This is a PREVIEW of the Nikolaj Coster-Waldau cover story in the June 2015 issue. For the full story and more, download the issue on your iPhone and iPad devices.
All pandas must die.
Well, at least the pandas artfully created atop the foamy, overpriced caffeinated drinks served at the Soho House in West Hollywood. It’s late morning in the garden at the members-only club, where the blooming olive trees, glass walls, and retracted roof are basically flaunting why the rest of the country hates Los Angeles in winter. Off in the distance, the Hollywood Hills are glowing as if John Huston personally lit them from above. And Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, the 44-year-old star of Game of Thrones—and its closest thing to a classic leading man—looks at the latte placed in front of him, admires the cinnamon craftsmanship for a few seconds, few seconds, then spoon-stabs the hell out of it.
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“Up until this moment in my life I don’t think I felt this special,” he says, eyeing the top layer of his drink and then stirring the remnants of the panda into foam. His tone is equal parts serious, sarcastic, and how-the-fuck-did-I-get-here amazed. He looks around. “This really is how the other half lives.”
We hate to break it to him, but after years playing Game of Thrones’ incestuous, king-slaying, scheming, sword-fighting Jaime Lannister, Coster-Waldau is pretty much the personification of the other half. Fans flock to conventions to catch a glimpse of him, and hairstyle blogs even track the state of his locks. But all the A-list attention seems to chafe the native Dane like too-tight armor.
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“What I have now is about the show and not about me,” he says, one of the many times during our chat that he echoes the same humble—if a bit delusional—sentiment. “I’ve been working in this business for 20 years, and I’m very grateful for what I have, but it’s going to end sooner or later. Should I fall into a depression because I’m not going to have that kind of attention someday? I can’t allow that because it’s just stupid.”
It’s safe to say that Hollywood isn’t ditching Coster-Waldau anytime soon. Game of Thrones began airing its fifth season on HBO in mid-April, and if the fantasy’s creator, George R.R. Martin, ever finishes the books, there are two more seasons left to tell. Coster-Waldau has been well trained in revealing nothing about anything, which is why he’ll say only the irritatingly cryptic: “Jaime has been living his life with all these secrets, and he can’t do that anymore. He has to show his colors in a way and accept responsibility for what he has done.”
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To the few of you out there unfamiliar with the world of dragons, iron thrones, and White Walkers—Game of Thrones is HBO’s most popular show of all time—here’s a superbrief, spoiler-free primer: Coster-Waldau’s Jaime is the first son in the House Lannister, one of the warring factions in a Middle Earth–ian land called Westeros. The family is fuck-you-money wealthy, duplicitous, and pathologically insular. They’re so close, in fact, Jaime’s been banging his twin sister, the ruthless and conniving Cersei (Lena Headey), for long enough to parent children, among them the young King Jorey, who will surely go down in pop culture history as one of the more odious characters ever conceived. We'll stop there, but know that Seaon 5 begins with their family's long-held positoin in danger.
For the full story on Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, download the issue on your iPhone and iPad devices.