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Pilou Asbaek Goes To "A War" 

Memorize this face as you'll be seeing a lot of it.

This is Pilou Asbaek, who appears to be the love child of Michael Shannon and Leonardo DiCaprio, but whose acting is surprisingly subtle given that visual prompt. Now picture him shaggier and with a sword as he'll be joining Game of Thrones for Season 6 to play Euron Greyjoy. GoT has become to Scandinavian and Northern European stars what Law & Order once was to NYC stage actors or Harry Potter was to older British thespians; the place they all end up in some capacity large or small! You'll also soon see him as Pontious Pilate in the Ben-Hur remake and then reunited with Scarlett Johansson (he played her cowboy hat wearing boyfriend in the first scenes of Lucy) for Ghost in the Shell  a couple of years from now. In other words, he's suddenly in demand.

But for now he's just a respected Danish actor (a TV star at home, and best known abroad for A Hijacking as well as a brief stint on The Borgias)  making the rounds with his country's Oscar submission A War. It's a real contender for the finalist list and then possibly the big deal Oscar nomination. Asbaek plays a Company Commander in Afghanistan who comes under hot water back home for a questionable decision he makes to save his men while they're under heavy gunfire from the Taliban. Though there are a couple of violent scenes, A War is quieter than its title suggests and more concerned with ethical and psychological fallout from going to war. And its legal consequences, too, as the movie is partially a courtroom drama

At a cocktail reception following the film I was surprised to hear from Pilou that most of the soldiers he shared scenes with were actual soldiers rather than professional actors. I wondered if he felt like a mentor, teaching them how to act with the camera and he humbly suggested that the opposite was true. He couldn't make one false move as an actor since it would read inauthentically while in the company of actual soldiers who were just doing their jobs.

Pilou and his director Tobias Lindholm both referred to the war in Afghanistan as "our Vietnam" in conversation. They drew the comparison because the Danish people never quite understood what they were doing in Afghanistan in the first place -- it's the only war they've ever fought that did not touch their borders. (In the early Aughts, Denmark apparently had a more conservative leader than usual who jumped in with Bush & Blair). A War is vaguely reminiscent of Susanne Bier's great film Brødre (2004, remade in the US as Brothers in 2009), though that one centered on PTSD. Given that the films are more than 10 years apart it's obviously a war that the Danish people are still struggling to make peace with.

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Reader Comments (7)

Let's not forget Pilou's most important role -- Eurovision host from a few years back!

November 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Weisler


November 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

that's cool, a second collaboration between the Dane and the half-Dane - I wonder how much Scarlett Johansson has pushed to get Pilou, I don't know if she has that kind of pull...

--About Pilou, it's interesting that he's so aggressive about working internationally all of a sudden, because he did an interview not too long ago, in which he stated that he didn't dream of working in America or in Britain anymore - he HAD dreamt about it when he younger, but after becoming a father he just wanted to stay and work solely in Denmark, so he didn't have to uproot his family or be away from them many months at a time...

November 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

To me, Pilou will always be Kasper Juul from BORGEN - great, great TV series everyone should watch. The Danish answer to "The West Wing."

November 13, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

@Lylee - I believe most of us got to know him in Borgen, he was both vulnerable and arrogant as Kasper the spin doctor, A wonderful acting performance, I look forward to him making the Greyjoy clan more interesting.
Btw, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen his partner in Borgen became a huge hit on GOT with just 20 min of air time as an unforgettable Wilding cheiftan. Let's hope Pilou does as well. (and Essie Davis is going to be on GOT this season as well. great casting.)

November 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

He's also giving me a little bit of Ewan McGregor, by way of...the dive bar on "Shameless".

November 13, 2015 | Registered CommenterKieran Scarlett

Pilou looks like Joshua Jackson to me.

November 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

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