Five Favorite Films

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's Five Favorite Films

by | April 7, 2015 | Comments

If you’ve been keeping up with HBO’s megahit fantasy drama Game of Thrones, the man pictured above will be immediately recognizable. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays Jaime Lannister, the master swordsman who fathered an illegitimate boy-king with his own sister and began a long journey of redemption over the course of four seasons. As the premiere of season five approaches, we spoke with Coster-Waldau about Jaime Lannister’s transition from villain to conflicted man of honor and what his friends thought when he first landed the role. But first, here are his Five Favorite Films:

Last Tango in Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1972)

I would start with Last Tango in Paris by Bernardo Bertolucci, which I think is amazing. Marlon Brando’s performance is just out of this world. It’s funny; today, I don’t think it would get the same kind of debate because of the sexual nature of some of the scenes, but for me, what was shocking was more the emotional intensity that he brought to the role. There’s a scene he has where he’s sitting at the bedside of his dead wife, and it’s just the most amazing scene of grief. And later, there’s a scene at the end where he’s in this dance hall, and he’s drunk. It’s just a beautiful performance. I think it was just unbelievable.And, of course, there’s also the romantic idea of Last Tango in Paris. I think everyone loves the idea of just him having an affair with a stranger and insisting on staying strangers. It’s a very simple idea, and the beauty of it is that they swap. She wants to know his name in the beginning; he refuses. And then slowly he needs her, he falls for her, and they change roles, and now she doesn’t need him any more.

Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984) 87%

Another would be Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America. I know they finally did a new complete version; they restored it back to the original as close as they could. I think Scorsese was involved with that. I haven’t seen that. I think there’s another 12 minutes added; that’s what I’ve heard. Anyway, that’s been one of my favorite movies forever.I think it’s one of the most important movies I’ve ever seen, because I was like a young teenager when I saw it the first time, and I was so… I mean, I grew up in the countryside in a small village in Denmark, as far from the Lower East Side of New York as you can possibly get, and still I remember just identifying 100 percent with Noodles, the main character. I was feeling everything. I was going through his heartbreak. And I do remember at the time feeling like, “I want to do that. Imagine if I could be in something where someone else could have the experience I just had watching this movie.” So that was a very important film for me. I’ve seen it many times, and it’s just beautiful.

RT: When you saw that film, at that time, did you already know that acting was something you wanted to do?

Well, I mean, I was young. It was something I wanted to do. I think it was the first time it really struck home how deep you can get, how profound the work of an actor can be if it’s done right, like De Niro did in that movie. How you can actually impact people on an emotional level. I’m a kid in a rural town in Denmark, but I’m 100 percent involved with this New York kid at the turn of the century. It doesn’t make sense, but, of course, it makes sense on a human level, and that is what acting is. It’s digging into “What does this human experience mean?” It was a huge eye-opener and motivator for me.

Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund, 2014) 94%

There’s a recent film, the Swedish movie Force Majeure. I just thought it was brilliant. I’ve been married for 17 years myself, and I thought the way he captured this relationship, all the tension, I thought it was amazing. And what I also loved about it in a cinematic sense was the way he shot it. The fact that he stays wide; he doesn’t do any coverage in the scenes. It took me a long time to realize that that was what he was doing. The way he blocked the scenes was so exquisite and so organic, if you will. If you go back, suddenly you go, “Oh my god, he’s just letting the scene roll.” There are very few cuts within the scene. It’s beautiful. I thought it was a great movie, and I thought I should put something recent in there. [laughs]

RT: It’s a terrific film. I know it was submitted for the Oscars, but it didn’t make the shortlist.

No, no it didn’t. They lost out. The director actually made quite a funny YouTube video on the morning of the nominations. If you’ve seen the movie, it made sense, and if you hadn’t seen the movie, you’d think, “What a nutjob.” [laughs] He’s crying like the male character in the movie cries.

Play It Again, Sam (Herbert Ross, 1972) 97%

I need to get something with Meryl Streep, but there’s so many movies. But then I started thinking about Manhattan, and then I came to Woody Allen. The funniest bit I’ve ever seen in a movie is in Play It Again, Sam. There’s a scene early on where he’s — you know, he’s playing another version of himself, this guy who’s just a mess — and he’s trying to go on dates. Of course, his friends are trying to set him up, and they set him up with this beautiful girl. Basically, they’re going to pick him up at his place, and he’s getting ready, and there’s this scene where he’s got the sports medals he’s been out buying. I mean, it’s the funniest scene; it’s slapstick, you know, physical comedy at its best. It’s a very funny movie.

Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2014) 91%

I’m a fan of Ed Norton. He had quite an amazing double act this year with Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel. I remember I read the script of Birdman at one point and I thought it was brilliant, but then when I saw his performance… I mean, it’s wonderful when you’ve read something and when you then see the performance, you go, “There’s no way anyone else could have done that but Ed Norton.” I thought he was very, very good.What I love about Birdman is that most movies — when I see movies and television shows — dramatic things happen, and then people act dramatically, and sometimes you go, “Would you really do that?” Horrible things happen all our lives; we all experience loss and death and trauma. Usually, most people, I think, we just get on with it. We don’t have a whole soliloquy in the middle of something. [laughs] You just deal with life, right? But then when you see Birdman, one of the places where it actually works is in the theater, because people are so dramatic. That’s just the way it is. So it was very true in that movie. Of course, on a technical level, that movie was just insane.

RT: There’s a reason I’m asking this, but before you started Game of Thrones, were you familiar with the source material?

Coster-Waldau: No, no. I didn’t know they existed. I’d never heard of the books.

RT: That sort of answers my next question, but even in preparation for the series, were you aware of the kind of character turnaround that Jaime Lannister was eventually going to have?

Coster-Waldau: No, I didn’t, but, that was one of the things that, when I had my first meeting with [executive producers] Carolyn Strauss, Dan Weiss, and David Benioff, they told me about the character. They also told me what would happen the first three seasons, that if we were lucky enough to get three seasons, I would be very happy. I would have a very quiet season two, but then come back in season three. So I knew what was in store, and I thought that arc was really interesting and exciting.

I read the script for the pilot and I thought it was brilliant, but I also thought it was impossible to shoot, with so many characters and so many huge setups, that you kind of go, “How the hell are you going to do that?” But of course, now it seems like obviously they’d be able to do it. At the time, it was a different story.

RT: You said, “if we were lucky enough to get three seasons.” You guys were never sure this was going to be a hit.

Coster-Waldau: Oh, no. No, are you kidding me? I remember telling friends about this show. At first I would say I got this show with HBO and they would be like, “Wow! My god, that’s amazing!” And also, you could tell they were a little envious, but in a good way, like, “Yeah, great for you, you bastard.” And then they would say, “Well, what is it? Is it like Entourage? Is it a gangster story? Is it current? What is it?” And then I’d say, “No no, it’s like a fantasy with dragons and sh-t.” And they would go, “Oh… That’s… Wow, that’s cool. Great, man. So it’s like, what, Highlander or something?” Because that’s the reference you have, right? [laughs]

RT: It’s common for actors who have played both protagonists and villains to say that playing the bad guy is more fun. Game of Thrones is full of characters that inhabit sort of a grey area, and Jaime Lannister is probably the best example of that. So is it more satisfying to you to play the version of Jaime Lannister that threw Bran out the window or the version that saved Brienne from the bear?

Coster-Waldau: I mean, both. I think it’s the same guy. What’s interesting with this show is that the characters are consistent, and what changes a lot is the audience’s point of view. How much information do we get, and when do we get it? I’ve said this before, but if you told the story of your life, and there must have been one time in your whole life when you did something really horrible, and then you start the movie about you at that exact moment, it might take a while before the audience goes, “Well, hang on, he’s actually a nice guy.” We define people by their actions.

What I’ve also loved about Jaime from the beginning is that he’s been smart and he’s also been very honest about everything. Even when he’s been under extreme pressure, when he was captive, he would still refuse to bow down; he would still use his honesty and his wit to target his enemies. Those scenes were the most fun. And all the scenes with Gwendoline Christie as Brienne were brilliant because they had that whole dynamic. He has to get out of this situation, and he only has his words, his mind.

RT: Without spoiling anything, can you give us any hint of where Jaime Lannister’s journey will take him this season? [WARNING: SEASON FOUR SPOILERS BELOW]

Coster-Waldau: The hint would be that his actions at the end of season four when he set his brother free came with some severe consequences that he didn’t foresee. [laughs] He has to deal with those consequences. Tywin’s gone, the Lannisters are extremely vulnerable, and he has to step up somehow and try to protect his family, so we’ll see if he can do that.

Season five of Game of Thrones premieres on HBO on Sunday, April 12.Check out our Game of Thrones Character Guide for a quick refresh before the new season starts!

