Star of Movie About Deadly 2015 Copenhagen Islamic Attacks Says Film Focuses on Being ‘Truthful and Sensitive’

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Photo: Wikimedia/

The lead actor of a Danish docudrama that focuses on the days leading up to the 2015 Islamic terror attacks in Copenhagen, Denmark spoke about his connection to the events and the filming process in a recent interview.

“Powder Keg” is around four people affected by the deadly Copenhagen shootings, including an aging police officer, a Jewish security guard, a filmmaker, and an ex-convict who gets influenced by radical Islamist groups. The film is also known as “The Day We Died” or by its original title in Danish “Krudttønden,” after the name of the cultural center where one of the shootings took place.

On Jan. 7, 2015, French Islamist militants and brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi attacked the Paris office of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in retaliation against its printing of cartoons that depicted the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Twelve people were killed and 11 others wounded. The attack, which took place two days before a similar one at a Jewish supermarket in Paris, marked the beginning of a series of violent Islamist attacks across Europe.

On Feb. 14 and 15, radical Islamist gunman Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein opened fire at two locations in Copenhagen: the Krudttønden cultural center and outside the Great Synagogue in Krystalgade. He killed two people, including a Jewish security guard, and wounded five Danish police officers before he was shot and killed by authorities.

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September 10, 2021 2:08 pm

In the film, former “Game of Thrones” star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays Rico, the leader of an anti-terror police force who was among the officers that took down El-Hussein. The Danish actor remembered being at home in Denmark when the attacks took place in an interview with Screen Rant.

“I live just north of Copenhagen and it’s a small country,” he said. “It was a national trauma that had happened because we in Denmark felt we were isolated from that kind of event. Just before this thing happened, there [were] these horrific attacks in Paris at the Charlie Hebdo paper that we obviously followed with horror, but then when it happened in Copenhagen, it really was just a wave of shock. So I was very familiar and it was a big reason why I wanted to be part of this movie. … I think it was a very special movie to make [for everyone involved] because every one of us had a relationship to that story and knew that story and it was such an emotional day [when it happened].”

The actor thinks the Copenhagen shootings hit Danes extra hard because it wasn’t a foreign attack, but committed by a fellow Danish citizen. He said, “Here it was a Danish citizen who chose to do this, who decided that discussion is no longer an option, the only way forward is by killing the people I don’t agree with. And I think that is so tragic, and so disturbing, and so sad that we got to that point.”

“It’s also why I think it’s important that we all have to acknowledge that, as much as we might not want to, we are also part of the problem of division,” he added. “We see it all over the world — this whole weird time we live in where politics becomes ‘Mortal Kombat’ sometimes and that it’s no longer okay to disagree, [and] that if you disagree with me, you’re a bad person. We need to change our ways because it leads to destruction and fear, and it undermines what we kind of all want to achieve, and that is what I love about this movie. … It insists on the fact that we are all in this together.”

Coster-Waldau also revealed that the film’s production team asked themselves if they were making the movie too soon after the attacks and if enough time had passed so they could tackle the subject matter “with a healthy perspective, if you will.” He additionally noted that the crew was “very careful” with the storyline “because it’s a real story and we wanted to be as close to what happened on that night.”

He told Screen Rant, “It’s very sensitive because three men were killed and we were shooting in neighborhoods where that happened, where there is still a lot of tension, so I think the challenge was more about being truthful, but also be very, very careful not to make it seem as if we’re trying to take advantage of a tragedy. I’m obviously, because I was part of the creative team behind the movie, I’m proud of the movie and I feel we’ve managed that balance, but that was, I think, the biggest challenge.”

“Powder Keg” was released in select US theaters and on Video on Demand on Sept. 3 by Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Watch the trailer for “Powder Keg” below.

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Star of Movie About Deadly 2015 Copenhagen Islamic Attacks Says Film Focuses on Being ‘Truthful and Sensitive’