“Apparently adrenaline makes every six seconds feel like a single second, so time collapses.” Alicia’s English, British-accented, is immaculate, her voice low and conspiratorial.

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You wonder if you’re good, if you have what it takes.

You carry an anxiety around with you—I’ve met many actors now who will say this—and the lonely feeling that this could be your one chance.”Tom Hooper’s , have already earned her Golden Globe nominations.) Though the film tells the story of Lili Elbe (played by Eddie Redmayne), a Danish artist who in the early 1930s underwent the first known gender-confirmation surgery, it is in equal measure the story of Lili’s wife, Gerda, who grapples with the loss of her husband but grows to become Lili’s closest ally and fiercest advocate.

Now the moment had arrived.“I’m all nerves,” she said, her teeth chattering softly.

“I think I never really believed we’d have to go through with this.” Then she sank to the floor of the breakfast room and, while I made us coffee, gathered my two dogs into her lap as if desperate for the solace of something terrestrial. “It’s my mum,” she said, laughing nervously, “calling to make sure I’m not going to die.”After some wan assurances in Swedish and a double espresso, we drove to the desert, suited up, boarded a plane whose blunt nose had been painted with shark’s teeth, and jumped.“I have no recollection of that free fall,” she says a couple of hours later, over a Thai lunch in Silver Lake, the Eastside neighborhood where a number of her old friends from Stockholm, writers and musicians mainly, are living on a sort of expat Scandinavian commune.

This is a civil rights movement.”Hooper had seen Vikander in and invited her to read with Redmayne, who had already signed on. “Eddie saw me crying after the scene ended,” he recalls, “and he said to me later, ‘Well, there’s no great suspense around who you’re going to cast.’ The only other person who’s overpowered me in an audition that way was Annie Hathaway when she came in to read for .” If there was any early obstacle, it may have been Alicia’s coloring: She is not the ice sculpture that Hollywood often imagines for its Nordics.

Again and again, she has been asked to wear long sleeves and SPF 100 in order to help the makeup department conjure the desired pallor. Here I go, exploding stereotypes.”Old friends like to talk about Alicia’s goofiness, her devilishness, her tendency, guard lowered, to be the loudest person at the table, or in the karaoke room, or on the lawn in Beachwood Canyon where Swedish Angelenos like to play , an old Viking version of horseshoes.It was a fear I recognized immediately, having been up much of the night myself.A few weeks earlier the Swedish actress had suggested that we go skydiving after I threw out some rather tame ideas for a Los Angeles playdate—a game of tennis, a visit to a nearby farmer’s market, a sunny hike in the Palisades. I suppose I was expecting a suited chauffeur with a joyless expression to match my own, his starlet cargo waiting behind tinted windows.But when I opened the gate, there was Alicia Vikander in black leggings and cross-trainers, her familiar face, with its deeply golden complexion and wide-set brown eyes, looking stricken.By the time she completed the three-year ballet program in Stockholm, acting had become her passion.