Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on Filming ‘Against the Ice’

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau had quite a few formidable foes on Recreation of Thrones as “Kingslayer” Jamie Lannister—from dragons to White Walkers. Of program, all those threats didn’t exist outdoors the lens of the fantasy collection, but in Versus the Ice, the enemy of his character, real-lifetime 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 carried out, but that’s what telling this story needed,” claims Coster-Waldau. The film portrays Captain Mikkelsen’s 865-working day journey into the Arctic to dispute a declare that the U.S. produced on Northeast Greenland. On agreement 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 equipment and some pretend snow was going to do suitable by the men of that expedition.”

We spoke with Coster-Waldau about the Danish explorer, bear attacks, and possessing 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: In advance of commencing the crafting approach, how common ended up you with Captain Ejnar Mikkelsen and his expeditions?

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: I understood his identify, and that he was an Arctic explorer who had accomplished some terrific feats, but practically nothing past that. I didn’t know about the Alabama expedition. The director, Peter Flinth, is a lengthy-time good friend of mine, and he despatched me a copy of Mikkelsen’s reserve Two Versus the Ice. I was blown away by it. There was the survival story, which is unbelievable in its own right, but also the human relationship story underneath—the camaraderie in between these two adult men who conclusion up spending 865 times alongside one another in serious problems.

There is a minute they experienced—it’s in the book—where they experienced a basic postcard with gals on it and they had been fantasizing about companionship. Mikkelsen’s touring associate Iver Iversen picked three of the women on the card to be his “girlfriends” and Mikkelsen picked a person. I assumed that was a fascinating and wonderfully uncooked minute where they regarded how considerably they wanted really like. I realized it would make for a wonderful film.

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

What other investigate did you do?

Mikkelsen wrote two publications about the expedition. In the very first one, he does not genuinely mention Iversen at all. In the next ebook, he goes into much much more element about their companionship, and credits Iversen for having him as a result of the journey. I assumed that was also an exciting wrinkle in their tale and a thing that could be investigated. I examine all of Mikkelsen’s textbooks, but I also linked with his relatives. I chatted with Naja Mikkelsen, who is the terrific granddaughter of Ejnar. People conversations were vastly practical. I experienced identified that Mikkelsen had married his wife a calendar year after he returned from that voyage, but there was no mention of her in the book. We ended up ready to affirm they have been seeing every single other at that time in solution, and he carried a locket with her image in it. The dialogue we have amongst the figures is built up, of program, but the conversations are based in reality.

Were there precise themes you had been most intrigued by in the creating procedure?

There are definitely themes we needed to check out all through. They really didn’t know they were going to make it at the close. One of the first scenes we wrote takes place toward the end of the film, in which they’re talking about what point they’d resort to cannibalism. The scene constantly will get a giggle, but that reaction is born out of the soreness and horror of the predicament. The laughs are needed to deal with the uncertainty of their futures. The other element we leaned into was how the mind copes with severe isolation—how they produced these visions that were being just as real 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 movie is beautiful. You can sense how brutal the terrain is. Was this the most arduous shoot you’ve accomplished?

These have been the most intense and hard filming places I had at any time been to, but that is what we were being set on from the incredibly commencing. We wished the environments we captured on digicam to be as genuine to the story as attainable. These are spots we wanted to be in and share with the viewers. My wife is from Greenland and we’ve been likely there for yrs. Each time I go there, I’m in awe. I preferred that feeling to appear across in the film as well.

Guaranteed, you can attempt to recreate individuals sites with pcs, but you cannot recreate the influence it has on all the things else—and us as actors. That kind of cold has an effect on the way you speak and move. I was ecstatic we have been equipped to perform with Baltasar Kormákur, who generated this alongside with his company RVK Studios in Iceland. Every little thing you see through these scenes is authentic for the reason that of those endeavours.

How difficult was it to get to these areas and get by way of the shoots?

The longest trek we had to do was two-and-a-fifty percent hours on snowmobile when we have been filming in Greenland. There’s no way we would’ve created it to the locations we necessary to go without the need of the Greenlandic crew. I was blown absent by the motor vehicles and machinery essential to get us to some of these areas. There were being these crazy vans and Tremendous Jeeps I had never noticed the likes of before. But that’s what we required to get onto the glaciers. The weather conditions bought quite rough at occasions, and we filmed as significantly of it as we could. Out in Greenland, we essential 22 snowmobiles—with three men and women on every single one—to get our crew out to exactly where we needed to movie. One of the times we experienced to shut down and evacuate simply because of a blizzard.

