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Everything you need to know about Sweden’s Oscar winner

Alicia Vikander is the first Swedish actor to win an Oscar since Ingrid Bergman in 1974. But who is this rising star?

Everything you need to know about Sweden's Oscar winner
Swedish actress Alicia Vikander. Photo: Rich Fury/Invision/AP

1. She rose to fame from nowhere

Her international breakthrough came in 2012, when she co-starred in the British adaptation of historical epic 'Anna Karenina', and in the Danish costume drama 'A Royal Affair', nominated for a best language film Oscar.

But while the 27-year-old brunette was hardly a household name three years ago, last year she appeared in at least four major movies, including British sci-fi psychological thriller 'Ex Machina', where she starred as the humanoid robot Ava and for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe.

“It's been suddenly wonderful to be introduced in rooms to meet actors and filmmakers and people behind the cameras that I've looked up to my entire life,” she said.


Alicia Vikander back in 2011. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/SCANPIX

2. But here's how it all started

Born in Sweden's second city of Gothenburg in 1988, Vikander initially dreamed of becoming a ballerina, studying at the Royal Swedish Ballet School in Stockholm before injuries cut her dance career short in her teens.

Her focus then turned to acting, and her on-screen career gained traction after appearances in Swedish short films and the popular television drama series 'Andra Avenyn' from 2008 to 2010.

Soon after she began looking for work in American and British films, sending audition tapes to casting directors. But neither Vikander nor her agent received a single response. She told W magazine: “I never even heard 'No, thank you', so I decided I had to get myself to London.”

3. She finds inspiration in her own movies

Vikander said she found parallels in her roles in 'Ex Machina' and 'The Danish Girl', with both the android Ava and Gerda pondering what it means to be a woman.

At a White House event for 'The Danish Girl', for which she became the first Swedish actor to win an Oscar since Ingrid Bergman in 1974, celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the media, several attendees said they were moved by her portrayal of Ava.

“Three trans women came up to me separately to tell me they had felt such a connection with Ava in 'Ex Machina', and her dream of finally coming to full female fruition,” Vikander recently told British newspaper The Guardian.


Vikander with 'The Danish Girl' director Tom Hooper and co-star Eddie Redmayne. Photo: Philip Davali/Polfoto/AP

4. She is outspoken on feminist issues

Growing up in Sweden, a country famous for its focus on gender equality, it is perhaps no surprise that Vikander takes a strong stance on women's issues. In 2015 she joined a number of fellow actors, both male and female, criticizing the Hollywood gender pay gap.

“It's all about information,” she said. “It's all about bringing awareness, to educate people and the more you bring something into the limelight I think it makes, maybe not the biggest step, but small steps and you will continue to make change.”


Vikander accepting her Oscar for best supporting actress. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

5. What's next for this Swedish star?

Vikander has scored a role in the upcoming 'Jason Bourne' sequel, which will see Matt Damon return to the big screen as the amnesiac super spy. “It's great,” her agent told The Local when news of her part in the action flick was first announced last year.

The Swede is currently dating German-Irish actor Michael Fassbender, but has consistently declined to speak about it in public, even going so far as to refusing to smooch for a kiss camera at the Bafta Awards earlier this month.

However, the shy pair seem to have learned from the awkward experience and, to the delight of the audience, shared a kiss before Vikander went on stage to accept her Academy Award on February 28th. They reportedly met while playing a married couple in upcoming drama 'The Light Between Oceans'.


Vikander and Fassbender at the Academy Awards 2016. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

OSCARS

‘Propaganda of sodomy’: Georgian far-right protests against Swedish Oscar film

Hundreds of far-right activists burned a rainbow flag and cried "Shame!" during a protest in the Georgian capital against an Oscar-nominated Swedish-Georgian gay-themed film which premiered amid a heavy police presence.

'Propaganda of sodomy': Georgian far-right protests against Swedish Oscar film
Protesters massed outside the Amirani cinema in Tbilisi. Photo: Vano Shlamov / AFP
Set in Georgia, “And Then We Danced” — Sweden's official Oscar submission in the best international feature film category — is a love story about two male dancers in Georgia's national ballet company.
   
The drama has won worldwide critical acclaim but was denounced by the Caucasus country's influential Orthodox Church as an “affront to the traditional Georgian values”.
   
In front of the Amirani cinema in the capital Tbilisi, the anti-gay protesters chanted “Long live Georgia!” and “Shame!”. They burned the rainbow flag as an Orthodox priest recited a prayer.
   
The interior ministry said 11 protesters were arrested for “disobeying police”.
 
 
The cinema, which had earlier posted a video on Facebook of policemen checking the cinema's seats with sniffer dogs. let ticket holders inside for the evening premiere showing and then shut the doors.
   
“Georgian folk dance is an epitome of the Georgian spiritual values, we will not let them defile our national traditions,” said one of the far-right protesters, 35-year-old housewife Teona Gogava.
   
Maka Kiladze, a forty-year-old choreographer who was among the audience in the cinema, said: “There is huge interest towards the film in Georgia. It's anomaly that we have to face an angry mob to attend a film screening”.
 
'Dark times'
 
Earlier this week, Sandro Bregadze, a former junior minister in the ruling Georgian Dream party's government, said his nationalist Georgian March group would not allow the film to be screened in Tbilisi, calling it “propaganda of sodomy”.
   
Levan Vasadze, a Georgian businessman with links to Russia's anti-Western and far-right groups, said his supporters will “enter screening rooms in the six cinemas in Tbilisi and turn off the projectors,” also vowing to “shove back police if need be”.
   
“Some far right groups and the Church have basically condemned the film and are planning to stop people from entering the sold out screenings,” the film's director Levan Akin, a Swede with Georgian roots, wrote on his Facebook page
earlier Friday.
   
These are “dark times we live in,” he wrote, adding that it is important to “stand up against these shadowy forces in any way we can”.
   
Georgia's interior ministry issued a statement, promising to ensure “the protection of public safety and order, as well as the freedom of self-expression”.
   
“We address everyone: obey the law. Otherwise, police will use their lawful mandate and suppress unlawful acts immediately,” the statement said.   
 
Homosexuality is still highly stigmatised in Georgia, a socially conservative Black Sea nation where the immensely influential Orthodox Church has previously clashed with Western-leaning governments over social issues.
   
Homosexuality was banned in Georgia after the country was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1921.
   
After the Soviet Union's collapse, the ban was not enforced, but officially homosexuality was only decriminalised in 2000, with anti-discrimination laws adopted in 2006.
   
Critics of the ruling Georgian Dream party have accused the government of giving tacit support to homophobic and nationalist groups which traditionally support the party in elections and have staged protest rallies against pro-Western opposition parties.
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