Game Of Thrones' Jaime Lannister is a savage, ruthless and terribly handsom beast. So why would actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau be any different?
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Lannister, Coster-Waldau struck gold. “I knew this was a great character the first time I read the script,” he says. “His motives were, as he said himself, ‘the things I do for love.’ He wants to protect his family, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes.” (Hello, ho micide and torture.) “What I love about my job is you try to examine why we act the way we do... what it means to be human,” he shares. “Jaime has this messed up romantic relationship with Cersei, his sister, but then you think about—well, maybe he wants to fall in love with someone he shouldn’t fall in love with.”
With a range of more than 40 film and stage roles, beginning with Hamlet; Nightwatch; Bent; and his first American role, Black Hawk Down, the actor appreciates the roles that accompany his age. “One of the great things about getting older is the parts get older. There’s something about having lived life that makes it a lot more interesting. I am attracted to characters that are complex and challenging.”
“His dedication, coupled with real generosity and care toward his fellow actors, elevates his work above the rest of us. That and a strong jawline—it’s so sharp, it means he can slice cheddar cheese on it and hand out the slices as energy snacks.”
—Gwendoline Christie on Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
With the Game of Thrones finale in sight, Coster-Waldau is reflective. “There’s a pride to being part of something that didn’t overstay its welcome.” He pauses and carefully chooses his words to describe the show’s ending so as to not violate any nondisclosure agreements. “The producers did an amazing job. It’s so tricky because the world is so vast. There are so many storylines. They found the balance between the beginning and the ending. There’s very few happy endings in that world. They did a great job in not being complete downers about it, but also being true to that world.”
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It will feel strange for Coster-Waldau to not return to Belfast, where Game of Thrones, in part, was filmed. But even more, he will sorely miss his cast mates, particularly his scene partners, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Jerome Flynn and Gwendoline Christie. And they will miss him. “Nikolaj has always regarded himself as my mentor or spiritual guide, a sort of Scandinavian Yoda,” says Christie, who plays Brienne of Tarth. “It has been an endless source of pleasure for me. His dedication, coupled with real generosity and care toward his fellow actors, elevates his work above the rest of us. That, and a strong jawline—it’s so sharp, it means he can slice cheddar cheese on it and hand out the slices as energy snacks.”
Those chiseled features and tousled surfer-cool locks, in fact, helped land Coster-Waldau as a global spokesman for the L’Oréal Paris Men Expert program. “I really like working with them,” he says. “We recently partnered with the Movember Foundation [a nonprofit devoted to men’s health] and raised $250,000.” Between that and the United Nations Development Programme, he says he feels blessed to use his fame for the greater good. “I can be the person deflecting the spotlight onto the person next to me who is an expert dedicating his or her life to helping others,” he says. “It’s crucial they have a platform and that their voices are heard. That’s what I can do.” Now, lest you think this guy is all work and no play, enter the Leeds United Football Club, where he is a take-no-prisoners fan, as well as a lifelong soccer player. (“He still thinks he might be called for Denmark one day,” Derrick jokes.) But, a juicy role thrills Coster-Waldau even more than soccer. There’s a film to shoot this spring, then a play. This fall at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, he will embody another horrible person: Macbeth. Jaime Lannister would grin.
Photography by: PHOTOGRAPHED BY SIMON EMMETT; STYLED BY JOANNA GRZESZCZUK; SHOT ON LOCATION IN LONDON