Pilou Asbæk: “‘Game Of Thrones’ changed my life”

Denmark's finest spills some secrets on his time in Westeros – and teases an impressive slate of Hollywood movies

Copenhagen via Belfast is an unusual route to Hollywood, but that’s how Danish actor Pilou Asbæk got there in 2016. His debut as the swaggering Euron Greyjoy in Game Of Thrones six years ago was a highlight of the latter seasons, filmed largely in Ireland, and helped to announce Asbæk to a wider audience. With a handful of tentpole studio gigs now awaiting release, we hear how he’s building on that success.

Hey Pilou, what can you tell us about Samaritan, your new superhero movie with Sly Stallone?

“It’s not a new take on superhero movies, but it’s an original story… It’s got epic-ness, bleakness, but not Batman-bleak like the latest one [with Robert Pattinson]. It’s something that you’d eat your popcorn to. All my agents and managers have seen it and they’re like: ‘Shit, yeah man! This is a breath of fresh air!’”

What was it like working with Stallone?

“I swear to God, there were times when it was like a masterclass. He’s extremely generous and super chilled. You have all these questions like, ‘How did you write Rocky?’ and he just embraced all of it.”

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Samaritan
Pilou Asbæk and Sylvester Stallone in new superhero film ‘Samaritan’. CREDIT: Alamy

You’re also in a new remake of Stephen King horror Salem’s Lot

“I play Richard Straker. In the [1979] series, he was the main villain. In the [2004 miniseries] with Donald Sutherland, he was the henchman. In this one he’s a weird mixture of both… I wanted to have this character where it’d be like, ‘is he killing me with kindness? Like, if I turn around is he gonna stab me in the back with a little weird statue or something?’”

Can you spill any secrets about Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom?

“[The sets were] Fucking amazing. This is by far the biggest production I’ve ever been in… Something which is kind of amazing is that Aquaman takes place underwater, but they’ve still created a world which feels extremely real. I really think that [director] James Wan has taken the first film and… BOOM! He’s brought it up a notch.”

And Snafu, the action thriller you made all the way back in 2018?

“That was fucking awesome. We shot it in China, working with Jackie Chan and John Cena. [Chan is 68 years old] and he’s still stronger and fitter than I am. He’s amazing, he’s a legend.”

Game Of Thrones
As Euron Greyjoy in ‘Game Of Thrones’. CREDIT: Alamy

Right, let’s talk about Game Of Thrones – your character claimed the Salt Throne after killing his brother in season six…

“The introduction on the bridge was fucking brilliant. They took lines from [George RR Martin’s novel A Feast for Crows] and I wish we would’ve maybe got a little bit more inspired by how the character is in the books, but that just didn’t fit the characters and the arcs that they wanted. I loved: ‘I am the storm brother, the first storm and the last’… those words were so powerful.”

Had you been a keen watcher of the series?

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“With Kit [Harington’s Jon Snow] being killed [in season five], and me being a part of season six, the first thing I asked the [production] driver who picked me up from the airport was ‘is he dead?’ They did not know. Game of Thrones changed my life.”

Did you expect to be killed by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, another Danish actor?!

“It said in the script ‘The Dane Bowl’. So [showrunners] David [Benioff] and Dan [B. Weiss] just thought it’d be fucking funny that two Danes would fight it off. I used to be a nanny for [Coster-Waldau’s] kids. When I was 19 years old I was working at a kindergarten – I was a nanny and I used to take care of his kids!

“When we’re doing those scenes in the Throne Room, it’s just me being private, ‘So here I am with a thousand ships and two hands,’ which means: ‘Nikolaj! You can’t have Game of Thrones for yourself! I’m here to take over now mate!’”

Game Of Thrones
Asbæk appeared in ‘Game Of Thrones’ for the final two seasons. CREDIT: Alamy

Thrones spanned 73 episodes in total, was there a particular character arc you’d single out as the greatest?

“I actually think Nikolaj has the best arc. He starts with, ‘The things you do for love…’ and then he spends seven seasons understanding that he loves [Cersei Lannister] but she’s sick, and he needs to save the world at the end. He needs to do what he can to make things right, and at the end, he can’t. He just loves her, and love makes [us] blind.”

What would a Euron spin-off look like?

“I wish we would’ve gotten some more sides to Euron Greyjoy, so it wasn’t pure horniness or craziness or evilness, but also the black magic – it came out of power, wanting power. Like a crazy pirate coming-of-age story.”

As a member of the Westeros family, have you secretly seen spin-off House of the Dragon?

“I don’t know anything. I hope it’s going to be a massive success because of all the people who’ve put such effort and work into it. There’s two TV shows that I’m really looking to: House of the Dragon and The Rings Of Power. I love those kind of stories.”

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