all are of the term “It girl,” we simply have no choice but to apply it to
Who is that, you ask? Not up on the latest cool actors and actresses, you say? Didn’t get around to seeing her movies that were critically acclaimed (Testament of Youth, The Danish Girl) but not household words? That’s OK; we’re going to introduce you. Because this is someone you need to know about.
The fresh-faced, 28-year-old Swedish actress actually won an Oscar for her role in The Danish Girl, for her portrayal of Gerda Wegener, the wife of one of the earliest men to undergo gender-confirmation history (played by Eddie Redmayne). And she was nominated for a Golden Globe award last year for her role as a robot in Ex Machina. She also starred opposite her real-life love, Michael Fassbender, in The Light Between Oceans, and alongside Matt Damon in Jason Bourne. So she hasn’t been as under-the-radar as you might think. And even if she had, she isn’t now—and her name is squarely at the center of a buzz among Hollywood directors, fashion insiders and movie buffs who are, quite simply, taken with Vikander—and for good reason.
Her career is so on the upswing that she’s just formed Vikarious Productions, a film company of her own in order to allow her the freedom to make whatever movie she wants. And yet, she’s still finding it all new and amazing. “Hollywood was like a rumor,” she told Vanity Fair last year, when the magazine featured her on their cover. “I and my mum, we’d set the alarm for 2 am to watch the Oscars, and it was like a window onto another universe. And then to have her there next to me [at the Oscars] this year. We were just cursing in Swedish…It’s been pretty fucking…wow.”
This woman, with her younger-than-her-years face and diminutive stature, has been described as a “force of nature” by those who have worked with her, and it would seem that’s so. When Rob Haskell profiled her for Vogue magazine two years ago, she suggested that, rather than the usual diner meet-up as the setting for their chat, the two meet and go skydiving. Haskell painted a picture of a terrified Vikander showing up at his house pre-dawn, “teeth chattering.” After the dive, she explained to him that she had chosen that activity to conquer a pre-existing fear and put it away for good. That determination is something that those who have known her all her life are familiar with, and she admits as much. “I push myself hard,” she said. “I don’t like pain, exactly, but as a ballerina I lived in constant pain. At ballet school in Stockholm, I remember we had a locker where if someone had been to the doctor and gotten painkillers, we divided them among us.” Perhaps that period inured her, because Vikander is clearly strong enough to handle a lot all at once. When she first burst into the public consciousness, it was because she was suddenly appearing in a spate of films simultaneously, at one point having six films in American theaters at one time.
Vikander grew up in Göteborg, Sweden, with her mother, who was also a successful actress but in the theater. At age 7, she was onstage herself, in a production that was written by the creators of Mamma Mia! at the Göteborg Opera House, and she kept the role in that play for the next three years. It was then that she also became a ballerina, moving to Stockholm by herself at 15 to train at the Royal Swedish Ballet School. But acting remained her passion, even after she’d finished ballet school, and after a gig with a Swedish soap opera and multiple rejections from a Swedish drama school, Vikander resorted to law school. Just as she was about to accept a second-best fate, she landed the lead in the Swedish film Pure—and earned the Swedish equivalent of an Oscar for her efforts.
Today, Vikander—whose work ethic is praised across the board by her longtime friends, directors, co-stars, and Fassbender—has five films in motion. She’s just wrapped a turn as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider and is set to star in Freak Shift, with Armie Hammer, which starts filming this month. In the period piece Tulip Fever, hitting theaters on August 25th, Vikander co-stars with Christoph Waltz and Cara Delevingne—all splendidly costumed in 17th-century finery—as a married woman for whom an artist falls while he’s painting her portrait during tulip season in Amsterdam. She plays the sister of Eva Green in Euphoria, the tale of two conflicted sisters traveling through Europe, and stars in the upcoming thriller Submergence with James McAvoy, which is set in Africa and chronicles the story of an Englishman held captive by jihadist fighters in a room with no windows on the eastern coast of Africa. And in between all of it, Vikander is the face of Louis Vuitton—it’s only natural that she would be someone’s muse—and has been since 2015.
But as busy as she is professionally, life is not all work, no play for Vikander. Last month, she and Fassbender took off to Ibiza for a well-earned vacation, lounging aboard a yacht, swimming, sunning, and clearly enjoying each other’s company, while either ignoring or remaining oblivious to the paparazzi. Both are fiercely private about their three-year-old relationship, with Fassbender telling Entertainment Weekly, “I think we’ve made a clear statement that we keep certain things just between us. I’m not going to talk about my private life with a total stranger, unless I feel like I need to. Why would I? I don’t.” Vikander’s onboard with that philosophy. And this girl obviously knows what she’s doing.