How Alexander Skarsgård Transformed Into a Viking for ‘The Northman’

Alexander Skarsgård has been drawn to Viking tales since childhood. His household’s dwelling on the Swedish island of Öland was surrounded by historic runestones, monuments erected to commemorate Vikings who had died with nice honor in battle. Growing up among the many legend of these feared warriors, the actor has lengthy carried a need to inform their story in a extra genuine gentle. That need turned a actuality when he met with director Robert Eggers for an early assembly that may result in The Northman.

“This is more than a big action movie, even though there’s a lot of action in it,” says Skarsgård. Based on the Old Norse story that impressed Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the story follows Prince Amleth from youth to maturity on a quest for bloody vengeance for his slain father. The lore has been mixed with diligent analysis to create an odyssey that honors each the brutal actuality and the mythology of the Viking Age. “I believe working with Robert we were able to create something special that hasn’t been seen before.”

We spoke with Skarsgård about turning into a Viking berserker (frenzied Norse warrior), coaching with axes, and extra.

A shirtless Alexander Skårsgard doing battle as a Viking warrior in The Northman.
Courtesy Image

Men’s Journal: How does it really feel to have your Viking epic lastly out on the planet?

Alexander Skarsgård: I’ve been harboring a dream to do a mission like this since I used to be a younger boy in Sweden. I spent my summers on an island within the Baltic, and a few of my earliest recollections are of studying inscriptions on Viking runestones. I used to be mesmerized by them. I might faux I used to be a Viking as a child. I used to be so obsessed I even gave my two youthful brothers their very own Viking names. So Gustaf’s precise authorized center title is Ormr, which implies snake, and Sam’s is Ymir, which was the title of the primary big in Norse mythology. I think about it an understatement to say that doing this film and having it out there’s a dream come true.

Going into filming, what did your Viking character require you to seem like bodily?

The first time we see my character Amleth in maturity, he’s a berserker—a part of this savage preventing crew inside a Viking military doing raids alongside the Russian rivers in an space that’s now Ukraine. He’s being utilized by the Viking chieftain because the tip of the spear for his invasion. He, alongside together with his group of fellow berserkers, are thrown into the lion’s den to provoke the assaults whereas the remainder of the drive is available in as a second wave.

So it was necessary that the character seem like he was bodily able to a great quantity of violence. His complete goal at that time in his life is to wreak havoc. He’s misplaced his approach and forgotten the mission he had given himself as a younger boy. Now he’s getting used as a weapon to assault villages for the achieve of others. I wanted to make it possible for he seemed as imposing and intimidating as doable.

You labored with coach Magnus Lygdbäck to get into form for the position. What did you want about working with him?

Magnus and I spent 9 months collectively whereas capturing Tarzan. That was the primary time I’d ever labored with a private coach. It was the primary time I needed to drastically change my physique for a position. We didn’t know precisely how my physique was going to answer his exercise plan and weight-reduction plan. I used to be very harassed and nervous about whether or not we had been going to get the place we would have liked to go so far as physique objectives. I had a laborious time stress-free and carried that stress by means of a lot of the prep and into the shoot.

The course of was a lot easier this time round as a result of we knew one another—and the way my physique was going to answer sure coaching and diets. I wouldn’t say that made the work any simpler as a result of we educated extraordinarily laborious from the beginning. There was a great period of time within the gymnasium and battle choreography to study, however at the very least I may sleep at evening! I used to be purported to be extremely lean whereas staying muscular after I was doing Tarzan and that meant a very restrictive weight-reduction plan. I couldn’t even have an orange juice or a drop of alcohol due to the sugar. The scenario was completely different for The Northman, as a result of I wasn’t portraying this extremely popular character that folks had all of those preconceived notions about. I’m enjoying a warrior of an authentic design primarily based on what we all know of the time—so we had extra room to work with so long as the majority was there. The purpose was to construct a physique that seemed like the mixture of a wolf and a bear.

I’m guessing it was good to get a break from the weight-reduction plan on occasion.

Because it was extra concerning the mass and never a lot about being fully shredded, I may often blow off the weight-reduction plan. I used to be allowed to have the random indulgent meal or the occasional beer. That helped a lot, as a result of movie shoots are lengthy and a bit of excellent meals or drink can go a good distance towards your happiness.

What was the weapons coaching like?

I saved the axes and hatchets near me, since you want these while you’re preventing 300 troopers. There had been months earlier than filming the place we had been capable of work with the weapons from hatchets to spears. Magnus and I attempted to include a lot of that into our coaching within the gymnasium—working with weights that stimulated the identical muscle teams as these weapons. There was even a second sword made so I may practice with it throughout our periods. During a a part of the movie, my character is enslaved on a Viking farming neighborhood, so we did a lot of coaching to imitate the handbook labor he was pressured to do on that farm. I used to be lugging large items of rock round. Doing that form of coaching felt very purposeful.

The battle sequences in The Northman are epic, and accomplished principally in lengthy pictures with steady motion. How laborious had been these scenes to movie?

They had been actually, actually tough. The type of capturing that we had been using for this movie was very particular and exact—with no cuts or stopping. So the battle scenes had been these lengthy takes, which is difficult as a result of there’s a lot that may go incorrect, and if one thing does you must begin from the start. Most films do inserts or digicam modifications to substitute a new shoot when there’s a mess up, however we weren’t working with that security web. Those warfare battle sequences that had been three minutes lengthy needed to be executed completely. The expertise was grueling and fully exhausting—however price it ultimately.

The Northman is now enjoying in theaters.


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