Westeros’s dodgiest pirate, on generational angst and the joy of playing psychopaths
Hi Pilou. Where are you right now?
I’m back in Denmark, in my flat, on my own, enjoying myself. Not in that way.
Do you get to spend much time at home?
Not as much as I’d like to. It’s been a hectic few years. On one hand, you want to be at home with your wife and daughter, on the other, you’re a young ambitious actor and you’re afraid of the work stopping. It’s a classic situation in the creative business – the fear of failing, but also the fear of not having. Either way, you’re f*cked.
Denmark always comes top of global happiness polls. What do you do differently over there?
I think we’ve been overtaken by Norway now. F*cking Norwegians! We might just be good at lying. We pay a lot of tax, but we also take care of each other, and we’re only a small country. It’s a less corrupt place, the police do a great job making us all feel safe, and I know I can buy good quality food. All those things combine and we’re happy. But we’re also one of the nations that take the most medicine, and borders are being closed, so it’s not as simple as a tweet or a headline makes it look.
Hey, Overlord is a lot of fun, huh?
It’s a crazy-ass film. It’s just sick sh*t, man. It’s Saving Private Ryan on crack cocaine. I’m a European actor with an accent – doing a film like this, I’m not gonna be a guy from Brooklyn. I’m gonna be a Nazi supersoldier. It’s fun! The first half is serious, then it goes completely bonkers.
You speak French and German in the film. We’re talking in English, and you’re Danish…
Well, I speak “Germish”, German-English. I was trying to sound like Gary Oldman in Dracula with a bit of Arnold Schwarzenegger thrown in. The person who’s going to be most upset by this film is my mum, and not because of the film itself, but because of how I speak French. My French is sh*t, and my mum’s f*cking French! I guess that’s her fault. We take responsibility for too much stuff, our generation. We should blame more sh*t on old people.
Your character is properly evil. There aren’t a lot of shades of grey.
It’s not my job in this film to portray a complex character. My job is to be the worst possible version of the worst possible man in movie history, in a monstrous, zombie kind of way. Playing Euron on Game Of Thrones, I can argue: “He’s just misunderstood, he’s trying to survive”. With Overlord, f*ck no, he’s a f*cking idiot and you wish he would die.
You spend half the film with half a face. Is that make-up or CGI?
We did one shot of me with CGI, where my face is blown off, but the rest is practical. Most of it is make-up and it took between four and five hours, sitting in a chair listening to sh*tty music. But it’s so much more fun to act with. This film was so much fun. When we shot some of the first horror scenes, I went to the director, Julius Avery, and spoke to him through my monster make-up in my best German accent, and said: “I don’t think ve vill vin an Oscar for this one.”
It’s very different to, say, Scandi political dramas like Borgen…
One of the reasons I want to make these films – Ghost In The Shell, Overlord, even Game Of Thrones – is that they’re as far away from Danish cinema as you can get. This is not Dogme. I love Dogme, and I love Danish cinema, but I’ve done my share of social realism and it’s nice to be in a completely different mindset. It’s the same reason I hosted Eurovision in 2014 – it’s so far away from that world. The more far-out, surreal and weird a project is, sometimes the better it is.
Are you happy with how Game Of Thrones ends?
I was just happy to be part of it. I can’t say anything, because I’m not allowed to, but normally it takes six months to shoot 10 episodes, and this time we spent 10 months shooting six episodes. A lot of people made a lot of effort to create the best final season possible.
Can you tell us what happens to Euron?
Of course I can’t. What, I’ve done 600 interviews saying no, but I’ll just tell you everything? No! It’s like a game now between the cast and the press. I’ll just say I’m very proud of it.
Overlord is at cinemas nationwide and Imax now
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