He was born on 25 September 1963, in Jakobsberg/Sweden, one of Stockholm's suburbs. At the time of his birth his mother was 18 years old, his father 19. He grew up with his mother, his parents divorced when he was seven years old. He liked playing soccer and boxing. He was a member of a gang for some time, also committed some "youthful sins" and had some drug experiences. It was also at that time he broke his nose.
In 1981, a dream came true for him as he hitchhiked across the US. After his return home, his mother (a teacher) encouraged him to attend the Primary School for Artistic Education. Additionally, he applied to the Academy of Arts, but was not accepted. In 1982, at age 19, he had his own exposition at a gallery in Gamla Stan (Stockholm). "I was convinced that I was a genius. What I did was great expressionist oil painting. Francis Bacon was my big idol. And I did indeed sell all the pictures I had painted."
Having fallen in love with a ballet dancer in 1983, it suddenly seemed perfectly natural to Mikael to apply to the Academy of Ballet and the Opera's Ballet School. He stayed there for 1 ½ years. One of the dancing instructors recommended him for a minor role in Ingmar Bergman's "Kung Lear" (King Lear by Shakespeare). He thus played his first role in 1984 at the Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern (Dramaten) in Stockholm. But after the final show, Mikael was tired of acting for the moment.
He took up a variety of temporary jobs, such as taxi driver, waiter and janitor, and he took his forestry exam. But the dream of acting returned. Finally, his girlfriend talked him into applying to a drama school. However, he flunked the entrance exam, unwilling to co-operate. Later he applied to a drama school in Malmö but also broke off the entrance rehearsals. Just when he was about to drop the dream of an acting career, he met author and director Stig Larsson at a restaurant. "I stood in front of him and said: 'I'm good, you will need me.'" Mikael got a leading role in the TV film "Nigger" (1990) and additionally, Larsson suggested him to apply for the controversial Theatre Group Galeasen. "I can say that this time was my training on the job. I learned many things and gained valuable experience."
Between 1990 and 1997, Mikael played his first Film and TV (serial) roles. Amongst others, he had a very short appearance in the series "Fiendens fiende" in 1990 with Peter Haber in the leading role. From 1992-94 he played the small-time criminal Ola Simonssen in two seasons of "Rederiet", one of the most popular Swedish Soaps.
From 1991, Mikael had his first noteworthy appearances at the Galeasen Theatre under the direction of Rickard Günther and Stig Larsson. In 1994, he played in Tchechov's "Tre systrar" (Three Sisters) at the Teater Plaza as well as in Arthur Miller's "En handelsresandes död" (Death Of A Salesman), directed by Thorsten Flinck. It was also Flinck who brought him back to the Dramaten in the same year as an actor, against all resistances of the house. Under his direction, Mikael played there Matti in Berthold Brecht's "Puntila" (Mr. Puntila And His Man Matti).
In 1997, he started playing the role which made him famous also in Germany: The cynical police officer Gunvald Larsson in the criminal series "Beck", consisting of eight sequels based on the books by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. Other films shot in 1997 were "Jag är din krigare" (Nature's Warrior), an eco-thriller, in which he also played a police officer, as well as the movie "Under ytan" (Beneath The Surface). In "Beneath the Surface" he played a pimp and dealer who abuses his drug-addicted girlfriend and her sister. Both films were shown during several film festivals, among others in Germany and the US.
In 1998, he shot his most famous film so far, "Sista kontraktet" (The Last Contract), telling the (invented) story of police officer Roger Nyman, tracking down Olof Palme's assassin, in the process not only putting at risk his family, but also his own life. A film full of suspense showing what could have happened. This film was broadcasted in Germany, as well as during many film festivals, also in the US. Apart from "Hela härligheten" (Love Fools), Mikael also participated in the Swedish version of the Disney film "Mulan", lending his voice to one of the characters. At the Dramaten in Stockholm he performed in O'Neills "Lång dags färd mot natt" (A Long Day's Journey Into The Night) and in Bertold Brecht's "Den goda människan från Szechuan" (The Good Man Of Szechuan). In March he got engaged to the actress Maria Bonnevie, who also performed at the Dramaten Theatre.
