More bothersome, though, has been the rumormongering about his social life. A paparazzi picture of a playful canoodle with Cameron Diaz on a Manhattan park bench during the filming of The Other Woman was printed in tabloids on both sides of the Atlantic and posted online, sometimes without a clarification that the two were acting. "My wife started getting letters from women all over," he says, shaking his head. "'You should know that your husband is cheating on you with Cameron Diaz. Cameron Diaz is not to be trusted.' My wife just laughed, but still . . ."

"He's handsome as hell, which makes him a very easy person to hate," says Nick Cassavetes, who directed The Other Woman and that park-bench scene. "But he'd better get used to it, because he's going to be the biggest movie star. I'm serious. He's got the looks, the talent, the charisma—I'm flipping through scripts right now looking for parts for him."

One of the great advantages of delayed success, of having fame dangled and then snatched from him so many times, is that Coster-Waldau doesn't let himself get swept up by predictions like Cassavetes'. Experience has given him a sense of perspective, of managed expectations—to put it in Danish terms, a sense of how high his ears can carry him.

Back at the café, he's staring out the window at the blizzard. The hailstones have been replaced by snowflakes as big as cotton balls, turning Copenhagen into a life-size souvenir shake globe. "Every three or four years," Coster-Waldau says as the waitress slowly clears the table, "something comes along that makes people say, 'This is going to be crazy! This is going to change your life!'" He laughs, simultaneously channeling Jante and flashing that movie-star grin. "I don't believe it can change your life. How can it? It's just a job."