Zegna’s Global Ambassador Mads Mikkelsen On Fashion, Film And Fatherhood

Lara Mansour   |   11-06-2024

With a career spanning three decades, Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen has become one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood.

From a bold villain to a detective to comedic roles, his portfolio makes him one of the film worlds most versatile artists. Beginning his career in Danish productions, Mikkelsens breakthrough came when he was cast in the 2004 movie King Arthur, and he has since gone on to star in some of Hollywoods biggest movies such as Casino Royale, Hannibal, Dr Strange and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. 

Away from the spotlight, Mikkelsen lives a humble lifestyle with his family in Europe. A father of two and more recently a grandfather, he splits his time between Denmark and Majorca. 

In 2023, Mikkelsen was revealed as Zegnas new Global Ambassador, which sees him lead the Italian brands 232 community of visionaries, who are united by a commitment to excellence and bold decision-making. The brands latest collection LOasi di Lino, which debuted at the Summer 2024 fashion show in Milan, embodies Artistic Director Alessandro Sartoris vision of lightness for the season through relaxed silhouettes and a color palette inspired by the natural world. As the brands ambassador, Mikkelsen is the face of the collections campaign, which sees the actor wearing iconic ZEGNA staples – including the Alba Overshirt, Triple Stitch Espadrilles and the new Orizzonte II Sunglasses. As the brand celebrates the launch of the campaign in Shanghai, we talked to Mads Mikkelsen to find out what it means to him to be aligned with a brand like Zegna. 

What are the common codes and values between yourself and Zegna?

I didnt know much about the brand when I first wore one of their tuxedos – I just thought it was fantastic to wear – but then later, they invited me to the home of Zegna in Trivero, and thats when I discovered the story about Ermengildo Zegna, how the brand began, the Oasi Zegna, how they built schools and houses, planted trees and much more. At this point, I thought, a lot of people talk the talk but dont walk the walk, be he did, and the brand has been doing that ever since. Always keeping things in the community, keeping the manufacturing close to them – I loved the story, and the place was so beautiful. There was something about the people, even though they are working in fashion, it is about so much more for them. It is very important that the brand was a mirror of the familys values, and therefore I fell in love. Everyone is so nice, Alessandro Sartori is fantastic; it was not how I imagined the fashion world. 

Sustainability is very important to the brand and to the planet today. How important is this in your life? 

I would be a hypocrite if I were to say I think about it all the time – after all, I did fly all the way from Copenhagen to Shanghai – but I think sustainability is something that people are becoming more and more aware of. I am a big opponent of nuclear power, I think there are some fantastic innovations still to be made, which may not solve everything, but will definitely solve something.  Im aware of it, and when it comes to how to tackle it, I agree with some messages, and I disagree with others, but its our planet, we love it, and we want to keep it. 

You are the face of Zegnas latest campaign – in your professional eyes, what is this campaign saying and how much were you involved in the making of the video?

Of course, I have an understanding of filmmaking, but this is a different world for me. I trust Alessandro and the Zegna family to do what is best for them, and I lean into that. Everything weve done so far has been very aesthetic and very much in the spirit of how Alessandro visualizes everything. 

Whats your favourite Zegna piece?

I have a lot of things that I really enjoy, but I have a very slim jacket made out of suede. Its dark brown, and its the most beautiful piece. 

What do you think is special about this brand? 

The quality of the materials, the linen, which is absolutely soft in a way that you cannot imagine linen to be, or the cashmere, which is unreal to touch. Then, there is the quality of how it is made and the talent of the people who are making it. 

How would you assess the filmmaking industry, its current state, and its biggest challenges?

There are a lot of challenges. A few years ago, it was streaming platforms—I wasnt afraid at that point because I was in the mindset that rather than competing, we should work together. There will always be room for film, but we dont know where its going because its a young art form compared to ballet, music, or opera, for example. So, it could take a lot of turns.

There is a fine balance when it comes to streaming platforms. Obviously, AI is a big deal now for the entire world, and we need to figure out how to live with it and how to use it because it is here to stay. 

There will always be room for real people on screen and people would always like to go to a movie theater and see films together. I have no doubt of that. Its popularity might decrease, but then there will be something else. Im not nervous about the future. There will definitely be some films that are completely AI, and that will be interesting and fun, but I dont think it will take over completely. 

What are you currently working on?

Right now, Im working on a Danish film with director Anders Thomas Jensen. Ive worked with him five times. He always produces crazy dark comedies, and its great to be working with him again. I love his specific sense of humour. 

We have seen you play many roles – who is the man behind the characters? 

 If I knew the answer myself, I probably wouldn’t tell anyone. One of the secrets to being an actor that people might find interesting is that they dont know too much about you. If I were a great football player, I could talk about my private life today, and tomorrow Ill be an equally as good football player. But if people know too much about me as an actor, then I cant lie on screen anymore! The people I find most interesting are those I dont know anything about. 

You are a father and a grandfather. Where do you see the future generation, and what scares you about that?

I dont know. Obviously, not being able to control the future can make everybody very anxious. At the same time, I dont want anyone to control the future because that would also be a disaster. 

I think progress in the human race and progress to something more peaceful and more beautiful is always something we should aim for. During that process, I dont think we should tear everything down and hope it will just pop up as a beautiful thing in the future. We should build on the best part of what we already have and what we have done for thousands of years. There is a tendency to tear things down because people want fast changes, but what grows out of that is normally not for the better. 

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt across your career or an incident that helped to shape who you are today?

The most important incident that happened in my life was having children. It changed me completely. Everything I was focused on and afraid of and dreamt of became secondary because suddenly, there was something so much more important than me and all my dreams. That also made it easy for me to follow my dream because I would work hard and see if it would happen, but it was not the only thing in my life anymore.

What is a motto you live by?

I dont have a real motto, but I do live in the present. 

What do you say no to?

Work-wise, I say no to things that I dont find interesting or that I think are not my taste. Sometimes, Im wrong, and things do become really interesting, but thats too bad. I always say yes to things that I visualize as a fantastic project. 

What do you fear?

I try not to have too much fear in my life because I have not seen it as a very constructive feeling. However, like everyone else, I probably do fear things that I cant control, but you cannot let this take over your mind. 

How do you spend your free time?

I spend time with my kids, play a lot of sports—tennis, bike riding, anything with a ball—and I love building things. 

Is there a role that you havent played yet that you would like to do? 

I dont have a favourite role. The next role is always my dream role, thats how I try to plan it. There are obviously genres that Ive never done—Ive never done a real horror film, which Im a big fan of or a zombie film, so maybe one of these one day. 

Do you read?

I do read. I tend to read a lot of history books. An inspiring book would be a Swedish book called “The Brothers Lionheart” by Astrid Lindgren. 

If there was a character or story from the Middle East that interests you, what would it be?

There have been so many kings with interesting pasts and so many interesting historical figures from the Middle East. But going way back before the Egyptians, there is a 10,000-year-old place that is now in Turkey called Göbekli Tepe. There was a civilization, that we still know nothing about and we have had a very hard time figuring out what happened between that and the Egyptian period—its four thousand years between. It would be fun to go back and dive into that together with some archaeologists. 

What is a message you would like to tell your fans in the Middle East?

What we are doing is putting life and dreams on the screen, and I think its important to dream. Keep dreaming of a society you want to live in and how it should look.