1999 was the year of his most controversial film ever. But the critics were full of praise for his presentation of a psychopathic serial killer in "Dödlig drift" (Deadly Compulsion), and he was nominated for the Guldbagge Award, the most important Swedish film price, in the category of "Best actor in a leading role". Unfortunately, he did not win.
Next he performed in "Vuxna människor" (Adult Behavior - It's All In The Mind), a love comedy. He played a "real bastard", who continually betrays his girlfriend. In the same year, the female readers of a Swedish journal elected him "Sexiest Man of Sweden". Starting on 30 October, he whirled across Dramaten's stage as "Don Juan" (Molière). And even if some critics judged the style of the play as too modern (production: Mats Ek), the hymns of praise regarding Mikael's sensational performance were without end. For "The 13th Warrior", Mikael was invited to the US for screen tests. Maria Bonnevie received a role in this film. Mikael didn't - this time…
Starting on 17 March 2000, he again appeared onstage at the Dramaten (together with Maria Bonnevie) in the play "Vildanden" (The Wild Duck) by Ibsen. April saw the start of the second "Don Juan" season. In May, the first sequel of a new season of "Beck" films was shot. In July, Mikael again filled his audience with enthusiasm by his performance of "Don Juan" at Dramaten Theatre. Additionally, he was shooting the films "Gossip" and "Øyenstikker" (Dragonflies with Maria Bonnevie). From September through November he was once again performing in "Vildanden". In November he started shooting the remaining seven "Beck" films. 16 December saw the premiere of "Maria Stuart" by Friedrich Schiller at the Dramaten. Mikael's partners in this play, produced by Ingmar Bergman, were Pernilla August and Lena Endre.
Until May 2001, he performed at the Dramaten as Lord Leicester in "Maria Stuart". The shooting for the new "Beck" films lasted until July. In spring of this year he travelled to Norway for one day in order to play a tiny role in the Norwegian film "Jag är Dina" (I am Dina). On 27 June, the first of the new "Beck" sequels, "Hämndens Pris" (Revenge), started in the Swedish movie theatres. It was a big success.
After the long months of shooting for "Beck", Mikael enjoyed performing a love story again. Early September shooting began for the divorce drama "Alla älskar Alice" (Everyone loves Alice) with Lena Endre and Marie Richardson. At about the same time, Mikael was interviewed by a Norwegian journal and stated that after his next film he was planning on a one year break from acting, during which he wanted to build his own home for himself and Maria. Additionally, he was planning on participating in a few car and motorcycle races.
On 4 January 2002, the "Beck" movie "Sista Vittnet" (Blind Profit) came to the Swedish movie theatres. Early February, Mikael and Maria came to Berlin. Their first joint film "Øyenstikker" was shown in Germany at a premiere on the occasion of the "Berlinale" on 8 February. In late February, the cinema audience elected Mikael "Best actor in a leading role" (for "Beck - Hämndens pris") as well as "Best actor in a supporting role" (for "Gossip") during the "Filmstjärnan 2001" elections, initiated by the Swedish newspaper "Aftonbladet".
In March he started a guest performance tour to New Zealand and Hongkong with the Dramaten as "Don Juan", and in May he performed in this role in Reggio d'Emilia, Italy. In June, he could be seen as Lord Leicester in "Maria Stuart" in New York. On 4 October, "Alla älskar Alice" started showing in Swedish movie theatres, and from 26 October, Mikael was once again onstage at Dramaten, playing the newly-divorced Axel in Strindberg's drama "Leka med elden" (Playing With Fire). Also in October, he shot "NU" (Now), a 30-minute film drama, in which Mikael portrayed a homosexual relationship with the Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. "NU" was his first cooperation with the young Danish director Simon Staho.
In January 2003, two new film projects of Mikael were made known: From early February until late March he shot "Rånarna" (The Robbers), a Swedish police thriller with Stefan Sauk and Sofia Helin. Shootings for the American thriller "The Swedish Job" were announced for April. Unfortunately, the start of the production was deferred indefinetly. At the same time, he continued performing in "Leka med elden" at Stockholm's Dramaten. Once again, he was nominated for the "Guldbagge Award" as "Best actor in a leading role" in the divorce drama "Alla älskar Alice". Unfortunately, once again the nomination was all he got.
