Nikolaj Coster-Waldau may not play the father of the year on Game of Thrones — he can’t even publicly acknowledge his children. (The whole twincest thing, you know.) But in 1,000 Times Good Night, his character Marcus is the primary parent struggling to keep his family intact — not an easy job when his war-photographer wife Rebecca (played by Juliette Binoche) keeps putting her life at risk. Coster-Waldau called Vulture from the Thrones set in Spain to chat about what makes a good parent, dispel a little rumor, and tease Jaime Lannister picks up in season five.
So, where are you right now?
I’m in Seville, Spain.
That’s what I thought. There was a report that you were trying to get on set to shoot some scenes and had to pay a ticket price because they didn’t recognize you. What happened?
[Chuckles.] It wasn’t quite that. That’s the better story. What happened was, I was walking to Alcazar Palace with [showrunner] David Benioff a couple days before shooting my scenes there, because we thought we should check it out. And there is a part of the palace where we are not shooting, and I wanted to see that, too, so I was told to buy a ticket. And of course, I did. I was just being a tourist, though! You know? It wasn’t like they were all waiting for me to be on camera, and then I couldn’t get there without a ticket, although that’s a better story. I get why people thought that, though.
By the way, Seville is just beyond beautiful. It’s an amazing place. And the fans here are so passionate! No one has anything on the Spanish fans. They love their Game of Thrones! They’re just here all the time, everywhere we go. They just love that we’re shooting here, so it’s very intense. They’re all the time around the set.
Are you enjoying getting to shoot in a different locale? It’s a reversal of situations for your character in 1,000 Times Good Night, whose wife is the one globetrotting while he’s stuck at home …
You know, when I spoke to [director] Erik [Poppe], when he approached me for this, he told me that he was her — that he just changed the sex. It’s a personal story for him, but if you make a movie about a guy who leaves his family behind while he does this very important job, he’s a hero right away. When you make it about a mother, it’s a separate discussion. We still have these prejudices about what a mother is supposed to be, what she can and can’t do, and that really is the center of the movie, because of her own expectations. And that was very interesting to see, that in this case, the mother isn’t necessarily the good parent, that it’s the father. He took a job that enabled him to be at home a lot more and raise their two kids. That was their deal, and he accepted that. He loves that life. But he doesn’t like the fact that his wife constantly wants to go away, and that’s tough on him.
And I understand. I’ve spent a lot of my working life traveling and being away from my own family, so I kind of knew and understood the dilemmas within that. I’ve experienced the difficulty of both that and maintaining a long-distance relationship, but I’m on the other side of it. I follow my dreams and my passion all the time, and the choices I make, in essence, are very selfish. If my kids came first all the time, I wouldn’t travel like this, or do a movie in Australia. But it’s a choice I made, and I stand by it. But sometimes it’s important to stop and really think about it. Of course, when I’m shooting, I’m not going into a war zone!
Well, Game of Thrones can be a little dangerous for some folks. Beheadings, poisonings, behandings …
[Laughs.] It’s rare that someone actually gets killed on a set! Your ego can be bruised quite badly, but that’s usually about it. So that’s what I like about this film, because it does a beautiful job of showing how this is a drive and a passion for her. When you strip away the ideal, of what she would do idealistically, she can’t help but do this. It’s pure instinct for her. It’s what she lives for. And I just like the fact that it shows that we’re all different. You can’t put certain people into certain boxes and make someone conform to your ideal of what you think they should be, because that doesn’t always work out for very long. She comes to realize that. In a perfect world, she would be the person her husband wants her to be, but she says, “I want to, but I can’t.” Of course she can’t. That’s not her. And it’s terribly unfair to ask her to be someone she’s not. But I also understand why he does it. It’s too hard to love someone and constantly be in fear of them dying, and it’s so tough for their kids to be constantly waiting for her to come home.
Family is very interesting to explore. We all have a family, and most of us, at the core, that’s how we define ourselves. It’s who you are genetically. It’s your upbringing. It’s where we have the most conflicts, and the most joy. It’s where things get really interesting. And we all have these ideals of how we would like things to be, and they’re not based on realistic notions, so we’re constantly confronted with that. The Lannisters are probably not the most realistic portrayal of a family! [Laughs.] But I like to try and explore who we are as human beings. That’s what this job is.
The Lannisters should give you pause!
The Lannisters, that’s a whole different dynamic. [Laughs.] But it’s a good thing to watch, because you watch a family like this, and your own problems fade away. That’s what we aim for. [Laughs.]
So how do you think Jaime feels going into season five, given that he’s just basically helped his brother kill their father?
I think, clearly, he’s shocked by what Tyrion did. If he hadn’t helped him escape, Tywin wouldn’t be dead. So he’s to blame, too! Because he’s the one who let him go. It’s not easy.
Are you enjoying getting to work with Charles Dance again, even if he is just playing a corpse?
[Laughs.] No comment. No comment right now. I’ll tell you some stories when we’re done! [Laughs.]