alicia vikander talks tech, privacy, and sharing rooms with icona pop

The Swedish actress adds professional hacker to her burgeoning CV in the latest 'Bourne' film.

by Colin Crummy
28 July 2016, 1:25pm

To prep for her latest film role as a young CIA agent and hacker, Alicia Vikander did her research. She met with director Paul Greengrass to discuss why, after an absence of nine years, he thought it time to bring back Jason Bourne in a fifth outing for the franchise. The Swedish-born, London-based actress toured the local Google offices to better understand the tech. Since the film features her character, Heather, hacking into computers, mobiles, and entire electricity grids, Alicia also had to pretend to hack computers. "People are so good at it, I worried about how I was going to sell myself as a hacker," she laughs. "So I YouTubed it. Typed in 'hacking fingers.' I watched it thinking, 'oh my god that looks fast, they look like they're pressing these buttons.' I was trying to copy, wondering, 'does this look good?'"

As it turns out, 27-year-old Alicia is as convincing as ambitious CIA hacker in Jason Bourne as she was playing wartime nurse in her breakout film Testament of Youth (she YouTubed piano playing for that along with getting proper lessons), or wife to trans pioneer Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl, the film that cemented her reputation as one of the most in-demand newcomers. That rapid ascent shows no signs of abating. Next up is the romance The Light Between Oceans alongside real life boyfriend Michael Fassbender and then she plays Laura Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot. It's a neat sidestep in tech world from an actress that's already played robot, in Alex Garland's Ex Machina and now extra good hacker in Jason Bourne. i-D caught up with Alicia on promo duties in London to learn more about her unstoppable rise. 

What was interesting about your character in Jason Bourne?
The world had changed so much that Jason Bourne was able to be put in a new context with political and social issues that hadn't been there before. My role was probably a symbol of what has happened. My [character's] job didn't exist ten years ago. It's a whole new young generation of people who have abilities in tech. She's a prodigy, really. The young people with these abilities have the power these days.

What was the most revelatory thing you learned from meeting the research teams at Google?
My character is able to predict humans. When people are in a large enough group, using social media to create groups and have demonstrations, you can track what people are going to do.

In Bourne, the elder, male CIA director refers to your character as 'the girl.' Did the fact she's a woman play into the part at all?
He also refers to her as his progeny at one point. She's an aspiring young woman who is willing to climb the ladder to make her career. In one way, he's what she looks up to. There's this interesting power game. Young people are in power because of their abilities. So it's more of shift; they both know he's been teaching her a lot and she's been looking up to him, but things are changing. I think 'girl' is more about him pointing out she's young rather than female.

Your character takes a different route from the classic CIA style try to get to Bourne, but she never attempts a seduction, which we're used to seeing in action films. Was that refreshing for you?
Well, it was never in the mix. It was more interesting to see what people thought my character would be in the film; that says more about the world that the first thing people assume is that it might be a love interest. That was never the story.

The film's themes touch on identity and privacy in an internet age. What does privacy mean to you?
I think it's anybody's right to be themselves and to have their own life.

Has it changed for you since being into the spotlight?
Yes, of course. I can be recognized for being in films, that did not happen two years ago. It was interesting to hear Matt [Damon], one of the biggest movie stars of this generation, say how surreal film promotion is and how he's just going to go home afterwards and have his family and his life. And that's what it is, you do. I still feel like I'm going back to my private life, away from this.

Bourne is about a search for identity, as was The Danish Girl, in a different way. What did you learn about identity in that?
It's more about people being given the chance to be who they are. I have it, the people in the transgender community should have [it] and we need to make sure everyone has that as a right.

Are you techy in real life?
When I was growing up I didn't have any girlfriends who were into computer games. I really did play and thought it was fun. I loved adventure games, like point and click games like Broken Sword and Monkey Island.

When you first moved to London, you lived with the girls from Icona Pop in Notting Hill. How was that?
I grew up with them, we were roommates. They are some of my best friends. I've known them since I was 16. We shared a space about this big [a smallish hotel room] for six months so yeah, [laughs] we're close friends.

'Jason Bourne' is in cinemas from July 27.


Text Colin Crummy

Alicia Vikander
film interviews
Bourne Identity