At what position did you notice you essential to evacuate?

We understood the temperature was heading to be poor, but they ended up telling me it was going to get superior at lunch. It only appeared to get even worse and even worse. The snow saved obtaining heavier and the cameras in fact started out to shut down because of the cold. Finally the simply call arrived via that we needed to return to base camp instantly. There was a cabin for the rangers who worked there. They wanted us to evacuate. As I was walking in, I saw a person of the manufacturing vans experienced all of its windows smashed out from flying rocks through the storm. So that provides you an idea of the elements we have been working with. They experienced to rely heads to make confident we were all there. Absolutely everyone on site was offered a whistle in case they obtained missing or fell into a crevasse. That was just par for the course to make sure the crew securely manufactured it residence.

Mikkelsen traveled by canine sled through his expedition, and there are a large amount of wonderful sledding scenes. What was it like to get the job done with all those animals?

First of all, it is important to note that no animals have been hurt in the course of action of building the motion picture. I liked people puppies. But they are not animals. You can not get way too close to them without having inquiring their proprietors and trainers initial, because they are not all friendly. They’ll chunk you. What they are is superior at their employment. They have profound joy you can perception when they’re pulling the sled with each other. That is how they traveled back then and which is how they nevertheless get all-around in the northwest of Greenland. It is the most reputable, most secure, and quickest way to commute. My spouse grew up traveling like that—with canine. She experienced her personal very little sled with 5 dogs to go above the sea ice. There ended up kids that would occur by the filming areas on their individual very little sleds with a couple canine. We had to place them in other directions. It is a lovely tradition that’s underneath risk because of local weather improve. My favourite shot is at the commencing of the motion picture when we’re heading about sea ice with the canines. 30 years in the past, there ended up three meters of ice there. These days it is significantly less than a meter. It is unhappy that we could shed these traditions and the sites they get in touch with property.

Speaking of animals, there’s an epic polar bear assault scene. I know you worked with actual bears before, but this was laptop produced. It appears incredible.

I have labored with authentic bears—including Bart the Bear II that we had on Activity of Thrones, who sadly passed away past year. For Against the Ice, director Peter Flinth talked about he’d observed a motion picture wherever a bear attack was filmed with a serious bear. He thought that it would be less difficult to get a genuine one particular, and went as far as finding a bear in Svalbard that could operate. But we finished up likely the CGI route—and I’m happy we did, for the reason that it appears to be like excellent. It was probably in my very best curiosity as effectively.

We even now desired one thing or an individual to stand in there and enjoy the bear. We acquired linked with this Olympic judo champion in Iceland to action in. He was a genuinely strong lad, and mainly expended his time tossing me all over in the snow. By the time we received to acquire six or 7, anything was spinning. I explained to the crew I experienced to go vomit somewhere. I’m rather certain I received a concussion.

There are huge 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 programs to get the job done with other Game of Thrones alumni?

First off, Joe was just amazing. I viewed some of his projects ahead of he joined and we ended up lucky to get him. That part is a tricky one particular, because there’s an innocence and optimism Iver has to convey. But he completely nailed it. I referred to as Charles to choose on the purpose, for the reason that I realized he would be fantastic. I may possibly have oversold it a tiny bit—and said that it was a bigger part than it was, but he arrived in anyway and killed it. I’d like to do the job with Gwendoline Christie considering that we’re these types of great good friends. Peter Dinklage as perfectly. They are all excellent folks and terrific actors.

Did you get a likelihood to screen it for the Mikkelsen household?

We did do a screening for them—and I was truthfully nervous about it. His family cares deeply about his legacy, with wonderful cause. He’s their hero. So even though I needed to be honest with the storytelling, I also hoped that I didn’t portray anything they would consider offense to. I was pleasantly relieved by their response, which was overwhelmingly positive. His good granddaughter wrote me a prolonged take note on how she was thrilled with how it came out and that she, far 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 attained.

Against the Ice is now offered on Netflix. 

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