Sadly, the room service menu at London’s Corinthia Hotel does not cater to inhabitants of Westeros (no lamprey pie, and they’re all out of Dothraki horse jerky). So when ShortList meets Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, ‘the Kingslayer’ is making do with steak tartare and a carrot juice. Once the 44-year-old Danish actor best known for playing the brutal but lovable Jaime Lannister has cleaned his plate we sit down to talk about the biggest TV show in the world and his new film, A Second Chance…
Your new film, A Second Chance, is about a heart-breaking moral dilemma. Was it emotionally draining to shoot?
Yeah, I play a policeman who is experiencing the worst nightmare a parent can imagine: dealing with the death of his newborn baby. His wife can’t accept what’s happened and threatens to kill herself. So in a state of shock, he does something crazy – he steals someone’s baby. Of course, his actions have consequences.
So quite different to your previous film, the Cameron Diaz rom-com The Other Woman…
[Laughs] Yes. This script actually arrived while I was shooting The Other Woman, and it felt perfect.
When you were making the first series of GoT, did you think it would become the most watched TV show ever?
Not at all. I don’t think anyone knew. I would tell people I was doing this HBO show and they would go, “Wow, HBO, that’s amazing!” Then I would tell them that it was about dragons and fantasy, and they would go, “Oh.” I knew the scripts were good but they killed off the main guy in the first season! It’s ridiculous. Good ridiculous – but still absurd.
How did your life change?
It didn’t, I’m still in Denmark with my family. If you decide that the quality of your life is equal to the success – or failure – of whatever project you’re doing, you’re bound to live a life of misery and heartache, with the occasional ‘up’ when you are lucky enough to be in a good show. It’s a job – a great job – and it’s given me opportunities. But that’s it.
Do you ever stay in character as Jaime Lannister?
I’ve never really believed that anyone could be in character all the time. You would have to be ill to truly believe you are someone else. I read that Daniel Day-Lewis – who is one of the best actors ever – and Sally Field would call each other Mr and Mrs President on Lincoln, and that they texted each other in character. But if you’re that deep in your method acting, how can you understand what a mobile phone is?
Do your family watch GoT?
So nobody in your family pesters you to spill the beans?
My sister does. But, no, nobody else wants to know.
Did you enjoy taking Jaime from infanticidal maniac to lovable one-handed rogue?
What he said early on was, “The things I do for love.” He can be very ruthless but I don’t think he’s a maniac – he doesn’t enjoy killing. Well, not much [Laughs].
The GoT writers are ruthless when it comes to killing off lead characters. Will it be a relief when Jaime gets the chop?
F*ck no! It’s a great job and it pays the bills. Yes, it will end. But I hope I’ll be on the show for another season. But I might not.
How would you like Jaime to go?
For Brienne to kill him. Or something funny – like natural causes. Nobody ever ‘just dies’ on that show. It would be the most controversial death yet.
That would break the internet. Talking of which, was it awkward shooting the notorious sex scene next to Joffrey’s body with Lena Headey?
[Laughs] More so for poor Jack Gleeson [King Joffrey]. He had to lie still and try not to laugh while we did it. But with that scene, we always thought it was going to be controversial but we never thought it would become a ‘rape/not rape’ question. We thought it was going to be about the fact that they were having sex in front of a dead kid. Turned out that wasn’t an issue.
What’s the weirdest encounter that you’ve had with a fan?
Twice I’ve had guys come up to me in the shower at the gym while I was naked. The first one snuck up on me and screamed, “What are you doing here?!” I was like, “Er…” and then he said, “Can I have a picture?” The second time was more low-key. “Hey, um, are you the guy from Game Of Thrones?” Yeah… “Can I have a picture?” Then he turned away and said, “Yeah we’ll do it after.” I think he suddenly woke up and realised that asking me for a picture in the showers might make him look a bit weird.
These things come in threes…
Wait a minute. There was a woman who came up for an autograph and she had a live fox as a pet. This thing looked wild.
What can we expect from the new season?
[Laughs] I can’t tell you. Clearly.
Oh go on. We need to know who’s going to step up and rule the Seven Kingdoms…
Some major characters are going to meet and some of those storylines are going to cross. But other than that, sweet f*ck all. [Pretending to voice a dramatic trailer] “It’s gonna be… the most amazing season… ever. All bets are off. The end game is near.”
We also had the opportunity to ask Coster-Waldau some questions from our ShortList.com readers:
How would you define Jaime’s relationship with Brienne? (Asked by Maria Santana Barrios)
Respectful. He respects her. I don’t think he is in love with her – or he’s not aware of it anyway. But I think he has a connection that’s unlike any other person he’s ever met. It’s pure.
What was it like adapting to acting with only one hand? (Asked by Christopher Leigh Shanahan)
Good question. This is what defined Jaime Lannister. So to lose that part of him was a huge obstacle, so that was interesting from my point of view.
Do you like Jaime Lannister as a character? (Asked by Jo Glasspool)
Yes, he’s a nice guy. He not sentimental in any way, and he will kill and destroy, but he’s also very honourable.
What is your favourite scene from the show so far? (Asked by Giovanni Nathaniel)
There are so many. My favourite scene, which was heartbreaking for me because I love Charles Dance as an actor, was that scene when Tyrion kills Tywin [Dance] whilst he’s taking a sh*t. I thought that whole scene was brilliant.
What other books or TV shows are you enjoying at the moment? (Asked by Zoe Hemes)
Louie with Louie CK, I recommend that to anyone. And Fargo, I’ve just started watching that.
A Second Chance is at selected cinemas now