"I've recognised Serpenti as an iconic piece of jewellery that's defined the house of Bulgari" – Alicia Vikander
L egs crossed, hair elegantly tied up in a low bun, and seated on a gold Tiffany chair on the third floor of the ArtScience Museum in Singapore — the same location for the Bulgari 'SerpentiForm' exhibition that she is here to officiate as one of the brand's ambassadors — every whip of Alicia Vikander's hand reveals a diamond-encrusted Bulgari Serpenti bracelet; every turn of her head unveils a glittering Bulgari Serpenti earring. Vikander is positively sparkling.
The Swedish actor possesses a hypnotic beauty — a certain presence and quality that you would expect from an Oscar winner (she won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of loving wife Gerda Wegener in The Danish Girl). Here, in an exclusive interview with Buro 24/7 Singapore's Editor in Chief Norman Tan, the former ballet dancer, who is known just as much for her poise and polish (which she exudes in spades), as well as her grounded strength and indominable spirit discuss why what women wear shouldn't be the be-all and end-all of female sensuality and the changing dynamics between the small and silver screen...
What was your first experience with the house of Bulgari? Was it a gift? Was it something that your mother wore?
You know, I think the first experience was... well, my mother is an actress [Maria Fahl Vikander] and I was introduced to the world and heritage of cinema growing up. And, without knowing, I think it was only in my mid-teens when I realised, that the actresses that I grew up admiring — from Ingrid Bergman (who is from my home country) and Audrey Hepburn, to Elizabeth Taylor and Rachel Weisz — all of those of women have been part of this brand and history. Especially the Serpenti range. Since my early teens, I've recognised it as an iconic piece of jewellery that defined the house of Bulgari.
And you've just finished filming Tomb Raider, playing a strong female lead known for wearing a tank top. Tell us about the role...
When it comes to women, I think it's more about empowerment rather than tank tops, to be honest [laughs]. You know, I embrace women and men who can stand up, empower their own personalities, and express themselves. And for Lara Croft, ever since I played the game Tomb Raider since I was 10 years old, I like that she is a woman that never gives up. Even when she falls down, she stands up again. That to me, is extremely sexy. That is definitely something I hope to communicate. Angelina Jolie did that brilliantly in the earlier films, and now with this reboot, because it's more of an origin story, you get to flesh out more of this beloved character. Hopefully we will honour what has already been, but also present something fresh and something new.
What about the female leads on television? Have you watched Big Little Lies with Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon?
That was fantastic. Strong female characters in a predominantly female cast.
Except for Alex [Skarsgard] who played a horrid character — he's an old friend of mine —but he was so good.
Do you think television provides more opportunity for women to develop interesting characters as compared to film? Only because I've noticed that there are more shows now — be it Big Little Lies, Orange Is The New Black, or The Handmaid's Tale — that provide complex female roles.
I think there are a lot more dramas on television now because the audience that go to cinemas tend to be young people that are going for an experience. A big movie rather than a drama, which I think is a shame because I love cinemas. But I think what you're noticing is that a lot of adult developed dramas are now being given the chance to be distributed on TV, because that's how we watch dramas nowadays, we watch it at home. We travel, we have our Apple TV, so I think it's because the way of distributing content is now different.
You're right. Interesting observation.
With Lara Croft, it's an incredible privilege to play such an iconic character. But I also remember when I saw Hunger Games a few years ago, I was like, "wow!" It showed that a commercial film could be a success with a female lead in it.
Going back to jewellery, would you rather receive it as a gift or buy it for yourself?
Can I say, give it others?
Oh good one!
That is fun! The best thing is to give gifts to others.
And for the reaction you get...
It's always nerve-racking, you can't ever be completely sure if it's going to be right, but you have a feeling. And when it works, it's fun.
Can you share a time when you've given a piece of jewellery to someone you love?
I gave my mum a beautiful dress. It's not a piece of jewellery, but it had a lot of sparkle on it. She wore it to the Oscars, and she looked... stunning.
What is the most sentimental or meaningful piece of jewellery you own?
My mum's parents sadly passed away when she was very young, so I never got the chance to meet them. But she had an aunt, a great aunt that kind of became my substitute grandparent, and she was 95 when she died a few years ago. She was Finnish and she escaped the war, and she had this bracelet that was made out of old coins and pennies — more than a hundred years old — and they're put together in a very specific pattern.
It's not about the value of the stones and materials, but it's the memories and the great story behind it that makes it valuable to me.
Do you have any traditions with jewellery to commemorate various milestones in your life?
I haven't done it for the last few roles, only because I have been so busy, but I have bought pieces of jewellery or things for my home for a lot of films that I did when I started to work in cinema.
What kind of roles are you looking for now? Tulip Fever is coming out soon?
I filmed that four years ago! [Laughs]. It's finally coming out. I had seven films released in 2015, and they had all been made over three-and-a-half years. It's so strange. You never know when a film is going to come out. It's very different for each film — they plan it, there's post-production, and sometimes it comes out quickly, and other times it takes a few years.
What are your plans after Singapore?
I'm going to the Toronto Film Festival. The production company that I started last year [Vikarious Productions] produced our first film [Euphoria] and it will be premiered in Toronto, which is extremely exciting. I worked with a director that I've done two films with in Sweden [Lisa Langseth] and this will be her first English language film.
Do you notice a trend in the scripts that you're attracted to or the films that you're looking to produce in the future through Vikarious Productions?
I think I would have never been able to predict any of the films I've ended up doing. It's a feeling. You read it and you're drawn to either the character or story itself. More and more, it comes down to the filmmaker. The visionary behind it, because it's all...
About the execution of the story?
Very much about the execution. And also down to the actors. Filmmaking is such a collaborative thing. For me, it's always about, "Wow, I haven't stepped into this role before."
Finally, what could you do 24/7?
Sleep! I love sleeping. It's great.
[Laughs] Anything else you could do all day, every day?
What's your favourite food?
Oh, pizza. Pasta. Bread.
Anything carbs basically.
[Laughs] Yes! A good piece of sourdough bread with butter is the best.
The Bulgari 'SerpentiForm' exhibition is showing at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore from 19 August to 15 October, 2017. Read more on the Alicia Vikander interview with Buro 24/7 Singapore, this delve into the details of her role as Lara Croft Tomb Raider.