The Nordic Noir stars of International Scandi-Crime

How Hollywood has welcomed the Scandinavian talent to contemporary cinema and television. 

Some of the great actors who have graced our screens have hailed from the irresistibly icy Nordic countries: iconic Swedish stars Max von Sydow, Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman just to name a few. If we take a look at modern Swedish actors, we can see they are presently entertaining audiences in the US box office hits, as well as taking over the small screen in popular rated series.


After her career-defining role as Stieg Larsson’s alternative heroine Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium trilogy (2009), Noomi Rapace joined the cast of Guy Ritchie’s sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011). This led to a slew of films that saw Rapace directed by industry auteurs like Ridley Scott in Prometheus (2012) and Brian de Palma in Passion (2012). Rapace’s ex-husband, and Swedish TV star, Ola Rapace also took a leap into Hollywood as a villain to James Bond in Skyfall (2012).  Rapace’s English-language career continued to flourish. She starred in Niels Arden Oplev’s Dead Man Down (2013) – her director of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) – and Daniel Espinosa’s WW2 thriller Child 44 (2015), co-starring Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman and fellow Nordic actors Fares Fares, Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Joel Kinnaman.


Kinnaman balanced his recurring lead character of J.W. in the Easy Money trilogy (2010-2013) with another starring role as street-wise detective Stephen Holder in the American remake of The Killing (2011-2014). The actor also briefly appeared in David Fincher’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) before stepping into Peter Weller’s shoes as the new cutting-edge Alex Murphy in RoboCop (2014). Kinnaman has gone on to star as Liam Neeson’s estranged son in Run All Night (2015) and will next be seen as Rick Flagg in DC Comic’s adaptation of The Suicide Squad, due to be released in 2016.


Stellan Skarsgård is a Nordic screen favourite. His English-language films span from The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) to becoming a regular addition to Lars von Trier having starred in Dancer in the Dark (2000), Dogville (2003), Melancholia (2011) and Nymphomaniac: Vol. I & Vol.2 (2013); the actor’s musical talents also matched Meryl Streep in the blockbuster Mamma Mia! (2008). Skarsgård has also become part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe having played Professor Selvig in the Thor franchise. Skarsgård’s son Alexander has also mirrored his father’s international presence landing a part as undead vampire sheriff Eric Northman in HBO’s True Blood (2008-2014).


From Denmark, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has explored the dark side of horror in Mama (2013), the dystopian future Oblivion (2013) and been the object of Cameron Diaz’s affection in romantic comedy The Other Woman (2014). However, Nikolaj is best recognised as the household name of Jaime Lannister in the fantasy action epic Game of Thrones (2011- ). Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, from political drama Borgen (2010-2013), has also recently joined the show as a Wildling, as well as belting out European acapella tunes in Pitch Perfect 2 (2015). Her Borgen co-star Pilou Asbæk also popped up as the instigator to Scarlett Johansson’s evolutionary Sci-Fi debacle in Luc Besson’s Lucy (2014) not to mention its lead, Sidse Babett Knudsen, set to star in Ron Howard’s upcoming adaptation Inferno.


The Legacy’s Jesper Christensen has remained a part of Lars von Trier’s pool of actors in Melancholia (2011) and Nymphomaniac: Vol. I (2013). His credits include thrillers The Interpreter (2005) and The Debt (2010) opposite Helen Mirren. Christensen has also notoriously set his sights as 007’s recurring nemesis Mr. White in Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008) and is set to reprise his despicable plot in Spectre (2015).

The Mikkelsen brothers have also honed an antihero status in television. Mads Mikkelsen joined Christensen as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale (2006) and has recently starred in NBC’s Hannibal (2013-2015). Lars Mikkelsen has followed-up The Killing I (2007) by appearing in the third series of Sherlock (2014) and starring as duplicitous Russian president in House of Cards (2015).


With these talented names already up in Hollywood lights, the Nordic stars keep shining with future projects continuing to lure them into the English-language mainstream whilst remaining close to their Scandinavian roots.