Actor Kristofer Hivju Speaks ‘Game of Thrones’ Norwegian Culture, Acting & more

ATM: What are the hopes and dreams for a Norwegian child?

KH: I grew up in an acting family. My parents and grandmother are actors. Acting was not something I was planning to do. My plan was to be a Rockstar. I ended up in a school play that was about Hamlet. I was struck by the lighting and it changed my path.

ATM: What key elements did you see in your parents that helped you?

KH: They actually tried to stop me from acting. They gave me resistance. When I went the way I did, they supported me. I have seen the ups and downs in all careers. I saw the love they had for the craft. I saw how much work there was. They always pushed me on this. Never trust a talent to extremely be well prepared. If I did not come to dinner because the bus broke down, then they say, “You should have taken a different bus.” Time is of the essential.

ATM: How did their resistance make you feel? Would you agree the resistance was because of their uncertainty?

KH: Yes. My dad said, “Acting is like an hourglass. When you turn it around, it can be very large. But when you turn it around, it could be very small.” You need a hard and thick skin to be an actor. They wanted to know if I really wanted it. Acting is not something you want, but it something you have to do. They tried to push it back to see if it was something I wanted to do.

ATM: How did your cultural or environment influence your behavior at Russian Academy of Theatre Arts?

KH: My parents were so known in Norway. It was nice to get away and to be myself. You do not want to be under the shadow of your parents. Some of the teachers you have will share some relations with your parent. I have always admired Russian culture and actors like Stanislavski. I wanted to go to the source. I was a student of the student of a student of Stanislavski. He was a part of creating this school. I really wanted to learn from the Russians.

ATM: What are the elements you lacked when working with them, but they had?

KH: They taught me self-discipline. “Operational miracles, no one loves you.” It took me a few years to figure out what they were meaning about this. It means that if you want to make it work, then you have to make it work yourself. If you want people to love you, then you have to be a service. The Russian’s way of thinking is that you just work a lot.  

ATM: What did you have that they seemed to not have a part of their culture?

KH: I have fireball energy. I needed them to give me direction. I am still a fireball. I am not following the school, but I am experimenting all the time. I was all into it. They gave me the tools. I used it acting wise. I worked like a horse the whole time there. I know the Russian way and love everything they taught me.

ATM: Are there any good character traits attached to someone who is classified as illiterate such as your character Tormund Giantsbane on Game of Thrones?

KH: He has the ability to change. Snow and the Night Watchmen were enemies for centuries. The Nights killed people. My character has the ability to make an alliance with them. He is warm, loyal, and has a great sense of humor.

ATM: How does your character treat the attributes of survival and safety?

KH: He has been in war all his life. There has always been another battle around the corner. I do not think he knows safety. Maybe he would think it is boring.

ATM: What definition of a man does your character see in Jon Snow?

KH: From your first time, they meet behind the Wall, he sees integrity and strength. He considers him a great warrior. “He is going to war. You want to put this guy on your side.” Jon Snow is an extreme sword fighter. He sees a man who is able to take challenging positions and lead.

ATM: What type of woman does your character see in Daenerys’ role?

KH: He is impressed with the dragons. He understands she is the queen and all. He has never bent a knee. She is a woman who likes people to bend to her.

ATM: What does your character see in himself?

KH: He has seen himself as a hero his whole life. He sees him as a warrior. Based on the looks of George R.R. Martin in his book, he brags a lot and he is very confident.

ATM: Now, tell me the type of man you see in yourself as an individual?

KH: I see someone who is able to change and is important. I see that I try to be a good husband, friend, and father. I try to lighten up the room.

ATM: Compare and contrast the atmosphere with Scandinavian’s treatment and American’s treatment of entertainment.

KH: Americans film industry is very similar. The actors have the same goal to portray their role. Maybe Scandinavian life is not that focused on beauty and exterior types. They are a bit darker. The productions have a small budget and limitations that can get in the way.

ATM: Other film industries differences with their budget and market. They have smaller production. This does not have to be a downsize. The positive could be it bringing out more creativity and imagination. This would push a person to work with what they have.

KH: It is a two-bladed sword. You need money to do what you want. Without money, you have to figure out solutions. It is a strain because the whole Scandinavian market came out of a small budget. It something we tried to do. There are pluses and minuses. People need money to cut cards.  

ATM: All industries have to start somewhere. The American film market was not always as big. Everyone and everywhere has to start from somewhere. Eventually, they will build up. It relates to creativity and imagination. Each of these two elements bounces off each other when you put money in between the two. There are ways to build an industry’s acting and marketing sector.

KH: I agree. I have been a part of Norwegian television series called Beck. This is the longest crime series. It has been coming out of crime. They will come out with some new stuff in the next couple of years.

ATM: In the United States, there is a lot of crime series. They are very prevalent here in our culture. There has been a vast number of shows and films. The narrative will stay the same, but the situations and stories change. There could be a difference with the popularity between our cultures.

KH: Scandinavian crime has come together to create Nordic Noir. This is the combination of Norway, Danish, and Sweden. It has been going on for about ten years. You have the similarities and it has their own genre. However, the climate of the world is changing. These elements are explored in some horrible murders. The climate of the world is more unsettled. When you sit down to watch television, you see something lighter. We are going out of the crime drama. The Nordic Noir is becoming the Scandinavian light. It is like something new. It has been a process forever but it is time to challenge the genre.

ATM: The sense of escape seems to be moving out. The narratives should give you less feeling. The point of entertainment is to allow you to escape or take a break from your life. Society should not give you a better release when it is unhealthy. The scenarios and narratives are supposed to let us see the additions or a different type of life. The things happening in society are overpowering the narratives in the film. This is why people are less self-engaged.

KH: This makes sense. You see shootings at night on the News and television. You want to see something. There is a comedy. This is also the reason there are so many actions and superhero movies. This is a sign in the climate. We want to believe in superhumans. We want to believe there is some savior out there to save the day and that there is something larger than life. I am not sure. It is definitely a time in society where superhero movies are big.

ATM: Do you believe there is something larger than life?

KH: I think it is a good point that we are sitting on a big planet in the middle of a huge nothing. There is a big sun and stars. This more than life.

ATM: There is more to life than what is being exposed to us. The more people think of new ways, this pushes us more into the boundaries of life. This is not all to life. This is not enough to view life, but there are a lot of ways to visualize life in other ways than what is viewed now. There need to be more new ideas and people need to take the risk to explore them.

KH: Yes, it is like no one in Russia believed in white folks. The hell with them.

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