Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is used to being famous. But he’s not used to this.
The dashing Game of Thrones star is sitting for an interview in a Seville hotel bar on Oct. 11 while gaggles of young women take pictures of him through the window until a server closes the drapes. He landed in Spain only a few days earlier, but fans quickly figured out the location of his hotel and have mobbed him more than once. Thrones typically shoots in Northern Ireland and Croatia but this year added Spain for scenes set in the show’s fictional country of Dorne. ”[Fans have] become more intense in Belfast for the first time, too, but it’s nothing like Spain,” says the actor, who emphasizes he appreciates their interest — he’s just unaccustomed to quite this much of it. ”They’re really sweet, but people are like, ‘I’ve been looking for you for two days!”’ Notes local film-commission director Piluca Querol: ”They are really excited. There are a lot of girls trying to kiss the actors.”
The actors, however, are hardly the biggest draw. When production company Fresco Film put out a casting call for 600 extras for a key battle scene, fan response overwhelmed its servers with an incredible 86,000 applications — and not just from people who need employment. One hired extra took a vacation from his high-level banking job to spend time on the set.
Spain’s response reflects the global fandom growth of HBO’s most popular series ever. Ratings climb each season and this year hit 19 million viewers in the United States alone. But Spain is perhaps primed to be more appreciative than most — Thrones hired more than 1,000 locals across its monthlong production and is expected to pump millions into the economy, which has been climbing out of a deep recession. (Last year the show generated $32 million for Northern Ireland.) ”It’s been a great, uplifting moment for the country,” says James Costos, the U.S. ambassador to Spain, who also happens to be a former HBO executive. ”The great thing about Thrones is it has a tremendous impact in the long run on tourism everywhere they shoot.”
Filming so far has primarily centered on the 15th-century Alcázar palace, a lavish and sprawling compound in Seville that will serve in the show as the palace of House Martell, which is reeling (as we all are) from last season’s gruesome death of Prince Oberyn. In the upcoming season, Coster-Waldau’s character, Jaime Lannister, will pay a visit to the Martell family, encountering Oberyn’s brother Doran (Alexander Siddig) and three of his vengeful bastard teenage daughters known as the Sand Snakes (Keisha Castle-Hughes, Jessica Henwick, and Rosabell Laurenti Sellers). Each of the girls wields a different deadly weapon — a bullwhip, double daggers, and a spear. But at least none will be chasing the actor for a selfie.