Instead of that, he again won a "Filmstjärnan". He got the cinema public price as "Best actor in a supporting role" for his performance of Gunvald Larsson in "Beck - Sista Vittnet". That this has been Mikael's final Beck film became clear when the production of a new season of the successful series was announced. Mikael will definitely not take part in this production.
The shooting for Richard Hobert's Middle-Ages drama "Tre Solar" (Three Suns) took from beginning of April to beginning of June. Mikael played Ulf who returns home to his familiy after a Crusade in the Middle East. Rumours began to spread through the Swedish press that Maria Bonnevie had left Mikael, and that their home on Ingarö was already for sale. The two of them were unwilling to comment on this.
In autumn he performed in Maria von Heland's film "Flyt", and after further appearences in "Leka med elden", shootings started on 10 November for the sinister Danish drama "Dag och natt" (Day And Night), describing the last 12 hours in the life of a man. The director of this movie was the young Dane Simon Staho. Further press releases left no doubt: Maria had definitely left Mikael, and he was living in Stockholm again. But after a while he returned to his house by the sea and also started painting again.
In early 2004 two movies featuring Mikael were shown in Swedish movie theatres. 9 January saw the premiere of Peter Lindmark's police thriller "Rånarna", and the Middle-Ages drama "Tre solar" started up on 27 February. Also from 27 February, Mikael was back on stage. At the "Lilla Elverket", belonging to the Dramaten, he performed in "Arbetarklassens sista hjältar" (Working Class Hero), a new play by the Swedish dramatist Peter Birro.
The shooting of the comedy "Some man bäddar…" (Double Shift), where Mikael played a motorcycle driving house husband, lasted from 22 March until 14 May. On 31 March, Mikael and Thorsten Flinck (also director) brought in the one-act play "Den starkare" (The Stronger) by August Strindberg for the Swedish TV4.
For a Swedish Unicef campaign against exploitation of children, Mikael visited former child soldiers in Liberia. TV4 broadcasted an approx. 10 minute reportage on 28 May in the course of the three hour lasting Unicef gala "Världens humorkväll". On 17 July, Mikael was heard on Swedish Radio P1 in the course of the traditional radio programme "Sommar". For 85 minutes, he talked about his life and played his music, i. a. "Candy" by Iggy Pop, a wonderful declaration of love to his Maria. It looked as if the two were back together again…
On 31 July, "Dagens Nyheter" published a big report about Mikael, in which he i. a. confirmed that he will be despite former information available for eight more "Beck" sequels. On 1 August, the Danish drama "Dag och natt" had its premiere at the Lilla Film Festival in Båstad. On 2 August, Mikael was guest at Breakfast TV show "Gomorron Sverige". On 6 August, "Dag och natt" started in Swedish movie theatres. Outstanding critics saw Mikael already as the winner of the "Guldbagge Award 2004".
On 16 August, the shootings for the eight-part TV series "Medicinmannen" started. Mikael played the head of a pharmaceutical company whose child is kidnapped. Direction was split between Kjell Sundvall and Daniel Lind Lagerlöf.
28 August saw the celebratory inauguration of Trollhättan's "Walk of Fame". The first twelve stars were assigned to famous actors, Mikael got one of it. On 31 August, Strindberg's "Den starkare" with Mikael and Thorsten Flinck was broadcasted on TV4. Beforehand, both were guests on Malou von Sievers' 60 minute show "Malou möter…".
On 2 September, SVT1 started on broadcasting the five-part documentary series "Dramaten - drömmarnas hus". In the first sequel, amongst others, Mikael was watched e. g. at the rehearsals for "Leka med elden". He had another interview at SVT2 on 24 September: "Stina om Mikael Persbrandt". Furthermore, he played more shows of "Arbetarklassens sista hjältar", this time on Dramaten's Small Stage. On 26 September, it was published that Mikael and Peter Haber had signed for eight more "Beck" films. Shooting will probably start in September 2005.
