Pilou Asbæk: Euron Greyjoy “knows he’s going to die”


Pilou Asbæk made a big splash in “Stormborn,” the latest episode of Game of Thrones season 7. He’s been making the rounds since then, talking about his approach to the character, Euron’s plans (such as they are) for the future, and how Game of Thrones is like Highlander.

Asbæk definitely gives a fun interview.

Let’s start with Asbæk’s sit-down with The Hollywood Reporter, where he discussed differentiating the Euron we see on the show from the one in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels. “[Y]ou have to do something else,” Asbæk said. “It’s very difficult to do an adaptation of people’s imagination. I can never satisfy all the readers of Martin’s books…But I can do the best I can and show as many different sides of this character as possible. And that’s what I wanted to do in season seven.”

By the sound of what he said to TIME, Asbæk had a decent hand in creating the character as he appears in season 7. He enjoyed playing Euron’s scenes in season 6, but took more ownership this year, particularly as regards his wardrobe.

"When I came back for season seven, I was like, “Dan [Weiss], David [Benioff], all the scenes you guys have written, I love every single line of it. But can we recreate him? I want to make him rock and roll. I want to be a superstar. I want to have this weird guy who’s been traveling the world and has this energy that says, ‘I don’t give a sh-t.'” And that involved a lot of leather and the jacket. The costume designer and Dan and David were like, “Yeah, it’s cool, man.”"

And that leather outfit shortly passed into legend.

But who is Euron, really? According to Asbæk, he’s a sociopath who can adapt himself to fit whatever situation he’s in, like the other psychopaths Asbæk has met in his life. “Every single scene, I want to try something else,” Asbæk said. “So the Euron on the boat is very different from the Euron in the throne room. And the Euron in the throne room is going to be very different from the Euron you’ll see later in the season.”

The Euron on the boat, at least, was a maniacal, violence-loving demon who The Hollywood Reporter described as “nightmare made flesh,” which bears more than a passing resemblance to his book counterpart. Asbæk added in a qualification to that description when detailing where Euron fits in the pantheon of great Game of Thrones villains.

"But he’s human, too. And that’s the interesting part of my job. In Game of Thrones, there have been some iconic villains: Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), Ramsay (Iwan Rheon), just to name a few. They have been so iconic. They have been the definition of evil. I love how they created those characters. I can’t do the same thing. I have to do something else. I wanted to create a guy who is going to invite you out for a drink, sleep with your wife and slap you afterwards. And maybe not even slap you: He would probably just kill you. (Laughs.) He wouldn’t even blink. He wouldn’t even flinch. It’s in his DNA. It’s his nature."

Talking about the battle scene in “Stormborn” specifically, Asbæk explained the moment where Euron crashed onto Yara’s flagship ahead of his men. “All the good warlords charge in first when they go into a battle,” he said. “They have to inspire. They have to illustrate more fear than anyone else. What’s more brutal than an ax? I loved that it was his preferred weapon.”

Another reason that Euron may have charged in first may be because he’s…y’know, nuts. “I’m completely free in Euron,” Asbæk told Variety. “I don’t feel any restrictions. With Euron, it’s like ‘Let’s do more crazy eyes, more manic, more violent, and fierce.’ Until the day that Dan and David kill me.”

Death is something Asbæk thinks Euron is expecting. “He knows his time is spare. He knows he’s going to die at one point. And if you ask me, it’s probably going to be spectacular. I hope so. But right now, he’s in for a ride.”

Asbæk is clearly enjoying the ride, too…perhaps a little too much. He told THR that, while filming the big battle scene on the boat, he went so HAM on the stuntmen that they actually had to tell him to tone it down. ‘”Dude, chill out. You’re going to break our ribs,”‘ Asbæk recounts them saying. “But that’s because it was fun!“

So I’m getting the impression that Asbæk really does have some of Euron’s mania in him, which can only be good for the character. You’ve done it again, Game of Thrones casting department.

It was also Asbæk’s idea to do that crazy laugh after Theon jumps into the water. “When we were doing the scene, I felt like something was missing,” he said. “I went up to [director Mark Mylod] and said, “What if I kiss [Yara]? Or what if I licked the blood off of her face?” And he was like, “Ah, Pilou, that’s pushing it.”

"But Alfie was jumping overboard, and I needed to do something totally disturbing. So we did a version of the scene where I kissed her, and it didn’t work. We tried a version where I licked her face after he jumps overboard, and I said something stupid, and it didn’t work. So then I went: “This set-up might be the only time in my entire career where I can pull off the most sick laughter in a film I’m ever, ever, ever going to be able to do. It would tell the same story as a kiss or a lick. It would sell the humiliation of her and the humiliation of Theon.” So that’s how I came up with the high-pitched laughter."

So what’s next for Euron? “World domination, man,” Asbæk joked to Variety. Or maybe he was being serious. Who can tell with this character? “What is left for Euron? To enjoy life. Let’s see what kind of gift he brings home to Cersei. And let’s see what her answer is.”

Back with THR, Asbæk also teased some interactions with other members of the cast down the line, but stopped shot of revealing anything specific. “Gemma and Alfie were the only actors I really worked with, up until Lena and [Nikolaj Coster-Waldau], of course,” he said. “And I won’t say other names, because I’m not that much of a rookie and I’m not giving up any spoilers. (Laughs.)”

To stay up to date on everything Game of Thrones, follow our all-encompassing Facebook page and sign up for our exclusive newsletter.

To give you one last taste of Euron-like mania before we go, there was one point in the Variety interview where Asbæk explained what’s it’s like to work on a high-profile show like Game of Thrones by quoting the 1986 action flick Highlander.

"Babbling about the bigness of Thrones: “If you have seen “Highlander” — and I bet you have, I bet you’ve seen it a number of times — there’s a line that is the essence of “Game of Thrones”: “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” Whenever Dan and David have a decision whether we should go small or we should go f—ing big, every single time they say, “Let’s go even bigger.” Even Daft Punk wrote a number about it, “Harder Better Faster.””"

Asbæk can stay.

Next: Callbacks and Easter Eggs in 'Stormborn'

Watch Game of Thrones for FREE with a no-risk, 7-day free trial of Amazon Channels.