Tag Cloud

Quiz Reality Competition TCM TV Land Cartoon Network strong female leads LGBTQ First Look Tumblr HBO Max Best and Worst Sneak Peek concert Action Starz Watching Series Reality Comic Book cancelled TV series video on demand DGA National Geographic movies criterion streaming halloween Set visit indiana jones BAFTA Marathons revenge E! Mary poppins Masterpiece ABC Netflix Christmas movies Trailer Dark Horse Comics CMT comic OneApp romantic comedy hollywood 21st Century Fox Mary Poppins Returns USA golden globes mission: impossible miniseries Superheroes Holiday reviews TCA Awards Spike The Purge a nightmare on elm street Black History Month zombie award winner cooking Sony Pictures Musicals chucky news Television Critics Association Awards ghosts BBC Freeform DC streaming service unscripted classics Rom-Com directors mutant cops Nominations Pixar MSNBC Musical natural history Classic Film TCA Winter 2020 crime thriller biography TruTV Sundance Now Funimation toronto kids ITV A24 CBS All Access SXSW sitcom worst Biopics hist Awards Tour The CW Rocketman IFC Films YouTube Red harry potter Valentine's Day cartoon Universal 2020 comics cats Ovation disaster free movies game show superhero Family History spider-man screen actors guild dark spain cars TV Song of Ice and Fire stop motion Women's History Month CBS singing competition docudrama sag awards Superheroe boxoffice 24 frames series RT History Spring TV vampires TBS Christmas Crunchyroll based on movie VOD rotten movies we love all-time franchise Thanksgiving The Witch HBO CNN critics spinoff CW Seed tv talk mockumentary cancelled witnail renewed TV shows X-Men casting space FOX Turner dragons Tomatazos diversity Television Academy Film Amazon Prime Video Disney Channel Rocky GLAAD films Esquire blockbuster discovery Rock BBC One Binge Guide medical drama indie Crackle versus canceled TV shows YA Avengers DirecTV teaser Winter TV Music twilight south america Ghostbusters obituary Baby Yoda Mary Tyler Moore TCA 2017 Sundance TV Lifetime Christmas movies Infographic Warner Bros. Country aliens Spectrum Originals Oscars Year in Review Heroines Nat Geo documentary psycho spanish language VH1 toy story dc Certified Fresh Paramount Network Horror Apple TV+ Fox News documentaries serial killer Star Wars The Arrangement PBS adaptation Peacock politics BBC America Super Bowl talk show SundanceTV Epix Tubi El Rey zombies Grammys Mindy Kaling sequel Fantasy Adult Swim FXX slashers Vudu Lionsgate thriller SDCC children's TV Academy Awards Fall TV Apple TV Plus psychological thriller Western Writers Guild of America sports period drama festival TNT science fiction Mystery reboot Video Games NBC Elton John 2016 San Diego Comic-Con cancelled television Paramount cults Teen remakes BET Awards green book rotten Arrowverse Cosplay comedies Film Festival Logo Captain marvel game of thrones WGN independent venice PlayStation OWN Comics on TV zero dark thirty Brie Larson video crime Trivia Animation composers Pop DC Universe Syfy Shondaland elevated horror anime justice league cancelled TV shows die hard Tarantino Summer binge Comedy sequels Amazon Studios historical drama Interview Discovery Channel technology Britbox Star Trek Endgame Box Office supernatural facebook FX FX on Hulu Walt Disney Pictures WarnerMedia TV renewals Polls and Games YouTube Premium Shudder ratings satire Winners 2018 best book PaleyFest Toys Disney+ Disney Plus universal monsters TLC HBO Go travel Stephen King 72 Emmy Awards Hallmark Christmas movies Food Network 2015 blaxploitation 20th Century Fox television Mudbound movie richard e. Grant hispanic football comiccon Trophy Talk canceled RT21 Opinion Apple NYCC Drama stand-up comedy Countdown spy thriller Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt dramedy stoner AMC 2017 finale First Reviews Creative Arts Emmys Disney Plus Sundance American Society of Cinematographers war Amazon Prime adventure nbcuniversal Pet Sematary what to watch werewolf Disney streaming service Disney Martial Arts anthology Lifetime YouTube Bravo ESPN Extras Kids & Family VICE Nickelodeon 71st Emmy Awards worst movies The Walking Dead GIFs quibi Hallmark 4/20 festivals nature police drama MCU Emmy Nominations breaking bad latino APB screenings fast and furious Premiere Dates joker scary movies Ellie Kemper crime drama President robots Photos dogs jamie lee curtis social media Travel Channel Netflix doctor who See It Skip It Pirates romance Showtime Schedule foreign A&E 007 TCA asian-american Emmys Marvel Television Turner Classic Movies dceu name the review Pop TV animated true crime Calendar LGBT emmy awards laika cinemax New York Comic Con 45 Red Carpet nfl IFC TIFF BET transformers Lucasfilm Podcast political drama Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Hulu Cannes GoT DC Comics ABC Family Black Mirror child's play christmas movies 2019 parents MTV Columbia Pictures Chernobyl Marvel Sci-Fi USA Network Hear Us Out Character Guide Amazon theme song Election crossover batman scorecard Anna Paquin Marvel Studios Pride Month E3 Holidays Comedy Central Acorn TV