Mads Mikkelsen Dismisses Questions About Lack of Diversity in ‘The Promised Land’ (Video)

The film’s director, Nikolaj Arcel, said diversity “wasn’t a thought in our mind”

Mads Mikkelsen, a light-skinned man with silver hair and a scruffy beard, looks at the camera as he signs autographed posters for a group of nearby fans
Mads Mikkelsen (Photo by Nicky J Sims/Getty Images for Warner Bros.)

Mads Mikkelsen isn’t interested in criticism of the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in his new movie “The Promised Land.” When a reporter pointed out that the movie is “a Danish production that’s entirely Nordic” and asked if the actor is “worried” about the movie being ineligible to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar once new rules go into effect next year, Mikkelsen shot back, “Are you?”

He continued, “I’m serious and honest, because you’re putting us on the spot, so you answer the question.”

The tense moment took place at the movie’s press conference at the Venice Film Festival following its premiere. The reporter drew the contrast between Mikkelsen’s new film and recent Oscar winner “Parasite’s” own lack of diversity — a different situation both due to the film coming from a non-majority white country, as well as the new rules not yet being in effect.

When the journalist described the lack of diversity in “The Promised Land” as a “conundrum,” Mikkelsen responded, “I don’t notice that, personally.”

Nikolaj Arcel, the film’s director, stepped in and pointed out, “Well, first of all, the film takes place in Denmark in the 1750s. We do have a big plotline about a girl of color who is being subjected to racism, which was very rare, any people of color in Denmark… almost nobody. She was probably at the time the only one in the entire country of Denmark.”

Still, he concluded, diversity “wasn’t a thought in our mind.”

The question was then more directly answered by one of the film’s producers, Louise Vesth, who said, “I think you raise an interesting question. In my opinion, I’ve been a producer for many, many years, and I think we are all discussing these things. And I think all populations need diversity, creativity and pluralism in the art. We have to give a mirror of the society around us.”

But, she added, “In my opinion, it’s a failure if we want to put this into every single film. Because if every single film gets all the diversity into the single film, then all films become the same.”

She went on to say that Arcel was telling his view on a particular story with this film and that she felt diversity should be seen in Denmark’s films across multiple projects, but doesn’t necessarily need to be within each individual film.

The new rules in question were announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2020 as part of the organization’s Academy Aperture 2025 initiative. Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson explained at the time, “The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them.”

The pair continued, “The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality. We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”

Beginning next year, in order for a movie to be eligible to be nominated for Best Picture, it must meet at least two of the four diversity requirements. The requirements include conditions such as ensuring that at least one lead actor is from an “underrepresented racial or ethnic group” and that the production offers paid internships or apprenticeships to underrepresented groups.