Winter may have ended for Nikolai Coster-Waldau when ‘Game of Thrones’ ended in 2019, but the Danish superstar is back on the ice on his latest ‘against the ice’ adventure.
The film, currently available on Netflix, features the saga of Danish captain, explorer, and author Ignar Mikkelsen, who sets out in 1909 to retrieve the maps and notes of a failed Arctic voyage made a few years earlier. At stake is the dispute over Northeast Greenland, whose claim was claimed by the United States and the Dutch were trying to conquer it by proving that Greenland was an island. Mikkelsen had only sled dogs and an inexperienced partner at his side in the task, which became increasingly difficult.
It’s a project Coster-Waldau has been working on for nearly a decade. Principal Peter Flint, a friend from the school, sent Mikkelsen’s book Two Against the Ice for consideration. Flinth had heard of it from Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who stated to Flinth that it could be made into a good movie. Coster-Waldau agreed: Not only did he star in the movie, he co-wrote the script with longtime friend and collaborator Joe Derek.
“It was a long journey. Coster-Waldau, 51, said in a recent interview. “I have always loved the stories of survivors and explorers who go to unknown places. It’s exciting. But what really captivated me was that it was an unusual combination. Usually both men had the same ambitions and hopes, but here one was a famous explorer and the other was literally just a mechanic. That’s what really saves them, that they were so different.”
They shot a glacier location mainly in Iceland and others in Greenland while trying to use as little CGI as possible. In choosing Joe Cole to portray Mikkelsen’s rookie partner Ever Iverson, the filmmakers warned the actor that conditions would be difficult and comfort to be minimal. For example, there was a bus they could take out of the wild for a bit, but there were no dedicated trailers on the glacier.
At one point, Netflix sent a comment about a video they saw, worried they were exaggerating the snow and ice on the actor’s beard, and didn’t realize it wasn’t special effects or makeup, it was real. Interestingly, Koster-Waldau said his period fur costumes were more comfortable than the modern arctic clothing much of his production team wore.
The film’s debut closes a cycle for Coster-Waldau and Flinth, who 30 years ago brought one of their student shorts to New York, hoping it would magically open doors for them in Hollywood. They managed to get it on Broadway and some friends went to the show. It was a fun night, but it didn’t exactly change a career. However, it made the premiere of “Against the Ice” in the Paris theater this week even more emotional for these old friends.
“The fact that Nikolai and I have been working on this story for so long is proof that we have enough material and substance to make it a great movie,” Flinth said.
Friendship was a theme throughout the project, within the story, and also due to the fact that Coster-Waldau and Derek established their formal creative partnership a few years ago by founding Ill Kippers Productions. Watching “Game of Thrones” executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss together was what inspired them to start the company.
“It was like, ‘Cool,’ imagine going to work every day with your best friend,” he said.
“Game of Thrones” garnered a lot of attention in popular culture while it aired, but Coster-Waldau was always aware that there was life outside of Jaime Lannister. He started acting on the HBO show at the age of 41, when he was already an important actor in his country and had both good and bad roles in Hollywood. On a trip in which he discovers he has lost the lead role of “John Carter,” he learns that he has signed up to do pilot work around dragons. Although it wasn’t at the time, it turned out to be the best possible scenario.
“Game of Thrones” gave him stability and popularity as well as making him a well-known actor in the United States. But even during his eight seasons, he was always doing other projects. The only difference now is that you don’t block out months of the year to go to Belfast to shoot and have more time to write.
“I love acting. I love getting jobs as an actor,” he said. “But what we are doing now is very interesting and fun, just getting into the beginning of the story and helping to create it.”
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