September 29, 2023

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Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on Filming ‘Against the Ice’

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Nikolaj Coster-Waldau experienced a lot of formidable foes on Game of Thrones as “Kingslayer” Jamie Lannister—from dragons to White Walkers. Of training course, these threats didn’t exist outside the house the lens of the fantasy collection, but in From the Ice, the enemy of his character, real-everyday living explorer Captain Ejnar Mikkelsen, was also an on-set tormenter of the Danish actor. That enemy was the bitter, bitter chilly.

“No dilemma this was the most difficult shoot I have at any time performed, but which is what telling this tale essential,” suggests Coster-Waldau. The film portrays Captain Mikkelsen’s 865-working day journey into the Arctic to dispute a assert that the U.S. created on Northeast Greenland. On arrangement with director Peter Flinth and producer Baltasar Kormakur, the actor ventured to the Arctic to movie with sled canine and snowstorms. “There’s no way a wind machine and some faux snow was likely to do appropriate by the adult men of that expedition.”

We spoke with Coster-Waldau about the Danish explorer, bear assaults, and getting to evacuate established 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: Right before starting the crafting system, how common ended up you with Captain Ejnar Mikkelsen and his expeditions?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: I realized his name, and that he was an Arctic explorer who experienced attained some excellent feats, but absolutely nothing past that. I did not know about the Alabama expedition. The director, Peter Flinth, is a prolonged-time buddy of mine, and he sent me a copy of Mikkelsen’s e-book Two Against the Ice. I was blown away by it. There was the survival story, which is unbelievable in its personal correct, but also the human romance tale underneath—the camaraderie involving these two adult men who conclusion up paying out 865 times jointly in intense problems.

There’s a minute they experienced—it’s in the book—where they had a basic postcard with women of all ages on it and they ended up fantasizing about companionship. Mikkelsen’s touring companion Iver Iversen picked a few of the women of all ages on the card to be his “girlfriends” and Mikkelsen picked just one. I assumed that was a fascinating and wonderfully raw moment where by they identified how much they needed love. I knew 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 publications about the expedition. In the very first just one, he does not truly mention Iversen at all. In the 2nd guide, he goes into much extra element about their companionship, and credits Iversen for obtaining him by the journey. I imagined that was also an attention-grabbing wrinkle in their tale and a thing that could be investigated. I read all of Mikkelsen’s books, but I also linked with his household. I chatted with Naja Mikkelsen, who is the great granddaughter of Ejnar. These conversations have been hugely helpful. I experienced recognized that Mikkelsen experienced married his spouse a yr just after he returned from that voyage, but there was no point out of her in the guide. We had been ready to verify they have been seeing each individual other at that time in mystery, and he carried a locket with her photo in it. The dialogue we have among the people is made up, of course, but the conversations are primarily based in real truth.

Were being there specific themes you ended up most intrigued by in the crafting procedure?

There are undoubtedly themes we wanted to check out all through. They truly didn’t know they ended up likely to make it at the stop. A person of the first scenes we wrote comes about towards the finish of the film, where they are discussing what place they’d resort to cannibalism. The scene usually will get a laugh, but that response is born out of the discomfort and horror of the circumstance. The laughs are required to offer with the uncertainty of their futures. The other component we leaned into was how the thoughts copes with severe isolation—how they designed these visions that have been just as true 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 film is gorgeous. You can perception how brutal the terrain is. Was this the most arduous shoot you have done?

These were being the most extreme and difficult filming destinations I had ever been to, but which is what we were established on from the very starting. We needed the environments we captured on digicam to be as authentic to the tale as feasible. These are locations we desired to be in and share with the audience. My wife is from Greenland and we have been going there for yrs. Each and every time I go there, I’m in awe. I desired that feeling to come across in the movie as perfectly.

Guaranteed, you can consider to recreate these sites with pcs, but you can not recreate the outcome it has on everything else—and us as actors. That kind of chilly impacts the way you talk and go. I was ecstatic we had been ready to operate with Baltasar Kormákur, who manufactured this together with his organization RVK Studios in Iceland. Every little thing you see all through these scenes is authentic mainly because of all those initiatives.

How difficult was it to get to these destinations and get as a result of the shoots?

