Interview with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

This was one of those rare interviews my wife wanted as much as I did. If not more.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a Nikolaj guy. We trumpeted his casting since day one. The man who filled the Kingslayer’s shoes had to be able to pull off an effortless, almost lazy confidence that didn’t come across as false. Jaime Lannister had to be someone who swaggered because he knew he could kick your ass. He also needed to be physically attractive, and to be able to play guilt and self-loathing buried so deep it could only flicker to the fore, in his eyes, on the rarest occasions.

Nikolaj had all that, in spades.

I had seen him previously as Commander Frank Pike on FOX’s ill-fated pilot, Virtuality, and had immediately recognized him as an extremely special actor. In fact, at the time, the concept of entire show seemed brilliant to me; at the end of the pilot, in a pre-Thrones twist of pure audacity, (VIRTUALITY SPOILER AHEAD:) Commander Pike is killed… though the audience is left with the knowledge that he will continue to pop up in future episodes, as his “imprint” was left in the troubled ship’s virtual reality programming. So you literally have a lead actor who is in fact dead. Brilliant, right?

Alas, FOX did as FOX does. They declined to give it the green light, and Virtuality was not made into a series. That was the bad news. The good news was it left him open to pursue other projects—ones like Game of Thrones. And we’re freaking glad for that.

My wife especially. I told her I’d gotten the okay for The Nikolaj interview, and she screeched and threw something at me, a reaction that—I have often heard—is a sign of affection.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was born in Denmark in 1970, and graduated from theatre school (the Statens Teaterskole in Copenhagen) in 1993. His breakthrough in Danish film came with the 1994 hit Nattevagten (Nightwatch), which earned him many Danish fans almost immediately. He garnered worldwide attention playing Master-Sergeant Gary Gordon in Ridley Scott’s critically acclaimed Black Hawk Down, and impressed so many people he was invited to work with Scott again in 2005’s Kingdom of Heaven.

Another 2005 role, playing Martin the Headsman in Shadow of the Sword, showed the world what he could do with intense, emotional drama—and a sword! (Here is my personal favorite fan video dedicated to ‘Sword, music by Jeff Buckley. Hallelujah and R.I.P., Jeff! WARNING—this video is basically one huge SPOILER.)

Nikolaj went on to play Detective John Amsterdam on the FOX television series New Amsterdam. That was followed by Virtuality… and you all know the tale from there.

He embodied all that is Jaime Lannister. Nikolaj gave us the best of his swagger in the face of a stern Ned Stark, and showed us that small flicker of doubt when he discovered Stark to be a better swordsman than he’d expected. He was merciless in word and deed when provoked to it, yet subdued and even slightly fearful when brought to heel by his stern father.

And he proved he would do anything for love. Lord, if season 3 comes to pass…

Most of you know what I’m talking about. I almost want to leap past season 2 and go straight into season 3, just to see what Nikolaj will do with that wench.

(They have to give him a bath, right? At least the man will finally be clean.)

But alas, that speculation is still far off. We stand here with season 2 staring us down the throat—the season that, by all accounts, should have shown us little and less of Nikolaj. And yet… that may not entirely be the case.

We already know some extra scenes were written just with Nikolaj in mind. And in the interview he gives us the barest tease of something that could potentially be extremely cool. So Jaime Lannister fans of the world—fret not!

Winter Is Coming caught up with Nikolaj in Canada while filming Oblivion, an upcoming science fiction epic directed by Joseph Kosinski (Tron). The film has Nikolaj playing Sykes, a battle-hardened, intelligent and extremely athletic military technology and weapons expert. The rest of the cast—lead by Tom Cruise—includes Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) and Andrea Riseborough (W.E.).

And so, supporting the bottom…

…with the added bonus of staying in the good graces of my NCW-loving wife, I now present to you my interview with the Kingslayer himself, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau:

Fire and Blood: Hi, Nikolaj! Thanks for taking the time to talk to Winter Is Coming!

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: My pleasure. And thank you for keeping me up to date on the latest trailers, info, casting etc.

FaB: It’s what we do! Glad to know you’re one of our readers! [More proof of this later, Gatewatch faithful!] First, most importantly, how is your family?

NCW: Family is great, thank you for asking.

FaB: When it was first announced that you would play Jaime Lannister, I was extremely excited, because I had seen your performance in Virtuality, and absolutely loved it. I was shocked that wasn’t turned into a regular series. What happened? Was this just a case of FOX being FOX? Too quick to hit the “eject” button, so to speak?

