March 2, 2024


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Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on Filming ‘Against the Ice’

10 min read

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau had a lot of formidable foes on Sport of Thrones as “Kingslayer” Jamie Lannister—from dragons to White Walkers. Of course, those threats didn’t exist outdoors the lens of the fantasy collection, but in Versus the Ice, the enemy of his character, genuine-lifetime explorer Captain Ejnar Mikkelsen, was also an on-established tormenter of the Danish actor. That enemy was the bitter, bitter cold.

“No dilemma this was the toughest shoot I have ever accomplished, but which is what telling this story expected,” states Coster-Waldau. The movie portrays Captain Mikkelsen’s 865-working day journey into the Arctic to dispute a claim that the U.S. built on Northeast Greenland. On agreement with director Peter Flinth and producer Baltasar Kormakur, the actor ventured to the Arctic to film with sled dogs and snowstorms. “There’s no way a wind machine and some pretend snow was likely to do ideal by the adult males of that expedition.”

We spoke with Coster-Waldau about the Danish explorer, bear assaults, and getting to evacuate set mainly because 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: Ahead of beginning the writing approach, how acquainted were being you with Captain Ejnar Mikkelsen and his expeditions?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: I understood his name, and that he was an Arctic explorer who experienced completed some fantastic feats, but practically nothing outside of that. I did not know about the Alabama expedition. The director, Peter Flinth, is a prolonged-time mate of mine, and he sent me a copy of Mikkelsen’s ebook Two Versus the Ice. I was blown away by it. There was the survival tale, which is unbelievable in its own appropriate, but also the human marriage story underneath—the camaraderie amongst these two gentlemen who stop up spending 865 times together in extreme problems.

There is a minute they experienced—it’s in the book—where they had a straightforward postcard with ladies on it and they were fantasizing about companionship. Mikkelsen’s touring lover Iver Iversen picked 3 of the girls on the card to be his “girlfriends” and Mikkelsen picked just one. I imagined that was a intriguing and superbly uncooked minute where by they acknowledged how substantially they desired adore. I realized it would make for a great motion picture.

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

What other study did you do?

Mikkelsen wrote two books about the expedition. In the very first 1, he doesn’t genuinely point out Iversen at all. In the next e book, he goes into a great deal additional element about their companionship, and credits Iversen for having him by way of the journey. I imagined that was also an appealing wrinkle in their tale and one thing that could be investigated. I go through all of Mikkelsen’s textbooks, but I also linked with his loved ones. I chatted with Naja Mikkelsen, who is the excellent granddaughter of Ejnar. These discussions were being massively practical. I had acknowledged that Mikkelsen had married his spouse a yr just after he returned from that voyage, but there was no mention of her in the ebook. We have been equipped to affirm they were seeing every single other at that time in mystery, and he carried a locket with her image in it. The dialogue we have amongst the characters is built up, of training course, but the discussions are based mostly in fact.

Have been there distinct themes you ended up most intrigued by in the writing procedure?

There are surely themes we required to explore during. They actually didn’t know they have been likely to make it at the conclude. A person of the to start with scenes we wrote comes about toward the conclusion of the movie, where by they’re discussing what level they’d resort to cannibalism. The scene often receives a snicker, but that reaction is born out of the discomfort and horror of the situation. The laughs are needed to offer with the uncertainty of their futures. The other aspect we leaned into was how the brain copes with extraordinary isolation—how they designed these visions that ended up just as authentic as their correct life.

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 film is gorgeous. You can feeling how brutal the terrain is. Was this the most arduous shoot you have carried out?

These were the most excessive and difficult filming destinations I had ever been to, but which is what we ended up set on from the incredibly starting. We wanted the environments we captured on camera to be as reliable to the tale as attainable. These are areas we wanted to be in and share with the audience. My spouse is from Greenland and we’ve been likely there for yrs. Each individual time I go there, I’m in awe. I wanted that emotion to come throughout in the film as well.

Guaranteed, you can try to recreate individuals spots with computer systems, but you cannot recreate the impact it has on everything else—and us as actors. That variety of chilly influences the way you converse and move. I was ecstatic we were ready to work with Baltasar Kormákur, who generated this alongside with his business RVK Studios in Iceland. Anything you see all through these scenes is true due to the fact of those people initiatives.

How difficult was it to get to these spots and get through the shoots?

