From Game of Thrones and to Nightwatch, we honour the Danish gentleman and his appeal with a selection of his best moments on the screen.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is a prime example of the modern talent pool of actors who have gained notoriety in both their native Scandinavia as well as harnessing international acclaim. Waldau’s first major English-language cinematic role came in Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down (2001), which he followed with WW2 spy games in Enigma (2001). He tackled love in romantic sporting drama Wimbledon (2004), as Paul Bettany’s counterpart on and off the court, and reunited with Scott for medieval action in Kingdom of Heaven (2005). His recent box office hits include the sci-fi Oblivion (2013), opposite Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman, and the Guillermo del Toro produced supernatural horror Mama (2013) with Jessica Chastain. In television, Waldau’s early credits include Guy Ritchie’s gangster black comedy Lock, Stock… TV Series (2000), as well as the US fantasy drama New Amsterdam (2008) in which he played an immortal homicide detective.
We look at Waldau’s scorching success over the last twenty years in his most dramatic and memorable roles.
Game of Thrones (2011- )
HBO’s fantasy show, adapted from the best-selling collection of books A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, created a cult phenomenon. The epic battles between warring kingdoms of Westeros began by cementing the despicable nature of the golden-haired Lannister family with a highly controversial relationship between Jaime (Waldau) and sister Cersei (Lena Headey) at its core. He has since become a series regular the father to the merciless Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) and brother to Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). In this volatile world, being a recurring character has proven to be a rarity as the fate of well-known actors, including Sean Bean, are never safe from an violent and untimely demise.
A Second Chance (2014)
Dogme95 filmmaker Susanne Bier (After the Wedding, 2006 and In a Better World, 2010) orchestrates an unflinching account of how desperate measures have disastrous results for parents Andreas (Waldau) and Anna Thomsen (Maria Bonnevie). The quality of life for young baby Sofus becomes the priority for recently bereaved Andreas when he seizes the opportunity put an end to his mistreatment from drug-induced delinquent parents Tristan (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and Sanne (May Andersen). A Second Chance blurs the lines between right and wrong and forces the audience to witness a profound reaction of heartache and grief.
1,000 Times Goodnight (2013)
Juliette Binoche stars as Rebecca; a passionate photographer who captures profound images at the centre of conflict. Regularly in harm’s way, Rebecca’s work is also the subject of debate with husband Marcus (Waldau). When Rebecca takes the opportunity to document the ongoing civil wars in Africa, their strain of their relationship is put to the ultimate stress. 1,000 Times Goodnight brings together Norway’s Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and director Erik Poppe in a dramatic tale of love and war.
Based on Jo Nesbø’s novel peppered with sardonic wit, Headhunters is a Norwegian crime caper which turns into an action-packed game of cat and mouse between the vertically challenged corporate headhunter Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) and ideal candidate Clas Greve (Waldau). The duplicitous life of office worker by day and art thief by night, Roger has enjoyed living a life of luxury with glamorous wife Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund). When he sets his sights on stealing Clas’ valuable painting, he soon finds out that the true identity of Clas and that he will stop at nothing to fulfil his own deceptive plans.
The Left Wing Gang (2009-2010)
Before the settling in King’s Landing, Waldau starred in the Danish miniseries based on a group of real-life criminal activists. The film dramatises the infamous Blekinge Street Gang that committed multiple robberies during the 1970s-1980s which were politically motivated and carried out in the name of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Waldau is joined by Nordic Noir favourites Ulrich Thomsen, Thure Lindhardt, Søren Malling and Pilou Asbæk.
At World’s End (2009)
Deep in the rainforests of Indonesia, a 129 year-old feral warrior named Severin Geertsen (Waldau) is discovered to the detriment of a British television crew searching of a rare flower. After slaying the group, Severin is sentenced to death but his fantastical belief that this flower is the source of his prolonged life draws the attention of merciless scavengers wanting to take the flower for their own delusional means. Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen (Borgen, 2010-2013 and Game of Thrones, 2015) also star as psychiatrists sent to unearth the truth behind Severin’s claims and understand what is going on At World’s End.
Shadow of the Sword (2005)
Set during the notorious Roman Inquisition of the sixteenth century, Waldau can be seen wielding a sword before his days a fearsome Lannister. Growing up an orphan with Georg (Peter McDonald), Martin (Waldau) becomes a soldier during the horrific persecution of heretics against Christianity. Appointed to carry out executions of those defying God, Martin is faced with carrying out his duty which ultimately clashes with his lifelong friendship. Georg, now a cleric, is sentenced to death, forcing Martin to question his honour and loyalties.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is Mads Mikkelsen’s childhood friend and partner in crime whose sudden arrival spells disaster and threatens to reignite their tempestuous Wildside. Jimmy (Mikkelsen) has been cultivating a new moralistic way of life in the wake of a past riddled with narcotics. After fleeing to Thailand following an accidental death at Jimmy’s hands, the pair parted ways leaving Ossy (Waldau) to revel in his manic lifestyle. Jimmy relocation to start a family in Reykjavik is about to get disrupted as Ossy’s presence to lure him back with a drug deal may prove too tempting to refuse.
Martin Sherman’s 1979 play, originally starring Ian McKellen, received a movie adaptation with Clive Owen as a Jewish homosexual at the height of the Nazi regime. An unforgettable acquaintance of Max (Owen), Waldau delivers a brief yet memorable supporting role as Wolf; a Nazi officer who seduces Owen. A wild night of partying ends with his execution at the hands of his fleeting lover to avoid being sent to Dachau concentration camp and branded as a gay man with a pink star, as opposed to a yellow one. Expect highly sexually charged scenes with an unbridled display of passion in this harrowing WW2 drama.
In Ole Bornedal’s original horror – which he later directed an almost shot-for-shot remake in 1997 with Ewan McGregor – Waldau plays the unlucky student night watchman Martin who discovers the morgue is a much livelier place than he predicted. Co-starring The Killing’s Sofie Gråbøl and The Bridge’s Kim Bodnia, Nightwatch is a nerve-shredding thriller that creates an atmosphere so palpable you cannot help but relate to Martin’s fear as if someone very dangerous is standing right behind you in the dark, breathing down your neck.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau continues his villainous reign of Westeros as Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones and can next be seen as Horus in Alex Proyas’ God’s of Egypt.