The longest trek we had to do was two-and-a-50 % several hours on snowmobile when we have been filming in Greenland. There is no way we would’ve created it to the areas we desired to go without the need of the Greenlandic crew. I was blown away by the automobiles and equipment vital to get us to some of these destinations. There had been these crazy vans and Tremendous Jeeps I had never ever witnessed the likes of ahead of. But that is what we essential to get onto the glaciers. The weather conditions received quite tough at occasions, and we filmed as substantially of it as we could. Out in Greenland, we desired 22 snowmobiles—with a few people on each one—to get our crew out to where by we necessary to film. One of the times we had to shut down and evacuate because of a blizzard.

At what issue did you know you wanted to evacuate?

We knew the weather was heading to be negative, but they were telling me it was likely to get better at lunch. It only seemed to get even worse and worse. The snow retained obtaining heavier and the cameras basically started out to shut down due to the fact of the chilly. Ultimately the phone arrived by that we necessary to return to foundation camp promptly. There was a cabin for the rangers who labored there. They wanted us to evacuate. As I was walking in, I noticed one of the creation vans had all of its windows smashed out from traveling rocks during the storm. So that offers you an strategy of the things we had been dealing with. They experienced to depend heads to make certain we had been all there. Everybody on location was given a whistle in scenario they bought missing or fell into a crevasse. That was just par for the class to make positive the crew properly made it dwelling.

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

1st of all, it is vital to take note that no animals were being harm in the system of building the film. I loved those canine. But they are not animals. You simply cannot get far too near to them without having inquiring their owners and trainers very first, since they are not all helpful. They’ll bite you. What they are is fantastic at their jobs. They have profound joy you can sense when they’re pulling the sled jointly. That is how they traveled again then and that is how they nonetheless get all over in the northwest of Greenland. It’s the most reputable, most secure, and fastest way to commute. My wife grew up traveling like that—with canine. She experienced her possess little sled with 5 canines to go above the sea ice. There were youngsters that would come by the filming locations on their own minimal sleds with a several canines. We had to position them in other directions. It is a beautiful custom that’s less than threat because of weather alter. My beloved shot is at the beginning of the motion picture when we’re heading about sea ice with the canine. 30 years back, there have been three meters of ice there. Currently it’s a lot less than a meter. It’s unhappy that we might eliminate these traditions and the destinations they call dwelling.

Talking of animals, there’s an epic polar bear assault scene. I know you worked with authentic bears before, but this was computer system produced. It looks outstanding.

I have labored with genuine bears—including Bart the Bear II that we had on Match of Thrones, who regrettably handed away past 12 months. For Versus the Ice, director Peter Flinth described he’d observed a film exactly where a bear attack was filmed with a actual bear. He thought that it would be easier to get a genuine a single, and went as considerably as locating a bear in Svalbard that may well function. But we ended up likely the CGI route—and I’m glad we did, due to the fact it seems to be wonderful. It was likely in my best curiosity as well.

We still essential something or someone to stand in there and engage in the bear. We obtained linked with this Olympic judo champion in Iceland to move in. He was a actually strong lad, and basically expended his time tossing me all over in the snow. By the time we obtained to get 6 or 7, all the things was spinning. I told the crew I experienced to go vomit someplace. I’m fairly guaranteed I received a concussion.

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

First off, Joe was just extraordinary. I watched some of his assignments before he joined and we have been blessed to get him. That job is a challenging just one, mainly because there’s an innocence and optimism Iver has to bring. But he definitely nailed it. I referred to as Charles to acquire on the job, since I understood he would be wonderful. I might have oversold it a minor bit—and reported that it was a even larger element than it was, but he came in in any case and killed it. I’d love to operate with Gwendoline Christie due to the fact we’re this kind of fantastic pals. Peter Dinklage as well. They’re all fantastic individuals and wonderful actors.

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

We did do a screening for them—and I was actually anxious about it. His family cares deeply about his legacy, with excellent rationale. He’s their hero. So even even though I wished to be sincere with the storytelling, I also hoped that I didn’t portray something they would consider offense to. I was pleasantly relieved by their response, which was overwhelmingly favourable. His wonderful granddaughter wrote me a lengthy be aware on how she was thrilled with how it arrived out and that she, too, had been worried. I’m glad they think I did his legacy justice. And I’m so very pleased of what my costar Joe Cole and crew accomplished.

Versus the Ice is now out there on Netflix. 

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