Testament of Youth star says strong female roles are “rare” today.

Swedish actress Alicia Vikander has said she “fought hard” for the role of iconic British writer Vera Brittain in World War One biopic Testament of Youth, in part due to the rarity of strong female film roles today.

Speaking at the BFI Southbank last night as part of the ‘BFI Presents’ series, the in-demand actress said: “I fought hard for this role…I met James [director James Kent] just before Christmas 2013. We went for dinner and I just came in there ready saying ‘I know that I’m Swedish but I can do this so please give me the chance’.

“You know, it’s rare, it’s so rare to find strong female roles in film nowadays”, she continued.

“So when you get one of those scripts on your table it’s just an instant love.”

Actress Vikander, director James Kent and producer Rosie Allison were joined at the event by Baroness Shirley Williams, daughter of Vera Brittain, author of the eponymous memoirs on which the film is based.

Kent told the audience that his background as a documentary filmmaker helped achieve some of the film’s authenticity: “It’s hard, you don’t know how much an audience can bare. I come from documentaries and that helped.

“We had quite a lot of the German wounded being played by amputees from Iraq and Afghanistan because it felt important that we had people who had witnessed the result of war,” he added.

Baroness Williams, who advised the production, praised backers BBC and the BFI: “It really says a lot for the BFI and the BBC, because we wouldn’t have been able to make this without their support. The fact that you’ve got two major sponsors for films who are interested in the quality of the film and the message it gets across, and not simply the box office receipts, is fantastic. I think it would be an absolute tragedy for the British film industry if those two sources were to dry up.”

The film is released by Lionsgate UK this weekend.

‘BFI Presents’ is a series of special live events aimed at engaging audiences with new British independent films.

Last night’s pilot event was broadcast to more than 400 venues around the country, with cinemagoers tweeting their questions in to the cast and crew.

More events are due to be announced by the BFI later this year.