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Thomsen was born in Fyn, Denmark and graduated from the Danish National School of Theatre and Contemporary Dance in 1993, after which playing on several theatres in Copenhagen, such as Dr. Dantes Aveny, Mungo Park and Østre Gasværks Teater.
His film debut was in 1994 in Nattevagten, directed by Ole Bornedal. Since then a number of roles in, among others, Thomas Vinterberg's De største Helte, Susanne Bier's Sekten and Anders Thomas Jensen's Flickering Lights. The major breakthrough in his career came in the 1998 film Festen followed by an important role in the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough portraying the part of henchman Sasha Davidov. This established Thomsen as an international actor, famous outside his native Denmark. He also played a part in the 2002 English film Killing Me Softly.