Last summer, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was filming in sunny Manhattan with not-exactly-eyesores Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton – the sometime Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover girl. He was dressed by Tom Ford and got to spin around the West Village in an Aston Martin. A tough gig, for sure.
All this was for the 43-year-old Danish actor’s lead role in new comedy The Other Woman, about a serial cheater who gets his comeuppance when two of his lovers, Diaz and Upton, join forces with his wife (Leslie Mann) to exact revenge. The part was a break from the bleaker terrain Coster-Waldau treads as Jaime Lannister in HBO’s fantasy drama Game of Thrones, filmed in less enticing Belfast, as well as Croatia.
“I had a lot of fun doing The Other Woman. It was absolutely different from being covered in mud in Game of Thrones,” he says. “You wouldn’t call Belfast sunny.”
In the new film, Coster-Waldau plays a business shark stringing along the three women at once. “The guy I play would characterise himself as charming and great. But really, he’s just a pretentious prick,” says the actor, who started out on Copenhagen stage and TV before transferring to Hollywood and roles in Black Hawk Down (2001) and Wimbledon (2004). “He’s lying and cheating. Then these girls get together and seek revenge in rather extreme ways.”
If it doesn’t sound a million miles from Coster-Waldau’s breakout role as the dastardly charmer Lannister – king slayer, incestuous sibling, a man who has no quibbles with casual violence against children – the actor politely disagrees, not least because his character has shown some redemptive qualities since all that business with pushing 10-year-old Bran Stark off a ledge in the Game of Thrones pilot. Which was fun to play, by all accounts.
“They told me about episode one where Jaime has sex with his sister, pushes this kid out a window and then says, ‘The things I do for love’,” Coster-Waldau recalls. “I thought that was an amazing way to start with a character because that’s as dark as it gets.”
Game of Thrones season three threw much-needed light on the shady ways of Lannister. He developed an odd-couple bond with Brienne of Tarth, a woman warrior sent to drag him back home to King’s Landing, and to whom he reveals his noble motives for past misdemeanors. Chastened by Brienne’s unwavering code of honour, Lannister draws on this but ultimately finds good deeds do not always reap rich rewards.
But then this is Game of Thrones, where fortune does not necessarily favour the brave and major characters can expect to face the axe at unexpected moments. In this context – no spoilers – making it this far relatively intact can be considered a triumph.
Is Coster-Waldau nervous to read the new scripts in case he’s next for the chop? “No one is safe: that’s true and it’s a scary, scary thing,” he says. “You open the scripts and wonder if you’ll be alive next week. It’s scary as an actor. But it’s also great because you are as curious as the viewers as to what will happen next.”
The Other Woman is out 24 April. Taken from Esquire's April issue, on newsstands now.