Mads Mikkelsen very nearly made his latest film The Salvation in Australia.

In a wide-ranging beachside interview with Denmark’s leading man and with the film’s director Kristian Levring this afternoon, the latter revealed how close the Australian outback came to serving as the location for their “Danish western”, before Australia was deemed "just too expensive" and the decision was made to shoot in South Africa instead.

The Salvation is Levring’s enthusiastic tribute to the films of John Ford and Sergio Leone, in particular, whose Once Upon A Time in The West is referenced heavily. Mikkelsen plays a frontiersman who takes the law into his own hands when his Danish wife and child are brutally murdered only hours after reuniting with him in America.

“We didn’t have enough money to shoot in the States,” Levring said. “It was way, way, way above what we could ever afford. I started to use Google maps [to help me] find places that can actually believably look like America. Another challenge was to find a place they have a film industry. This is not like a dogma film. You need a big film crew and you need horses.

"I talked to Australia [about shooting the film there]," Levring. That was the first place we spent a long time talking to, but unfortunately Australia was too expensive.

Levring noted that his film was in some noteworthy company: "It’s a very good point to note also, that they shot Mad Max [i.e. Fury Road] in South Africa. You have all the landscapes in Australia but they still shot it in South Africa and Namibia for the same reason.  I’m a Mad Max fan by the way!

The Salvation screened last night in the midnight slot traditionally reserved for genre films that provide relief from the heaver skewing themes, which tend to categorise the official competition.

It played to an enthusiastic audience at the Grand Lumiere Cinema (the audience whooped and cheered repeatedly throughout the film’s opening credits).

Seasoned Cannes-headiner Mikkelsen admits to still “always being nervous” when attending his own premieres. “Some of us are going to see to for the first time, some of us for the first time with an audience. It’s a fragile situation, we’re crossing our fingers but it’s always a good sign when five minutes you start forgetting yourself up there and you start watching the film. That happened to me yesterday and I think people were very nice and they seemed to receive it extremely well.

Levring added, “For me, last night the midnight screening was kind of the perfect place to show this film”.

”I never expected to come here. When they talked about sending it, I said are you out of your mind? But I felt last night, the way the audience applauded and all that, that was like, it sounds pretentious, but it’s a big moment in a director’s career. To come here and have people seem to like it.”

The full interview with Mads Mikkelsen and Kristian Levring will appear closer to the film’s Australian release date.