Bond, James: New Villain–Mads Mikkelsen (the Cipher)

Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen says he was thrilled to take one of cinema’s most despised and prized rolesthe Bond villain in “Casino Royale,” the 21st picture in the longest, most successful big-screen series in film history. Mikkelsen plays Le Chiffre (the Cipher), international banker and money launderer to terrorist organizations, and James Bond’s opponent in the most important game of poker either of them has ever played.

The Copenhagen-born actor is the top male star in Denmark and is also acclaimed throughout Scandinavia. As a boy, he trained as a gymnast and then became a professional dancer before studying drama at the Arhus Theatre School.

Mikkelsen became famous overnight as the star of the TV police series “Unit 1,” which won an International Emmy as Best Dramatic Series.

Villain With No Name

I’m attracted to scripts where my character might have some secrets, so to be offered the role of Le Chiffre (the Cipher), a man with no real name, was perfect.

Not One-dimensional Heavy

Many actors say that playing the villain is more interesting than playing the good guy, because he always has a twist in his character. But I think if you are playing the bad guy, you try to show a good side to him sometimes, and if you are playing the good guy, you try to show a flaw in him, so it’s not one-dimensional for the audience

Favorite Bond Villain

My favorite Bond villain was Christopher Walken in ‘A View to a Kill,’ because he’s got what it takes to be a good villainthere is something good and bad about him at the same time.

Not Reading the Book

I purposely chose not to read the Ian Fleming novel before production began on ‘Casino Royale,’ preferring instead to develop my character exclusively from the screenplay, and my extensive discussions with director Martin Campbell.

Atypical Bad Guy

Le Chiffre is not the typical Bond movie bad guy. Rather than a megalomaniac madman, looking to take over the world, Le Chiffre is an amoral criminal mastermind with a thirst for hard currency. He’s living in the contemporary world and trying to make as much money as possible, just like everybody else.


Le Chiffre is smart and clever, but he doesn’t boast about his successes. He rarely gets his own hand dirty, but he will if he has to. When we meet him, he’s rich and successful, but Bond is on his tail. And when the chips are down, he doesn’t show his emotionshe’s ice cold.

Poker Lessons

In order to recoup his massive stock market losses, Le Chiffre organizes a poker game in Montenegro for international high rollers with a $10 million buy-in. The actors took poker lessons and rehearsed the games before shooting began in order to keep the performances fresh as the hands were played and replayed over several days. Producer Wilson, a self-described poker addict, supervised the rehearsals himself.

Playing for Fun

Most of us could already play poker and, as well as rehearsing the tournament, we played poker for fun. In fact, we often ended up playing in the corridors of Prague’s Barrandov Studios between scenes. Playing cards on camera for three weeks apparently only whet the actors’ appetite for the game. One night I and some of the other actors ventured out to a casino in Prague, where we promptly ran into Wilson.

Involuntary Tic

Like most gamblers, Le Chiffre has a tell, an involuntary tic that reveals how he feels about his hand. He has a scar on his eye, and the vein starts to pump when his heart rate increases, so he casually presses his finger against it to stop, but Bond notices. It has to be as subtle as possible, of course, or he wouldn’t win many poker games. But Le Chiffre manages to turn this flaw to his advantage.