Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau rose to fame worldwide thanks to his role on the HBO series Game of Thrones. Cast as the deceptive Jaime Lannister, fans watched as the character slowly changed over the course of the series, becoming more caring and less selfish at times. The role helped to bring Coster-Waldau into the spotlight and create more opportunities for American projects.
However, prior to the fantasy drama series, Coster-Waldau had established himself as a prominent TV and film actor in both his home country of Denmark and internationally. Here are some of his best roles before his fame on Game of Thrones.
11 Nightwatch (1994)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau began his acting career in his native country of Denmark. In 1994, he debuted in his first feature-length film, Nightwatch (Danish: Nattevagten). Directed by Ole Bornedal, the horror film followed Martin Bork (played by Coster-Waldau) as a law student who worked as a night watchman in the Forensic Medicine Institute. Between the strange occurrences happening in the building’s morgue to the looming dangers of a serial killer in Copenhagen, the film created an atmosphere of nerve-grating thrills and suspense. Coster-Waldau was nominated for Best Actor at the 1995 Bodil Awards (given by Danish Film Critics Association).
10 Wildside (1998)
Copenhagen-born Ossy (Coster-Waldau) and Jimmy (Mads Mikkelsen) are forced to flee their home when Jimmy accidentally took the life of a man that was beating his friend. The 18-year-olds leave for the Far East and get involved in drug smuggling. Jimmy eventually left their sordid lifestyle to start a family in Reykjavik. However, Ossy showed up to his home and wants to start their smuggling business again.
9 The Bouncer (2003)
The Bouncer (Danish: Manden bag døren) told the story of Svend (Coster-Waldau) and how fought to try to save his parents' marriage despite the fact that they caused him torment and pain his entire life. As he tried to move on with his own life and find love, he discovered that his past traumas affected his ability to find happiness with his new love, Lizzie. Coster-Waldau was recognized for his portrayal of the tortured character.
In 2003, he was nominated for Best Actor at The Robert Awards, an annual recognition event back by the Danish Film Academy.
8 Headhunters (2011)
Headhunters (Norwegian: Hodejegerne) demonstrated the actor’s talents as an action star. The crime drama pitted corporate headhunter and undercover art thief Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) against ex-CEO Clas Greve (Coster-Waldau). When Brown discovered that Greve had an invaluable painting that he wanted, Brown is determined to steal it from him. However, Greve proved to be more of a challenge than Brown had thought. The tense cat-and-mouse game played out between the two characters throughout the movie.
7 Bent (1997)
The 1997 film Bent tackled the controversial treatment of gay men in 1930s Berlin. Based on the play by the same name by Martin Sherman, Coster-Waldau played the role of Wolf, a Sturmabteilung (SA) in Hitler’s Nazi Party. He became intimate with the lead character Max (played by Clive Owen) another gay man hiding his sexuality. The film starred Ian McKellan, Mick Jagger, Jude Law, Paul Bettany, and Rachel Weisz. The film won the Award of the Youth at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 and Best Feature Award at the Torino International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in 1998.
6 Black Hawk Down (2001)
Coster-Waldau made his American film debut in Ridley Scott’s 2011 war drama Black Hawk Down. He auditioned for the movie with a recording of his acting. He explained, “My first US movie was 'Black Hawk Down' and a friend helped me put myself on tape up on the attic over my apartment in Copenhagen. We shipped it out, and I got lucky.” In the film, he played Medal of Honor recipient Gary Gordon. The cast is comprised of some of the biggest names in Hollywood as well as up-and-coming talent. The cast included Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, and Sam Shepard.
5 Blackthorn (2011)
Blackthorn followed the story of an older Butch Cassidy trying to live his life in peace. Assuming the identity of James Blackthorn, he starts to make his journey back to the United States from Bolivia. As Sam Shepard led the movie as the aged version of Cassidy, Coster-Waldau took on the responsibility of portraying the legend in his younger days. The film also starred Eduardo Noriega and Stephen Rea.
4 New Amsterdam (2008)
Coster-Waldau was poised to lead his own American tv series in the 2008 series New Amsterdam. Starring as John Amsterdam, he was made immortal by a Native American girl that he protected back in the 1600s. He was over 400 years old and worked as an NYPD homicide detective. The only cure to break the spell would be to find his true love. Each episode would give glimpses to his present-day life as a detective and his many past experiences. Premiere in March 2008, the series, sadly was short-lived. After stopping production after seven episodes, Fox canceled the series altogether.
3 Kingdom Of Heaven (2005)
Coster-Waldau may have picked up some skills with sword fighting and experience with historical dramas in his role as the Village Sheriff in Kingdom of Heaven. Scott, who had previously worked with the actor in Black Hawk Down, brought him back for this cast. He continued to find himself amongst a solid, star-studded cast. The film included Orlando Bloom, Jeremy Irons, Edward Norton, and Liam Nielson.
Although the film did not fare well with critics, the Director’s cut of the movie received significant praise. Even Scott expressed his preference for this version stating, “This is the one that should have gone out.”
2 The Baker (2007)
The Baker combined Coster-Waldau’s penchant for action with his ability to bring the laughs too. As Milo (played by Damian Lewis) attempted to hide in obscurity due to a failed assassination job, he got mistaken for the new baker in the small country town of Rhiannon. As he tried to assimilate in his new home, Milo was determined to track him down and eliminate his old rival. The film was written and directed by Gareth Lewis, who is Lewis’ real-life brother.
1 My Name Is Modesty (2004)
Game of Thrones fans may be shocked to find out that their Jamie Lannister once starred in a Quentin Tarantino - backed film. My Name is Modesty was an action film directed by Scott Spiegel and based on the British comic strip character Modesty Blaise. Coster-Waldau played the villain in the movie, Miklos. This role served as a taste of the level of cunningness that the actor would bring to GoT later on. The film was never released in theaters, going straight to direct-to-DVD instead.