Mads Mikkelsen was less than impressed with a question about how the lack of diversity in his upcoming film The Promised Land could affect its Best Picture chances at the Oscars.
The actor, accompanied by the movie's director, Nikolaj Arcel, was asked to weigh in on the Academy's new diversity and inclusion regulations by an unnamed reporter during a recent Q&A session at the Venice Film Festival. These new standards, set to go into effect in 2024, require that a project meet two out of its four criteria — which focus on onscreen representation, the creative leadership and project team, industry access and opportunities, and audience development — in order to be eligible for the Oscars' Best Picture category.
"This is a cast and Danish production that's entirely Nordic, and, therefore, has some lack of diversity, you would say," the reporter asked the pair, referring to The Promised Land. "There's also new rules implied in Hollywood…"
"What are you on to?" Mikkelsen interjected, laughing and shaking his head. "From the get-go?"
"From the get-go," the reporter acknowledged. "There are some rules of diversity across the Atlantic for competing in the Best Picture [category], the equivalent of this competition. As I see, you don't live up to these standards with this cast. I'm just curious: It's not because of artistic reasons, it's because of a lack of diversity, that this can't compete in that competition. Are you worried about it?"
"Are you?" Mikkelsen instantly fired back. "I'm serious and honest, because you're putting us on the spot, so you answer the question."
The reporter called the standards "a conundrum" and seemed to try to explain that, under the new rules, even Bong Joon-ho's film Parasite, which won the award for Best Picture in 2020, would not be eligible for the category in the future.
Arcel then cut in to note that The Promised Land does feature a character of color.
Alessandra Benedetti - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Mads Mikkelsen
"Well, first of all, the film takes place in Denmark in the 1750s," the director said. "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, Arcel admitted, "It wasn't a thought in our mind."
"I think it would be a little weird," he continued. "It's just historical — how it was in the 1750s."
Mikkelsen stars as Ludvig von Khalen in the historical drama, a soldier who "arrives in 1755 on the barren Jutland heath with a single goal: to follow the king's call to cultivate the land and thereby achieve wealth and honor himself," per its IMDb description.
The Promised Land does not yet have a U.S. release date.