Kristofer Hivju can’t escape the snow. Following his turn on Game of Thrones as the wintry warrior (and fan favorite) Tormund Giantsbane, the Norwegian actor is now scoring laughs in a brief, scene-stealing part in Downhill. Hivju also had a role, albeit a different one, in Force Majeure, the 2014 Swedish black comedy that inspired Downhill (in theaters now).
According to Hivju, Downhill star Julia Louis-Dreyfus and directors Jim Rash and Nat Faxon (Oscar-winning co-writers of The Descendants) liked the idea of adding him as a “small wink” to the audience. For Hivju, 41, it was a no- brainer. “They asked if I wanted to play against my two favorite comedians of all time,” Hivju says of Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell. “It was like, ‘I’ll do anything.’” He appears as an unhelpful ski patrol supervisor, to whom Pete (Ferrell) and Billie (Louis-Dreyfus) complain after a controlled avalanche almost obliterates their family.
“I was curious to see what they could do to tell the same story, but to tell it in another way,” says Hivju, whose sole Downhill scene was a new addition to the story. “I enjoyed playing with Julia and Will a lot. If you improv and do something else, they catch the ball and hit it back at you with such a funny touch. What I also really enjoyed was to watch them play a more dramatic side of their talent. I know that both of them have done that before, but it’s not often you see that.”
Showing his own dramatic side is exactly what Hivju is hoping to do with his new Scandinavian series Twin, a passion project set to begin streaming this month in North America on MHz Choice. Of course, even with the new gig, he can’t escape his last one. Hivju notes that the Thrones cast’s gathering at the SAG Awards in January served as their unofficial goodbye.
“It hadn’t felt like it’s over,” he says. “You ended when you wrapped, and then you ended when it airs, and then you ended when there’s some awards shows. But this felt like the last last thing. It feels good. I gave everything to Tormund. I love the direction that the character went, with falling in love and becoming more of a comic relief buddy. He started out as an antagonist on the show and he ended up as a big bear.”
So, since the final scene of the pop culture phenomenon ended with Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Tormund heading north of the Wall, has he wondered what the unlikely buddies are up to? “Jon is in a huge depression, so he needs Tormund to cheer him up, by the fire, warming each other,” Hivju says with a laugh. “Tormund is pretty heartbroken himself, so maybe they can bond over that.”
Heartbreak? That’s something Jon Snow knows well.