Kristofer Hivju: Battling the ice wall
Kristofer Hivju, the renowned Norwegian actor, has received international recognition for his incredible portfolio of work including roles like Tormund Giantsbane in the HBO fantasy series, Game of Thrones and his stunning performance in the 2014 drama Force Majeure. He joins us to tell tales of acting adventures and discuss his next exciting project starring in the Swedish smash-hit film series, Beck.
“I am really excited to take on the role as Steinar Hovland,” Kristofer Hivju shares. “I’ve been a Beck fan for a long time, so it was easy to say yes. I have played many bad guys and villainous roles so to play a cop will be great fun and very cool!” Hivju will join Beck veteran, actor Peter Haber, as a police investigator solving murders on the dark side of Stockholm.
This is not the first time Hivju has transcended from spectator to participant in a cult television show. Many will recognize him for his striking role in the TV phenomenon Game of Thrones. “I watched the programme and thought it was the most exciting television I had ever seen,” he recalls. “All of a sudden – BOOM – I was standing on the set in a costume looking Jon Snow straight in the eyes, being very much a part of what I had so admired.” Hivju initially appeared as a guest star in the third season of the show before returning as a principal character in seasons four and five. Despite the awe-inspiring production, Hivju explains that you have to quickly adjust to your new working environment, however surreal it may be. “You have to accept the magic of being there but then get to work,” he says. “It remains magical but it becomes about doing the best work you can in every scene, and I love the work.”
Hivju received the Best Supporting Actor accolade at the 2015 Guldbagge Awards, (the Swedish equivalent of the Oscars), for his stirring role as Mats in Force Majeure. The film also won the Best Film Award and received a nomination for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards. For fans of Hivju’s previous work, Force Majeure offers a new perspective on the actor and the breadth of his performance range.
“Before this role, I had played a very specific type of role but this character broke me free of that,” he explains. “I didn’t have a sword in my hand, I wasn’t climbing an ice wall, but playing a normal man. As an actor you always want to be extraordinary, but to play an ordinary man is a really big challenge.” Writer and director, Ruben Östlund, recognised the potential Hivju had to accomplish something remarkable with the role. “He saw something in me that no one else had ever seen,” Hivju shares. “He taught me to play on strengths that I didn’t know I had. It really was the most astonishing and self-developing project that I’ve ever been involved with.”
Winning the Guldbagge award was a landmark moment in Hivju’s career. “Sweden is my new favourite country now,” he jokes. “Seriously though, it’s important to be known in different countries and winning awards obviously helps accomplish that. For me, however, the most important thing was having the experience of working with Östlund on this incredible film.”
The road to the stage
As the son of famous Norwegian actor, Eric Hivju, it may have seemed a natural progression to follow in his father’s thespian footsteps. However, it was not until Hivju left school that he discovered his calling. “I grew up in a very theatrical world but acting didn’t interest me very much,” he recalls. “It was exciting to meet so many extraordinary people but I also saw the ups and downs of the acting life, which attracted me to music instead.”
However, while pursuing a musical education in college, Hivju participated in some acting classes and to his own surprise fell completely in love with the stage. “I felt the thrill of reaching people and having the power to affect their feelings and perceptions,” he explains. “I felt that I could express myself better through, for example, Hamlet’s words than through my own songs and that was the thing that did it for me.” Hivju completed his studies at the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts in Denmark and then worked as an actor for ten years, before having his big break on the screen.
Hivju’s father shared words of wisdom with his son when he announced his ambitions to become an actor. “He told me that acting was like always staying under a magnifying glass,” he recalls. “It can make you look big but if the spotlight is too hot you can also get burned.” Hivju’s mother and grandmother are also actors and he sees it as a great privilege that they can share their common passion. “Playing with your parents is something you do when you’re a child and it is amazing to have the chance to do that as an adult too,” he says happily. “We give each other advice and share our experiences and I try to learn as much as I can from them.”
A homebound family man
Despite an international career that awards Hivju the opportunity to live and work anywhere, he has chosen to make his native Oslo his home. “I’m a family man,” he says. “I have two children with my fiancé and we live near my parents and for me that is the foundation of everything. If I lived in L.A. I could still be shooting in Prague or Paris so it’s important to have somewhere to come home to.”
In addition to Hivju’s new role in Beck and returning performance in Game of Thrones, he is also working on two other exciting film projects. Wendyeffekte (The Wendy Effect) is scheduled to premiere in the autumn and offers another different creative challenge for Hivju. “It’s a Tarantino inspired, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels kind of crazy comedy where I play the antagonist who happens to be one of the worst men in the universe,” he explains.
Hivju is also filming the eagerly anticipated film, Birkebeinerne. Directed by the Oscar nominated director Nils Gaup, the film recounts the true story of dramatic events that occurred in Norway in 1206. “In the story, the Norwegian king has been assassinated and my companion and I must transport the king’s son through the mountains of Norway to safety,” Hivju explains. “We have armies chasing after us who want to kill the baby so that they can destroy the spirit of Norway. We have to save the king’s son to save the kingdom and so it’s a skiing, action, horse-riding, drama feature film!” Birkebeinerne will be released in early 2016. With so many interesting projects in the pipeline, it is a very exciting time in Kristofer Hivju’s career. We certainly look forward to seeing what else is to come.
By Helen Cullen, published in Scan Magazine issue 76 | Photos: Olof Bäckström
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