When Alicia Vikander first attended the Academy Awards three years ago, few on the red carpet knew who she was. The Swedish actress had flown to Hollywood in 2013 to support "A Royal Affair" — a Danish picture competing for the foreign film prize that year — but she was barely known outside of Europe.
On Sunday night, the 27-year-old left the Dolby Theatre with an Oscar in hand for her supporting turn in "The Danish Girl." In the film, in which she stars opposite Eddie Redmayne, Vikander plays Gerda Wegener, the wife of a painter who was one of the first people to receive gender reassignment surgery in the 1920s.
In her acceptance speech, Vikander thanked Redmayne and director Tom Hooper and then pointed at her mother in the crowd.
"Thank you for giving me the belief that anything can happen," she said, raising her statuette. "Even though I would never have believed this."
Vikander's Oscar win caps off a whirlwind year for the actress, who also appeared in four other films in 2015: "Testament of Youth," "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," "Burnt" and "Ex Machina." She received particularly strong notices for her performance in the latter film, portraying a humanoid robot who seduces a young man with her artificial intelligence.
But adjusting to the spotlight has not been easy for Vikander, who admitted she finds it difficult to be understood in English — even though she is proficient in the language.
"It's tough," she told The Times this fall. "I try to be myself, but I'm always nervous letting go. I am very serious about my work. But I think it's a bit of a cultural thing too. Everyone thinks my English is so good. But with the language barrier, I often feel like I want to add that little extra flavor to what I'm saying. Sometimes I wish people could hang out with me for 10 minutes when I'm speaking Swedish."
Vikander, who grew up in Gothenburg but now lives in London, has also recently made a name for herself in the fashion world as one of the faces of Louis Vuitton. She has made the rounds this awards season with her boyfriend, fellow Oscar-nominee Michael Fassbender. The two were seated next to each other at the Golden Globes last month, where Vikander lost out in the supporting actress category to Fassbender's "Jobs" co-star Kate Winslet.
The couple is set to appear in a romance together this year, "The Light Between Oceans." Vikander will also appear in the next "Jason Bourne" film.