Krisofer Hivju‘s star is on the rise: he’s currently the face of Wyndham hotels, stars as Jon Snow’s other-favorite redhead on Game of Thrones, and recently starred in The Last King, a Norwegian epic close to his heart. Fandom recently had a chance to chat with the star about surviving the Battle of the Bastards, his magnificent beard, and all of his latest projects.
Surviving Game of Thrones
Despite being descended from Vikings and pretty much looking like one, Hivju confessed that he had one great fear that nearly stopped him during the filming of Game of Thrones most recent season. The battle, which took a month to shoot in Northern Ireland, featured a number of real horses in the mounted Bolton army. Much like his character Tormund, who fears the cavalry, Hivju is not a fan of the hooved animals.
“I survived the season. It took some doing. Everybody thought I was going to die, but I didn’t,” he said. “I survived without a scratch. I’m scared to death of horses. I was thrown off the horses, very small, intense small horses. We wanted it to be as epic as we could, (because) the armies at the time, they were brave.”
Fans of the show have noticed a possible romance brewing between Tormund and one very brave warrior – Brienne of Tarth. The wildling took immediate interest in her when she arrived at The Wall with Sansa Stark, ogling the knight over dinner. As she departed for the Riverlands he gave her a look that shook the internet and had fans everywhere proclaiming their love for BrienneXTormund. Through it all, however, the wildling has shown intense devotion to Jon Snow, so who would he want to be with more: his dreamy dark-haired crow or the baddest lady-knight in all of the Seven Kingdoms?
“Well if he could have both of them at the same time, it would be the perfect date,” Hivju said with a laugh.
The Last King
Hivju’s most recent project is one that holds a special significance for him. The Last King is a historic epic that details the journey of two men through the harsh Norwegian landscape as they try to sneak their infant king to safety during a brutal civil war. The film takes place in 1206, shortly after the era of the Vikings, and features some of the most intense skiing action sequences ever put on celluloid.
“(The Last King)‘s a script that has been there for a while in the Norwegian film industry and we finally got to make it and this is one of the most important events in Norwegian history. If it weren’t for this story or the end of it, there wouldn’t be a Norway. We’d be part of Denmark or the UK. Those two guys, it’s kind of two iconic figures in Norwegian history. It was a very hard time in Norway, just after the Viking age,” Hivju said. “For the first time, Norway had an on-the-ground army and they fought for something bigger than gold. They fought for the nation and for the king and that was something new because the Vikings only fought for glory and getting whatever they wanted. It was the first organized army in Norway.”
The impressive journey these two men undertook in the name of their kingdom is an important cultural touchstone for Norwegians. It’s so important, in fact, that thousands of them celebrate the trip by doing it themselves.
“Every year, thousands of Norwegians take that trip with a bag as heavy as a child would be and they do that trip. It’s a race. So in Norway, this is huge. Still, you have two guys trying to save their country, their kind, it’s still a universal theme. Everyone can connect with it. It’s a big epic, and you know, nothing is more meaningful than saving a baby. It’s about doing something for something bigger than yourself. It’s for something, for your country, for your brothers.”
There are some physical similarities between Hivju and his character, Torstein, who is depicted in a famous 19th-century painting. There is one major difference, however, that Hivju is quick to point out.
“He just has a much bigger beard than me,” the actor said with a chuckle.
The role required a lot of skiing, but Hivju was up for the challenge. As a Norwegian, he has spent a lot of time on skis and relished the opportunity to show off his skills.
“Well, I’ve done a lot of skiing in my life but, of course, we did a lot of training and shooting those scenes were pretty intense because the condition was to make the best skiing action sequences ever made in cinema. We all have to do, go beyond our limits to make it happen,” he said. “We shot it on location and we actually shot it on the actual place where the story happened. We went all in and we survived, my colleague who plays Sharvo, the other guy, he got a lot of injuries but he finished the shoot. You have to sacrifice to get it done.”
The hospital in Lilyhammer, near where The Last King was shot, often had a waiting room full of strange looking characters as a result of the film.
“Every day there were 10 Viking-dressed guys sitting waiting to get taken care of. And the doctor was shaking his head – ‘not again’.”
Hivju is a busy man in Hollywood these days, though he doesn’t let the status quo change him or his signature facial hair.
“I’m looking constantly for new challenges. I have a mask, I have my beard, I have my looks. Five years ago, they wanted me to shave the beard and look like everybody else and I insisted. I get different kinds of guys. I’m happy with my beard and my point of view – I don’t do anything, I just let it grow. The people who are shaving themselves are putting in action, I’m just growing freely.”
He also doesn’t mind the fact that he tends to play warrior men of a certain type, though he would be interested in something a little more artsy, and perhaps less cold.
“I have a tendency to always work with snow, even in the new Fast and the Furious I’m standing on snow. There’s something with me and snow, but I don’t look for Viking roles as an objective. With The Last King, they had sold the film to a hundred countries and when the producer pitched it they said ‘Vikings on skis’.”
If he could have any role, however, he’d love to play a famous painter.
“Van Gogh. Or Rembrandt. I can do that,” he said.