The longest trek we experienced to do was two-and-a-50 percent several hours on snowmobile when we ended up filming in Greenland. There is no way we would’ve made it to the destinations we essential to go without having the Greenlandic crew. I was blown away by the vehicles and machinery required to get us to some of these places. There had been these nuts trucks and Tremendous Jeeps I had in no way observed the likes of prior to. But that’s what we wanted to get onto the glaciers. The climate acquired really rough at instances, and we filmed as a great deal of it as we could. Out in Greenland, we necessary 22 snowmobiles—with a few folks on just about every one—to get our crew out to in which we essential to film. 1 of the days we had to shut down and evacuate mainly because of a blizzard.

At what level did you understand you essential to evacuate?

We understood the temperature was heading to be terrible, but they have been telling me it was going to get improved at lunch. It only appeared to get even worse and even worse. The snow kept receiving heavier and the cameras basically began to shut down mainly because of the chilly. Eventually the connect with arrived as a result of that we required to return to foundation camp immediately. There was a cabin for the rangers who labored there. They wanted us to evacuate. As I was walking in, I noticed a single of the creation vans had all of its windows smashed out from flying rocks for the duration of the storm. So that offers you an concept of the things we were being working with. They had to count heads to make positive we had been all there. Everybody on locale was presented a whistle in case they bought missing or fell into a crevasse. That was just par for the training course to make absolutely sure the crew safely manufactured it household.

Mikkelsen traveled by pet dog sled during his expedition, and there are a ton of terrific sledding scenes. What was it like to work with those animals?

Very first of all, it is vital to observe that no animals ended up damage in the system of earning the film. I liked all those dogs. But they are not animals. You simply cannot get much too close to them without having inquiring their homeowners and trainers very first, due to the fact they are not all helpful. They’ll chunk you. What they are is great at their careers. They have profound pleasure you can feeling when they are pulling the sled with each other. That is how they traveled again then and that is how they even now get all over in the northwest of Greenland. It is the most trusted, most secure, and speediest way to commute. My spouse grew up traveling like that—with dogs. She experienced her very own minor sled with five dogs to go around the sea ice. There were children that would occur by the filming areas on their possess small sleds with a number of puppies. We experienced to issue them in other directions. It is a beautiful custom which is underneath menace since of local weather change. My favored shot is at the starting of the motion picture when we’re going more than sea ice with the puppies. Thirty many years in the past, there were three meters of ice there. Currently it’s fewer than a meter. It is sad that we may perhaps drop these traditions and the destinations they phone property.

Speaking of animals, there is an epic polar bear assault scene. I know you worked with authentic bears in advance of, but this was personal computer generated. It seems to be remarkable.

I have labored with serious bears—including Bart the Bear II that we experienced on Match of Thrones, who regrettably handed away past year. For From the Ice, director Peter Flinth pointed out he’d found a film exactly where a bear assault was filmed with a real bear. He believed that it would be simpler to get a genuine just one, and went as far as finding a bear in Svalbard that could do the job. But we finished up heading the CGI route—and I’m happy we did, mainly because it looks terrific. It was almost certainly in my most effective desire as effectively.

We even now required some thing or anyone to stand in there and play the bear. We received connected with this Olympic judo winner in Iceland to move in. He was a actually sturdy lad, and in essence spent his time tossing me about in the snow. By the time we received to choose 6 or 7, all the things was spinning. I instructed the crew I had to go vomit somewhere. I’m quite absolutely sure I bought a concussion.

There are great performances by Joe Cole, as the ship’s mechanic, and Charles Dance, your buddy from Game of Thrones, as Mikkelsen’s disbeliever in Copenhagen. What was it like doing the job with them? Any plans to operate with other Recreation of Thrones alumni?

Very first off, Joe was just outstanding. I watched some of his initiatives prior to he joined and we were blessed to get him. That function is a hard a person, for the reason that there’s an innocence and optimism Iver has to provide. But he totally nailed it. I referred to as Charles to acquire on the position, simply because I knew he would be terrific. I may possibly have oversold it a small bit—and stated that it was a larger component than it was, but he came in in any case and killed it. I’d enjoy to get the job done with Gwendoline Christie considering that we’re this kind of superior pals. Peter Dinklage as perfectly. They are all wonderful folks and wonderful actors.

Did you get a possibility to screen it for the Mikkelsen loved ones?

We did do a screening for them—and I was truthfully nervous about it. His family cares deeply about his legacy, with terrific explanation. He’s their hero. So even though I wanted to be sincere with the storytelling, I also hoped that I didn’t portray something they would take offense to. I was pleasantly relieved by their reaction, which was overwhelmingly good. His fantastic granddaughter wrote me a very long note on how she was thrilled with how it came out and that she, much too, experienced been nervous. I’m glad they feel I did his legacy justice. And I’m so proud of what my costar Joe Cole and crew accomplished.

Towards the Ice is now offered on Netflix. 

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