Alicia Vikander plays Heather Lee, a cyber ops chief at the CIA in Jason Bourne
Alicia Vikander walked into the hotel room and effortlessly leaped onto the sofa, with a grace that hinted at her childhood ballet years.
Very politely she asked if she could remove her zebra-print heels before beginning to rub some life back into her feet.
I chuckled because I had just watched her opposite Matt Damon in director Paul Greengrass’s scorching thriller Jason Bourne, the latest in the spy action movies.
She plays Heather Lee, a cyber ops chief at the CIA — and unlike the well-mannered Alicia, it’s made immediately clear that Heather is not to be trifled with. ‘Move!’ she ordered underlings when her character took over a computer terminal.
It’s said with such brusque ruthlessness that even her screen boss, played by Tommy Lee Jones, momentarily blanched . ‘Paul kept telling me to say “Move” louder and faster. “Push it,” he kept saying,’ she recalled.
Well, the moment worked because the extras playing the analysts were real computer operatives hired to give the scene a smack of authenticity — and they shifted sharpish.
Alicia, who won the best supporting actress Oscar for her role opposite Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl, said that people who hadn’t seen the film (which opens on July 29) assumed she was just the ‘love interest’.
‘It was never in the script and there was never any discussion that I was there for the you-know-what,’ she told me. ‘We have to start from scratch and stop assuming that once a woman is in a film she’s arm candy.
‘But I think things are changing and it’s up to us to make sure that arm candy is not the norm in how we see women in general.’
Having characters like Heather is part of the step-by-step process that has slowly been happening for a while now, she told me.
We met not long after Theresa May moved into No 10, and Alicia hopes there will come a time when we won’t need to comment on the fact that a woman has become prime minister or is running for the U.S. presidency .
During pre-production for Jason Bourne she realised that her character would have gone to one of the top Ivy League colleges in the States and studied with the cream of the crop. Such people get snapped up as soon as they graduate. The CIA and other intelligence agencies recruit the best, too.
During pre-production for Jason Bourne she realised that her character (pictured in the film) would have gone to one of the top Ivy League colleges in the States and studied with the cream of the crop
It’s interesting watching her interact with her boss, Jones. He’s her mentor, but you can almost see her calculating how she’ll usurp him. ‘She’s realising that her time is coming,’ said Alicia. She and Damon work well together and it would be great to see them do so again if another Bourne picture ever gets made.
But in the meantime Vikander has plenty to keep her occupied. She’s about to re-join James McAvoy on the set of Wim Wenders’ film Submergence, based on J.M. Ledgard’s novel, in which she plays an oceanographer.
After that Vikander will produce and star in Euphoria, alongside Eva Green and Charlotte Rampling.
The Venice Film Festival will see the launch of The Light Between The Oceans, where she plays the wife of a lighthouse keeper, played by Michael Fassbender. The tale, set in Western Australia, is based on M.L. Stedman’s heart-breaking book about a childless couple who believe their plea to be parents has been answered.
Then there’s a Tomb Raider re-boot which will shoot next year — but there’s little she’s allowed to say about it.
Watch out for…
Alistair Beaton, who updates key sections of his new comedy Fracked! (Or Please Don’t’ Use the F-Word) whenever the occasion merits.
The play, running at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre and reviewed in today’s paper on page 48, is about the controversial issue of digging way deep for energy in a picturesque South Coast village.
A smooth-talking public relations bloke, the sharp Oliver Chris, is hired to worm his way into the hearts and minds of the locals — played with verve by Anne Reid and James Bolam.
One topical gag Beaton had Chris mouth was to do with the hopeless Southern railways. It went down a treat. A couple of weeks ago there was a joke about the Tory leader hopeful Andrea Leadsom deciding to have her children adopted — by her political rival Theresa May.
Once Leadsom quit the leadership race the gag was dropped. I did a double bill last weekend of Fracked! and Half A Sixpence — and I got my money’s worth .
Mary Stuart, imagines a meeting between Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I starring Juliet Stevenson (left) and Lia Williams (right)
Robert Icke, who is adapting Friedrich Schiller’s Mary Stuart, about an imagined meeting between Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I, said his version of the play will look at ‘female sexuality and how it interacts with female power’.
He observed that there are quite a few examples around at the moment. The play, starring Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams in alternating roles, will run at the Almeida Theatre from December 2 until January 21.
Beverley Knight and Ben Richards, who were both on fire when I saw the new, lean The Bodyguard at the Dominion in London on Tuesday.
Everything about it worked. And as I remarked last week, Ms Knight emerges as a bona fide West End star. No longer the soul diva doing a bit of acting in her spare time, she looks and feels very much at home on stage.
It’s a good ensemble and I liked Rachel John, who plays the sister of main character Rachel Marron. The Bodyguard has taken £2million at the box office, which is great for a show that’s only running till January.
I didn’t manage to catch Don Warrington’s towering King Lear in director Michael Buffong’s production, which was produced by the Talawa Theatre, Manchester’s Royal Exchange and the Birmingham Rep.
But I saw it online at bbc.co.uk/shakespearelives where its available on demand until September as part of the BBC/British Council Shakespeare Lives digital festival. It’s unmissable.