"[It was] his last day of post on 'Hanna' and I went to the studio and we had lunch," Vikander recalls. "We talked about the book and the film, You kind of want to connect if you're going to be able to work, but then it wasn't my part by then. So then he also had a child in between and then I did 'A Royal Affair.'"
It was over a year later when Vikander formally auditioned for "Karenina" and landing the role of Kitty was a validation that her decision to quit dancing was the right one. She notes, "I still love dance. I still run to the Opera as soon as I can and watch Opera and ballet, but so for me to then actually be able to use my experience that I do have and putting that in to the work that I do now, that was fantastic."
Unbeknownst to the cast, Wright had a last minute creative inspiration which put Vikander's dance skills to particular good use. Instead of shooting "Karenina" as a traditional period piece in its native setting of Russia, Wright decided to film the entire picture in an old theater using moving sets to bring the story to life. As in his previous films "Atonement" and "Hanna," in particular, Wright has demonstrated he's a master of comprising a memorable long take and "Karenina" is full of them. Sets transform with the turn of a camera and the cast had to delicately choreograph their positions (a few of which included real dancing) as though they were on a gigantic theatrical stage. Of course, in a story that will becoming increasingly infamous, Wright only made this decision just a few months before production was scheduled to begin.
As Vikander tells the story, "Joe called me and said, 'Can you come down for a coffee?' And I came down, he was like, 'Well, we're going to do another film,' and I was like, 'What? Aren't we going to Russia in a couple weeks?' 'No!' And then he brought up his computer and was like, 'Yeah, we kind of did those drawings a few days ago and I presented the idea to the studio and they said, yes. So they're going to start building this theater tomorrow.'"
Vikander says the change of direction was intimidating at first, but "it helped me at least to have the feeling that I didn't know what to expect every day when I went on the set. I didn't know what it was going to look like."
Wright also used his magic by surprising the cast with his musical selections during filming. The production is set in the 1800's, but the director would blast unexpected fare such as the Chemical Brothers to get everyone in the appropriate mood.
Vikander recalls, "It's actually the scene in the film where when Levin comes back and she's afraid that he's going to be mad at her for her betrayal but then that whole scene we actually did only one take with sound 'cause he played techno every take on top from seven different speakers 'cause he thought that we were a bit lazy after lunch. So, he wanted to speed it up. He did that throughout the whole film."
She just finished "Hotell" in Sweden as well as the previously mentioned "Seventh Son." What's next on her global cinematic tour?
"I have tons of meetings while I'm here so hopefully I'll know what I do next year before I head back to Sweden for Christmas," Vikander replies.
Wherever Vikander lands, let's hope she has a comfy couch to sleep on.
"A Royal Affair" is now playing in New York and Los Angeles. "Anna Karenina" opens in the same markets on 11/16.