Over the course of Game of Thrones a villain or two have been born before our eyes — Joffrey Lannister, Melisandre, Ramsay Bolton — and the revelation of their characters was revealed through the storytelling. Sometimes awful people just happen, though (*coughTrumpcough*), and are foisted upon the world with no proper introduction. Euron Greyjoy is one of those startlingly quick reveals, and there’s nothing natural about his evolution. For the non-book readers, I can’t imagine having zero background on who this guy is; obviously in George R. R. Martin’s tales, he is explored in much more detail and the story of the kind of maniac he is makes a little more sense. His onscreen characterization, however, resembles book Euron very little, and from portrayer Pilou Asbæk’s (and the showerunners‘) point of view, off the charts psycho seems to be what the series is going for.
***Spoilers for Game of Thrones through Season 7, Episode 2 follow. Spoilers***
On the show, Euron pops in to kill his father, is clearly power hungry, and as of “Stormborn” has been presented out of nowhere as some kind of raving lunatic. It’s confusing to readers and non alike, though Benioff and Weiss have clearly thrown in a nod here or there to book fans, such as the shot of his men cutting out the tongues of Yara’s crew — something Euron is known for doing to the crew of his own ship, Silence.
In a new interview with the actor who portrays Euron, Asbæk seems pretty thrilled with everything he did in this past Sunday’s episode, revealing that his own adrenaline fueled the performance. Not only was he excited by the whole battle scene, but also by the fact that he essentially killed the Night King — well, the actor/stuntman who plays the Night King (Vladimír Furdík) — and who participated in the finale battle.
All the good warlords charge in first when they go into a battle. They have to inspire. They have to illustrate more fear than anyone else. What’s more brutal than an axe? I loved that it was his preferred weapon. We trained that battle for weeks. It took two weeks training with Rowley [Irlam], the stunt coordinator. We would rehearse with Vladimír Furdík, who also plays the Night King, who I killed on the boat as well.
… We were shooting for four, five or six days, and I was so into it, because it was so much fun. I come from Denmark. We don’t do this kind of thing. We don’t have this kind of scale. We don’t have these budgets. We don’t have so many extras and stunt people and boats and ships and green screen. We don’t have this shit! So I was like, ‘Fuck it, man. I’m going Euron on these guys when we’re shooting.’ And I was swinging my axe to the left and to the right like a fucking maniac, so much so that they had to come up to me after the takes and say: ‘Dude, chill out. You’re going to break our ribs.’ (Laughs.) But that’s because it was fun! “
It’s hard to be irked with Pilou over psychoEuron when we’re reading how excited and enthusiastic he is, so even though that battle scene, and his over-the-top glee read corny more than scary, Clearly, Asbæk was given direction to play this role with abandon, and …
so he did. In fact, he wanted to go even further with Yara’s capture than director, Mark Mylod was comfortable with.
When we were doing the scene, I felt like something was missing. I went up to Mark and said, ‘What if I kiss [Yara]? Or what if I licked the blood off of her face?’ And he was like, ‘Ah, Pilou, that’s pushing it.’ (Laughs.) But Alfie was jumping overboard, and I needed to do something totally disturbing. So we did a version of the scene where I kissed her, and it didn’t work. We tried a version where I licked her face after he jumps overboard, and I said something stupid, and it didn’t work. So then I went: ‘This set-up might be the only time in my entire career where I can pull off the most sick laughter in a film I’m ever, ever, ever going to be able to do.'”
(We’re pretty sure the end result didn’t work either.)
As for what freaks out the guy who plays a manic maniac, Asbæk said it’s a scene from cult classic, Labyrinth.
I remember Labyrinth, when the two weird guys take out their eyeballs and throw them up in the air and swallow them and they pop back up into their eyes. That was terrifying shit. I almost pooped my pants.“
Read the full interview, including Asbæk’s vision of a Euron and Cersei wedding, at THR.