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Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on Filming ‘Against the Ice’

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau experienced many formidable foes on Activity of Thrones as “Kingslayer” Jamie Lannister—from dragons to White Walkers. Of training course, those threats did not exist outside the house the lens of the fantasy collection, but in Towards the Ice, the enemy of his character, actual-everyday living explorer Captain Ejnar Mikkelsen, was also an on-set tormenter of the Danish actor. That enemy was the bitter, bitter cold.

“No issue this was the toughest shoot I have at any time completed, but which is what telling this tale demanded,” claims Coster-Waldau. The film portrays Captain Mikkelsen’s 865-working day journey into the Arctic to dispute a declare that the U.S. designed on Northeast Greenland. On agreement with director Peter Flinth and producer Baltasar Kormakur, the actor ventured to the Arctic to movie with sled dogs and snowstorms. “There’s no way a wind equipment and some fake snow was likely to do appropriate by the males of that expedition.”

We spoke with Coster-Waldau about the Danish explorer, bear assaults, and obtaining to evacuate established due to the fact of a blizzard.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and co-star Joe Cole stand next their sled in the Arctic during a scene in
Courtesy of Netflix

Men’s Journal: Prior to starting up the crafting procedure, how familiar were being you with Captain Ejnar Mikkelsen and his expeditions?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: I realized his identify, and that he was an Arctic explorer who had achieved some fantastic feats, but nothing past that. I didn’t know about the Alabama expedition. The director, Peter Flinth, is a lengthy-time pal of mine, and he sent me a duplicate of Mikkelsen’s guide Two Versus the Ice. I was blown absent by it. There was the survival tale, which is unbelievable in its very own right, but also the human romantic relationship story underneath—the camaraderie involving these two guys who close up spending 865 days collectively in extreme conditions.

There’s a second they experienced—it’s in the book—where they experienced a very simple postcard with women on it and they were being fantasizing about companionship. Mikkelsen’s touring companion Iver Iversen picked 3 of the ladies on the card to be his “girlfriends” and Mikkelsen picked a person. I considered that was a interesting and fantastically raw minute wherever they identified how substantially they needed adore. I realized it would make for a good motion picture.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau arms himself by a fire in the Arctic during a scene from
Courtesy of Netflix

What other research did you do?

Mikkelsen wrote two books about the expedition. In the initial one particular, he does not genuinely point out Iversen at all. In the 2nd reserve, he goes into significantly much more element about their companionship, and credits Iversen for obtaining him through the journey. I believed that was also an interesting wrinkle in their tale and a thing that could be investigated. I study all of Mikkelsen’s textbooks, but I also related with his family members. I chatted with Naja Mikkelsen, who is the great granddaughter of Ejnar. People discussions ended up hugely practical. I had known that Mikkelsen had married his spouse a 12 months immediately after he returned from that voyage, but there was no point out of her in the reserve. We were ready to ensure they ended up observing each other at that time in secret, and he carried a locket with her photo in it. The dialogue we have in between the figures is built up, of course, but the discussions are primarily based in fact.

Ended up there certain themes you have been most intrigued by in the crafting system?

There are undoubtedly themes we desired to investigate all over. They truly did not know they were being likely to make it at the close. One of the initially scenes we wrote occurs toward the conclude of the film, the place they are speaking about what level they’d resort to cannibalism. The scene generally will get a chortle, but that reaction is born out of the irritation and horror of the circumstance. The laughs are needed to deal with the uncertainty of their futures. The other ingredient we leaned into was how the head copes with extraordinary isolation—how they designed these visions that had been just as real as their real lives.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau kneels on his sled at dusk during a scene from Netflix's "Against the Ice"
Courtesy of Netflix

The cinematography in the movie is breathtaking. You can sense how brutal the terrain is. Was this the most arduous shoot you have completed?

These ended up the most excessive and demanding filming areas I had at any time been to, but which is what we were being set on from the very commencing. We needed the environments we captured on digital camera to be as genuine to the story as feasible. These are destinations we preferred to be in and share with the viewers. My spouse is from Greenland and we have been heading there for a long time. Each and every time I go there, I’m in awe. I wished that experience to occur throughout in the film as well.

Confident, you can try to recreate individuals areas with computers, but you can’t recreate the outcome it has on everything else—and us as actors. That variety of chilly impacts the way you discuss and transfer. I was ecstatic we were being in a position to get the job done with Baltasar Kormákur, who produced this together with his company RVK Studios in Iceland. Anything you see during these scenes is serious simply because of all those endeavours.

How challenging was it to get to these areas and get via the shoots?