NCW: Virtuality would have been perfect on a cable network. I know for a fact that Fox really wanted to make it work but it just wasn’t to be. I am aware of all the ‘Fox being Fox’ theories, but my experience with those guys are that they are passionate about making television. At the end of the day if they dont believe in the show they have to let it go… I was very proud to be a part of Virtuality and I too think it could have been a great show, but such is life.

FaB: Of course I’m thrilled we got you for Game of Thrones! But even then I was concerned, since I knew that Jaime practically disappears for all of book 2. I thought, Why would a guy this talented agree to take a year off? Needless to say, they’re not leaving you out of the story at all, and it looks like they’ve even added special stuff just for you. Was there ever a point where they discussed leaving you out of season 2?

NCW: If they did discuss leaving me out then they never told me about it. Way back, when we first met I was told that in season 2, if ever we got there, I would only work in 2 eps so I knew in advance. As it turned out it is a little more than that, and the scenes I have were just brilliant, one scene in particular. I wish I could tell you about it… because in a weird cryptic way it relates to you guys! :-)

FaB: Oh ho! Now my curiosity is doubly stoked!

(I will leave it to the rest of you to speculate what that might be! We should do a Coster-Waldau Clue Contest! He says it “relates to you guys” … Hmmm…)

UPDATE: In this Thronecast interview, Nikolaj says he shot his favourite scene of all time in season 2’s episode seven! More food for thought!

FaB: In A Clash of Kings, we hear about an escape attempt by Jaime that was thwarted at the last possible moment. Are we going to see something like that?

NCW: Sorry. No comment.

FaB: I had to try. Obviously season 3 hasn’t been officially green-lighted yet, but that doesn’t stop us all from speculating. Jaime has such a powerful and emotional impact in the third book; his journey is mind-blowing. Tell us about working with Gwendoline Christie for season 2, because most people don’t really know much about her.

NCW: Yes, and I can say I have met our Brienne, and am a fan of Gwendoline Christie! I dont want to talk too much about [season 2 or 3] because that too is spoilerland. But she is extremely talented, the sweetest and gentlest soul and then – she puts on the armor and scares the shit out of me. Good thing that it takes more to intimidate Jaime.

FaB: Very little intimidates Jaime. There will probably still be a lot of slogging around in the mud. I’ve seen clips from the upcoming season 2. Jaime Lannister looks like the filthiest man in the Seven Kingdoms. Was that an uncomfortable shoot?

NCW: It was wet and muddy and cold but I loved every second of it.

FaB: I was just watching the Game of Thrones season 1 Blu-ray, in which you did a commentary, and in it you were watching a scene with Cersei being Cersei, and you shouted, “What’s wrong with you?” (It got a pretty big laugh from everyone in my living room.) But strangely, it does remind us of the decision Jaime has made to engage in a physical love affair with his sister… that must be difficult to wrap your mind around. Tell me how you approached this challenge.

NCW: The focus is the feeling. To be in love, to be crazy in love and in lust for a person to the point where all your actions are controlled by that desire. It’s like a drug. I didn’t think too much about the fact that they are siblings. But I am also convinced that given the choice, Jaime would never have put himself or his family in such a vulnerable situation. But he never had that choice, he was crazy in love …

FaB: Perfect. I am a Lannister at heart, despite my FaB name; I feel like when we see Jaime acting like an ass, or we are not seeing him in the best light, it’s because he has something dark weighing on his thoughts. Do you feel like being abrasive or openly arrogant is his way of lashing out at events he can’t control?

NCW: The interesting thing is when he is the most ‘insulting’is when he speaks the truth. Both to Ned and Catelyn Stark. They both go out of their way to insult him and yes it pisses Jaime off. I mean come on, I killed the guy who had your brother and father burned alive!! And not just a little gratitude or at least acknowledgement that you approve? No? Really?? … So then you are allowed to tickle their self-righteousness a little bit. Besides, it’s fun.

FaB: In a recent interview, Michelle Fairley was praising your performance, and she said Jaime fears nothing, not even death. There’s a point in the story where he learns that the secret is out—that the entire world knows (or at least strongly suspects) that he fathered Cersei’s children. Does that contribute to his fearlessness? Kind of like, “Oh well, it’s out, I have nothing to lose now?”