On 3 October, SVT1 broadcasted the TV version of Strindberg's comedy "Leka med elden". On 8 October, Mikael travelled to Chicago, together with Simon Staho (director) and Jonas Fredriksen (producer), to present "Dag och natt" on the local International Film Festival. The film won the "Silver Hugo" for its brilliant ensemble performance. 1 November saw the end of the shootings for "Medicinmannen". On 3 and 4 November, Mikael and the "Leka med elden" ensemble were in Portugal for two shows at the 13. UTE Festival in Porto.
Having "Dag och natt" classified as a Danish movie by the Swedish Film Academy, it could not participate in the elections for the "Guldbagge Award". Instead of that, on 15 December the nominations for the Danish counterpart, the film price "Robert", were announced: Mikael was nominated as "best actor in a leading role", "Dag och natt" as "best picture", Simon Staho as "best director" as well as five more nominations for the film crew (they did not get any price in any category).
On 17 December, the shootings began for "Bang bang orangutang", a drama directed by Simon Staho again. Mikaels partners in the film are Lena Olin and Tuva Novotny.
The rehearsals for Mikael's new play, the black comedy "Lik som män", started on 24 January 2005. His onstage partner is Reine Brynolfsson. At this year's "Guldbagge" awards, Mikael won the Ingmar Bergman price, among others for his performance in "Dag och natt"! Beginning of February saw the end of the shootings for "Bang bang orangutang". Furthermore, he was nominated for another Danish movie award - the "Bodil" which is assigned by the film critics. Unfortunately, he did not win the price.
The premiere of the black comedy "Lik som män" was on 16 March. On 17 March, it became known that Mikael won the TV4 film price "Guldsolen", also for his performance in "Dag och natt". On 18 March, the comedy "Som man bäddar…" started in Swedish movie theatres.
On 3 April, the shootings for the comedy "Tjocktjuven" started. Mikael played a supporting role in that film. On 12 April, he was the first guest of the new TV4 talk show "God natt, Sverige" with anchorman Kristian Luuk. On 30 April, Mikael participated in a panel discussion about acting in line with "Drömfabriken", a project initialized by SFI.
Once again, he supported the programme "Världens humorkväll" (in collaboration with Unicef), broadcasted by TV4 on 4 May. Mikael was on the move as investigating reporter. On 5 May, TV2 showed within its culture journal "Kobra" a music video, in which Mikael was dancing through "Berns" restaurant to Fatboy Slims' song "Weapon of Choice". On 6 May, it was announced that Mikael will shoot a third film with director Simon Staho in 2006, "Black jack pussycat". At a guest performance of the Elverket at the Gothenburg Pustervisteatern from 15 to 17 May, Mikael and Börje Ahlstedt performed three shows of "Arbetarklassens sista hjältar". On 18 May, the rehearsals of Strindberg's "Fröken Julie" (Miss Julie) started at the Dramaten. Mikaels partners will be Maria Bonnevie and Ingela Olsson.
During the Bergman week from 28 June to 3 July, Mikael was there as a guest. Amongst others, "Dag och natt" was shown.
© Gisela Schuemann
Some more information…
Mikael is 1.89 m (6' 1.5") tall and weighs about 92 kg (203 lbs).
He drives a BMW, and he also owns a motorcycle of the Italian Bimota brand. He is very fond of motor sports and has got all the licences required to participate in car and motorcycle races. His personal record at the northern loop of the Nürburgring (21 km) is 8.59 minutes.
Mikael describes his musical taste as old-fashioned. He likes Johnny Cash, Dwight Yokam, Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan and Lou Reed, but also Eminem. Asked for a "good record" he mentions: "An American Prayer" by Jim Morrison and The Doors.
He describes Francis Bacon as his idol and a great artist. His acting idols are "all who are on fire", those who live for their profession, e.g. Keve Hjelm, Börje Ahlstedt, Marie Göranzon or Jan Malmsjö as well as the American actors Kevin Spacey, John Malkovitch, Gary Oldman, Sean Penn and Tim Roth.