"It was confusing," is how Casino Royale's scarred villain Le Chiffre, aka Danish star Mads Mikkelsen, remembers the day he was cast to play James Bond's Nemesis.
"I had a meeting first, then a casting, and I was all ready to do the torture scene with Daniel (Craig). And there was so much going on around us, people running in and out, and then someone said 'great having you on board.'
"And I didn't move, and then they said 'go away, I don’t want to see you, you got the job.’
"Daniel was standing next to me and he said really quietly, 'all right - tell me your secret, because I went to five castings - who did you f***?'"
I'm not sure if Craig actually said that last bit, but it's how incredibly mischievous Mikkelsen remembers it anyway. He goes on, "They'd done their homework, seen my stuff, so it was fine, just a bit of anti-climax, because I was so ready to do more for them, but it was ... shrugs... you're in."
And right they were, because Mikkelsen shivers off the screen with his scarred face in Casino Royale - he has a little scar in real life, too, but is full of cheer, good humour and chat. He was also a big star in Denmark already, so life has changed little - "the pile of scripts has got a bit bigger, so that can only be a good thing. One of them in the pile might even be good, you never know."
His latest project, however, has taken him back to his native land for a big-budget historical romp - A Royal Affair - telling the true story of how a physician fell in love with his Queen - all peri-wigs, castles and pompadours - "it's probably one of the biggest-ever budget Danish films, but most of it went on costumes, you have no idea how much it costs to rent one of those dresses." He's right about that.
But the love triangle at the heart of the narrative is what pushes this along, with Mikkelsen playing Johann Friedrich Struensee, a physician with great political vision who gains great sway over the King and then falls for his young wife, too.
"I was surprised how emotional I got reading this," he recalls. "Especially for a period drama. And it was full of dilemma - he's full of love for both the king and the queen, but then he remains political, starts spinning his tunnel vision, and all of a sudden he's doing the exact same things he hated all the other courtiers for doing, and I thought that was interesting, and very human."
Of course, this period drama is not what we're used to seeing emerging from the Danish studios currently, and I wonder if Mikkelsen - as an actor who earned his stripes in Danish police drama, but also with an overseas perspective - can shed any light on the increasing wave of Danish and Scandinavian drama on these shores...
"I think we’re still asking ourselves the same question, because a crime drama that travels to the birthplace of crime drama -that doesn’t make sense.
"Maybe, it's because first of all these are dramas about people, and then secondly about crime, maybe that's what makes it interesting for the Brits to watch."
With the quality of TV currently being made in his back-yard and his own older brother starring in the first series of The Killing (Lars Mikkelsen as smooth politician Troels Hartmann), can Mikkelsen junior be persuaded back onto the small screen?
"I might go back to TV," he says with the ease of a man who has the choice.
"I don’t miss it right now, I was very frustrated when I first did TV, because I came from a world of radical film-making where we could do whatever we wanted, and the corners were sharp. And suddenly these corners were rounded off, so you could watch the shows whether you were 8 or 98.
"It took me a while to understand all that, and realise that not everything's the same. So then, I started enjoying myself, and accepting the new rules, and playing around within them.
What was the problem? "I just thought it was so wrong, that you're allowed to bleed but not too much, you can cry but not too much. I was supposed to be killing a man, you can't do that clean, it's meant to be brutal."
So has telly now caught up with Mads Mikkelsen? He smiles defiantly: "Oh no, I'm still way too radical."
Le Chiffre would be proud.
A Royal Affair is in UK cinemas on Friday 15 June. Watch the trailer below...
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more