NCW: I think Jaime doesn’t fear death because it in many ways wouldn’t be the worst that could happen. He has seen and done things that are extreme, and death has always been a companion. But I also think that Jaime is a great poker player and being a prisoner of the Starks is putting that skill to the test. But afraid – no.

FaB: I think the one person he fears is his father. Or at least his father’s judgement. The scene that introduced us to Tywin Lannister, played by the outstanding Charles Dance, showed us a completely different side of Jaime. How did you prepare for such a different emotion, going into the scene?

NCW: I looked into Charles Dance’s eyes and reacted. He is masterful.

FaB: So true. It was one of the best, most subtle scenes, just watching how these two men acted in one another’s presence. The nuance wasn’t just in the eyes, it was body posture, everything. I loved it. That dead deer must have stunk to high heaven.

NCW: it wasn’t that bad. As always it was freezing outside of Belfast. I was hoping catering would serve it up. I love deer.

FaB: Obviously you can’t go into any real detail about season 2. But can you give us one of your favourite lines from this upcoming season? Just a taste!

NCW: A taste… “…You only have to do one thing…”

FaB: Annnnnd queue everyone’s maddened and frenzied speculation! I have no idea what that could be for! Thank you, ser, you have given us something to obsess over for weeks now!

FaB: Okay! Madcap question time! Jaime vs. Khal Drogo. Who wins?

NCW: Send a Stark!

FaB: Logical. Jaime vs. The Hound?

NCW: I like the Hound, but Jaime is too fast.

FaB: Agreed. I predict the Hound starts strong but eventually gets sloppy and then Jaime has him. Okay, Jaime vs. Martin the Headsman [from Nikolaj’s 2005 film Shadow of the Sword]?

NCW: Haha… If ever Jaime faced the headsman he would be where Ned Stark was in [season 1 episode 9] “Baelor,” so I guess it would have to be Martin.

FaB: I choose to believe Jaime would kill at least 12 men up on the podium before being subdued and put on the block… and I think Martin would be one of the men Jaime kills. So I think Jaime wins the fight but in the end loses his head. There would need to be a replacement headsman brought up, though. Maybe two.

FaB: The latest Entertainment Weekly magazine has you on the cover as Jaime (along with the stunning Lena Headey as Cersei), which is awesome…

…but even more interesting is a picture that accompanies the article: you, Lena, Emilia, Kit, and Peter rocking out with air guitars. I have to ask… What the hell happened there??

NCW: Look at my face… clearly drugs were handed out behind my back.

FaB: You guys are just like me: very susceptible to “Flintstones” chewable vitamins. Of course you realize you now need to come up with a name for this fictitious band, right?

NCW: ‘The Babysitters.’

FaB: Epic. You are currently filming a movie [Oblivion] with Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman. Can you talk about it yet, or is there too much secrecy still involved?

NCW: There are guys with earpieces everywhere. They look mean and dangerous. Not kidding. But the coffee’s great.

FaB: You are on my wife’s “Celebrity Exemption List.” Does that flatter you or freak you out a little?

NCW: Both!

FaB: I do suggest a restraining order. Last question—though never least: I am in the midst of a personal crusade, which is to remove the colour INDIGO from the seven-colour spectrum, on the basis that it makes no sense to be there. In my view, the colour indigo has gotten too big for its britches. Thus far in interviews I’ve done with GoT cast members, a whopping four remain pro-indigo (Sophie Turner, Lena Headey, Aimee Richardson, and now even Emilia Clarke) whilst John Bradley remains (for now) steady and stalwart by my side. So my very important question to you is… yea or nay? Can you support my ban of that wretched seventh colour, or is indigo too important in your life?

NCW: I support the indigo bottom…

FaB reacts:

(Clearly I was not expecting Nikolaj Coster-Waldau to work a pro-indigo stance in with our bottom-supporting mantra. I’m not sure whether to feel elated or doomed. Is there any doubt that wretched colour is going to be part of the House Gatewatch coat-of-arms? Seven hells!)

Anyway, Nikolaj, thank you once again for taking the time to talk with us! You rock!

NCW: Thank you. My pleasure.

Fire and Blood: And that, ladies and germs, is the infallible and gracious (and the fan-favourite) Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. I thank him! As usual, I want to also thank Mara Mikialian and HBO, as well as Elyse Landwehr for helping to set this up.

Less than a week ’til April 1st! War is Coming!