What you definitely know him from:
Game of Thrones, Mama, Oblivion
What you might know him from:
Black Hawk Down, Wimbledon, Kingdom of Heaven
What you probably don’t know him from:
Charming. Sophisticated. Handsome. Born in Denmark, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is yet another gem in the Scandinavian film industry – an industry which continues to provide impressive and inspiring films and actors.
Over the past few years there has been an influx of accoladed films produced from Northern Europe which has in turn found itself exported globally. Though subtitled films are still relatively alien to mainstream cinema, it is hard to disagree that they are influential in the film industry today. For example, Swedish writer Steig Larsson’s novel ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ had a Danish film adaptation made in 2009 and was given such recognition that an English remake followed suit just three years later, starring Daniel Craig. This illustrates how studios are slowly accepting a foreign injection in film, and it is all for the better. Which brings us back to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. It is only in the last few years that Coster-Waldau’s stock has risen, and in 2013 he has already starred in Mama and Oblivion – two films that made roughly $60million in their opening weekend of release alone. This, alongside his star role in Game of Thrones, suggest that Coster-Waldau is firmly set to be a Hollywood star. But there’s more to Coster-Waldau than pleasing the masses…
Headhunters (“Hodejegerne” original title)
Headhunters, was a nominee for ‘Best Film not in the English Language’ for the 2013 BAFTA awards, alongside fellow Danish film, The Hunt. Although not as popular as the main BAFTA nominee lists, I personally felt that both these films mentioned were deserving of higher recognition overall. Headhunters, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is an adaptation of a novel, and is rumoured to be set for a remake, Mark Wahlberg playing Coster-Waldau’s role.
The film focusses on Roger Brown (Askel Hennie), a man whom believes the only way to keep his attractive, successful girlfriend and funding her extravagancies is by stealing valuable paintings. This comes to an almighty forefront when he discovers that a new friend of hers, Clas Geve (Coster-Waldau), is in possession of a painting worth millions.
Though a simple plot-line, there are plenty of twists and turns and it is a film I would recommend to anyone due to its sheer drama and suspense – without giving too much away, one scene involves Roger Brown hiding in an outhouse in the last place you’d ever think of looking. But what also makes the film so impressive is the performances of the two main male characters, and in particular, Coster-Waldau as the antagonist. He plays the suave Clas Greve with ease, and it feels as if the role was written for him. Greve is arrogant, successful and scheming, yet dangerous. Coster-Waldau has the knack of making the audience hate him through jealously – and it works to an extent that he’s the character you are most interested in. Add to that his infidelity with Brown’s wife (SPOILER ALERT), and you’ve got a real swine of a character that Coster-Waldau portrays to a T.
Game of Thrones
Without a doubt his biggest role so far, and the one which has propelled him into the limelight, is starring as Ser Jaime Lannister in the HBO series, Game of Thrones. As soon as I saw Coster-Waldau in the series I felt he bore a striking resemblance to Prince Charming in Shrek 2, and then he started speaking and it annoyed me as it was pretty much the same character. But that’s where the similarities to a kids film character end and the adult Game of Thrones characteristics begin. Jaime Lannister is scheming, pompous and loyal to his family (especially his sister – oop pardon!). This isn’t entirely dissimilar to the characterisation of Clas Greve in Headhunters, and once again Coster-Waldau plays to his strengths as being that guy on the screen you just want to punch.
Yet, as (purposefully) dislikable and aggravating as he is throughout the first two seasons of the series, thus far in the third season we’ve seen a different side to the character, and Coster-Waldau’s performance provides sustenance in our understanding that Jaime Lannister may well be misunderstood. Consequently, he is now one of my favourite characters on the show. Whilst this may be down to the contrasting sides the character has, I feel that Coster-Waldau plays with these brilliantly. He is excellent in exuding the swagger of Jaime Lannister, yet effective in altering audience perception of the character by illustrating the human being behind the “king-slayer”.
Also, I don’t really care that he pushed a little kid out of a window – there wouldn’t have been much of a story without that moment so kudos to you, Ser Lannister.
Nightwatch (Nattevagten original title)
Nightwatch is a horror/thriller film directed by Ole Bornedal and was released way back in 1994. At the time, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was only 24 years old, and it was his first major role in a film. This Coster-Waldau is a far-cry to the one we currently see in Games of Thrones and in box-office blockbusters. For a start, he looks incredibly different, twenty years younger to be precise (well duh!). The impression that this gives from the get go is that he may have been considered quite the heart-throb at the time in Danish cinema. This isn’t to say that this is no longer the case in the present day, but in Nightwatch, he seems innocent, naive and youthful… and he seems to have his shirt off a lot.
The film centres on Martin (played by Coster-Waldau), a law student whom takes on a part-time job as the night-watch at a mortuary. Cue spooky and eerie goings-on. As he is the main protagonist, it is interesting to see how he has developed since his early days. Though not an entirely groundbreaking performance, it was enough to assist his career in reaching the stage it is at now. An interesting point to make about Nightwatch is that there are a few little ‘digs’ at the Hollywood industry, Martin saying to his girlfriend “If I was to say I love you, would it sound like an American film? Why can’t we say that anymore? We’ve seen too many bad movies”. Furthermore, the ending is somewhat ironic, as it ends in a typically fluffy happy Hollywood style, yet this seems purposeful (without giving the ending away, a bad joke is made and a whole room of people laugh in unison for a little too long). There’s an overall sense of irony here, in that Coster-Waldau would eventually end up starring in roles that are being ridiculed, e.g. Wimbledon. All in all though, Coster-Waldau does the job and works well as the main character.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has slowly integrated himself into the mainstream after a lengthy spell in Scandinavian films. It is certainly to our benefit that he has moved into a more globally recognized field, as he is without a doubt a talented actor. The only negative aspect I would pick up on is that when taking on the persona of Jaime Lannister, Coster-Waldau’s English accent sometimes sways into his native Danish. Though, to be fair, Danish is his first language, so the fact that he has a complete grasp on English overthrows this tiny hiccup. In addition, his American accent in Mama is perfect, so I’ll shut up.
We can expect to see Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in starring roles over the next few years, whilst continuing to be a constant presence on our TV screens as Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones. Yet Coster-Waldau is by far a stereotypical Hollywood actor, and by keeping himself busy in a variety of roles – whether the roles are English spoken or in his native tongue – he remains difficult to pigeon-hole, and therefore an actor that people should keep an eye on. Let’s just hope he’s put his incestuous love for Cersei Lannister behind him.
All hail the King-slayer!