The longest trek we experienced to do was two-and-a-half hours on snowmobile when we were filming in Greenland. There is no way we would’ve made it to the destinations we desired to go without having the Greenlandic crew. I was blown away by the automobiles and machinery necessary to get us to some of these areas. There were being these outrageous vehicles and Tremendous Jeeps I had in no way witnessed the likes of in advance of. But which is what we desired to get on to the glaciers. The climate obtained really rough at periods, and we filmed as substantially of it as we could. Out in Greenland, we wanted 22 snowmobiles—with three persons on each individual one—to get our crew out to in which we desired to movie. A person of the days we had to shut down and evacuate simply because of a blizzard.

At what level did you know you desired to evacuate?

We knew the weather conditions was likely to be terrible, but they ended up telling me it was likely to get greater at lunch. It only seemed to get worse and even worse. The snow retained acquiring heavier and the cameras basically started to shut down for the reason that of the cold. Sooner or later the call came by that we needed to return to foundation camp instantly. There was a cabin for the rangers who labored there. They wanted us to evacuate. As I was going for walks in, I saw a single of the generation vans experienced all of its windows smashed out from flying rocks for the duration of the storm. So that presents you an notion of the components we ended up working with. They experienced to count heads to make guaranteed we were being all there. Anyone on location was offered a whistle in circumstance they bought dropped or fell into a crevasse. That was just par for the program to make confident the crew safely designed it home.

Mikkelsen traveled by pet sled during his expedition, and there are a good deal of good sledding scenes. What was it like to get the job done with these animals?

Very first of all, it’s essential to notice that no animals had been damage in the process of making the motion picture. I beloved those people pet dogs. But they are not animals. You can’t get much too near to them without the need of inquiring their owners and trainers to start with, due to the fact they are not all friendly. They’ll chunk you. What they are is fantastic at their work opportunities. They have profound pleasure you can perception when they are pulling the sled alongside one another. That is how they traveled back again then and that is how they even now get all around in the northwest of Greenland. It’s the most dependable, safest, and quickest way to commute. My wife grew up traveling like that—with dogs. She had her possess minor sled with 5 dogs to go around the sea ice. There ended up young ones that would come by the filming areas on their very own small sleds with a couple of puppies. We experienced to issue them in other instructions. It is a attractive custom that is underneath risk since of local climate transform. My beloved shot is at the beginning of the film when we’re going more than sea ice with the canines. 30 a long time back, there were being three meters of ice there. These days it’s significantly less than a meter. It’s sad that we may possibly reduce these traditions and the areas they connect with residence.

Talking of animals, there is an epic polar bear attack scene. I know you labored with authentic bears ahead of, but this was computer produced. It looks incredible.

I have worked with genuine bears—including Bart the Bear II that we experienced on Sport of Thrones, who regrettably handed away very last calendar year. For Against the Ice, director Peter Flinth mentioned he’d noticed a movie wherever a bear assault was filmed with a serious bear. He imagined that it would be much easier to get a actual just one, and went as much as locating a bear in Svalbard that may operate. But we ended up heading the CGI route—and I’m glad we did, because it appears terrific. It was in all probability in my ideal fascination as properly.

We still essential a thing or somebody to stand in there and play the bear. We received linked with this Olympic judo winner in Iceland to phase in. He was a definitely powerful lad, and essentially put in his time tossing me close to in the snow. By the time we received to choose 6 or 7, every little thing was spinning. I explained to the crew I had to go vomit somewhere. I’m fairly positive I obtained a concussion.

There are huge performances by Joe Cole, as the ship’s mechanic, and Charles Dance, your buddy from Sport of Thrones, as Mikkelsen’s disbeliever in Copenhagen. What was it like working with them? Any programs to function with other Match of Thrones alumni?

To start with off, Joe was just outstanding. I watched some of his assignments prior to he joined and we ended up fortunate to get him. That function is a hard a person, for the reason that there’s an innocence and optimism Iver has to carry. But he totally nailed it. I identified as Charles to choose on the job, since I realized he would be terrific. I may have oversold it a small bit—and reported that it was a larger section than it was, but he came in in any case and killed it. I’d like to get the job done with Gwendoline Christie given that we’re these excellent pals. Peter Dinklage as properly. They are all excellent people today and good actors.

Did you get a chance to display screen it for the Mikkelsen family members?

We did do a screening for them—and I was actually nervous about it. His family members cares deeply about his legacy, with good cause. He’s their hero. So even however I desired to be trustworthy with the storytelling, I also hoped that I did not portray everything they would get offense to. I was pleasantly relieved by their reaction, which was overwhelmingly beneficial. His terrific granddaughter wrote me a extensive take note on how she was thrilled with how it came out and that she, much too, had been concerned. I’m glad they believe that I did his legacy justice. And I’m so proud of what my costar Joe Cole and crew achieved.

Versus the Ice is now out there on Netflix. 

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