Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Games of Thrones actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in “Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Mama’”

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is a theatrically trained thespian. He was educated at the National Theater School in Denmark from 1989 to 1993. He had his debut as Laertes in Hamlet at the Betty Nansen Theater. 
Photo courtesy of UIP

In 2001, he began his Tinseltown career with a role in Ridley Scott’s critically acclaimed, multi-Academy-Award-winning Black Hawk Dawn  as Medal of Honor recipient Gary Gordon.
Coster-Waldau’s charm and range encouraged director Ridley Scott to bring Coster-Waldau back for his 2005 epic film Kingdom of Heaven starring Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson and Eva Green. 

Aside from acting, he has also written, produced and directed films in his native Denmark.
His latest cinematic effort is Universal’s horror movie Mama. In the movie, Coster-Waldau plays Lucas, a young man facing with the challenge of raising his brother’s young daughters, two little girls who were left alone in the forest for 5 years.

How did you get involved with MAMA?

I first read the script, and then I prepared a tape and sent it. That was it! I was with my wife in our little summerhouse when we decided to put together this tape, which she actually shot, of me acting out some of the scenes from the script.

What about the film appealed to you?

I liked the story of MAMA from the beginning, It’s abouti the horrible domestic drama of this man suffering a meltdown and taking his kids. I also liked the different twists that happen in the movie and the people involved in the project, such as Guillermo del Toro, Jessica Chastain and Andy Muschietti.

Did you see Andrés Muschietti’s 3-minute short film that inspired this project?

Yes, I did and I loved it. I just thought that the way it was shot and executed was brilliant.

You play twin brothers, Jeffrey and Lucas, who are almost in opposite scenarios. What happens to Jeffrey?

When we meet Jeff in the beginning of the movie, we are not sure about what has happened to him although we hear the news about the financial meltdown from the radio that is playing in the background. He obviously must have been some kind of broker, and we have all heard the stories of people in similar situations having mental breakdowns. We then hear a gunshot, learn that he has killed his wife and see him driving off with his two daughters, Victoria and Lilly. It was important for me to understand that he had most surely gone crazy, but it was also important to understand that there was probably a lost soul there and not necessarily a bad man. I think Jeffrey is someone who has been caught up in terrible circumstances and just simply lost it. At least that was what I was trying to communicate with my performance.

His twin brother, Lucas, searches for Jeffrey and his kids for years until the girls are finally found in this mysterious house in the woods. Then, he decides to take care of them and fight for their custody. Why do you think that is?

Lucas is a good guy who lives with his girlfriend Annabel and has dedicated his life to finding his brother and his nieces. After finding his nieces, he feels a very strong need to help them and to make right what his brother did wrong.

What was it like working with the kids, Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse, who play Lucas’ nieces Victoria and Lilly, respectively?

The girls were impressive. They both had great natural instincts. Megan was great because her character had this arc. The younger daughter, played by Isabelle,  was also very professional and great at hitting her mark. I had a lot of fun working with them. They were so sweet and well-behaved. I also lost a lot of money because I had to pay them a dollar every time I used the foul language. I swear a lot.

Did being a father in real life help you embrace this double performance and the relationship with the young girls?

Yes, it did help because no matter what character you play you somehow always use your personal experience.

What can you say about Jessica Chastain, who plays Lucas’ girlfriend Annabel?

Jessica is very smart and funny. She is a brilliant actress. She is also very good at karaoke.

This movie was written by siblings, Andrés and Barbara Muschietti. How do they work together?

Andrés and Barbara have a very strong connection. They are siblings who work well together and they are just the nicest people. Sometimes when you are that close, tension can build, but I never saw that happen between them. As Andy was also the director of the film and Barbara the producer, they always supported, helped and complemented each other.

MAMA marks Andrés Muschietti’s directorial debut. How is he on set?

Andy is fun, very focused and has a great sense of humor, but he is also demanding and knows what he wants. With MAMA being his first feature film, he was finding his feet and that was something interesting to be a part of because the process became raw. He was very dedicated and also open to other people’s suggestions.

What was it like to have the assistance of a filmmaker like Guillermo del Toro in his capacity as executive producer?

Guillermo was shooting another movie in Toronto so he would come by sometimes. He was always very supportive, but he would never interfere. Guillermo had a very clear respect for Andy’s vision and the work of all the actors and the rest of the crew.

What is Guillermo like?

Like Andy, Guillermo is also a very funny guy with a great sense of humor. He is clearly very knowledgeable as well.

In the film, you have this scary character of the supernatural Mama played by Spanish actor Javier Botet. What can you say about him?

Javier was amazing. I remember how he would be sitting there in his make-up between takes trying to have a coffee. The poor guy could hardly eat or drink! Then, he would spend hours hanging up in these wires. I was really impressed with him. The fact that Mama was played by a real actor gave the movie a special texture.

The horror genre has drawn people to theatres since the dawn of cinema. What do you attribute this success to?

I think fear is important for our survival as humans because we need to be scared of something out there. We don’t know everything, so just imagine if ghosts do exist. We enjoy watching horror movies because it’s all about getting scared knowing that you are safe.

What kind of horror movies do you like?

I like horror movies that, like THE SHINING, are psychologically scary and all about what could happen. I love these kinds of movies, but at the same time, find them exhausting to watch because my heart is beating so fast.

What scares you in real life?

The thought of something happening to my kids scares me.

Do you believe in ghosts?

I don’t think so, but I’m not sure. The idea of ghosts existing is very scary.

“Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Mama’ ” is released and distributed by
 United International Pictures through Solar Entertainment Corp.

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