Alexander Skarsgård Wants to Teach You All About The Vikings

Alexander Skarsgård is fearful he’s already mentioned an excessive amount of. “I feel the less people know when they go in to see the movie, the better,” the actor tells TIME about his newest movie The Northman, a brutal Viking epic, out April 22. Yet his ardour for the challenge, which he spent years making an attempt to make with Danish movie producer Lars Knudsen earlier than teaming up with director Robert Eggers, has made him fairly chatty—even when he needs in any other case. “I don’t want people to hear my voice in their head while they’re watching [The Northman] going, This is how you should interpret this,” he mentioned. “I want them to get lost in the world and take from it what they will.”

The Northman is the sort of movie that’s straightforward to get misplaced in. Skarsgård performs Amleth, a Viking prince-turned-warrior who units out on a bloody and mystical journey to avenge his father, King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke), save his mom, Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman), and kill his traitorous uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang). The Northman, which has been referred to as the “most accurate Viking movie ever made,” mixes Viking Age historical past with mythology. (It’s based mostly on the early Thirteenth-century story written by Danish historian Saxo, which impressed William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.) The result’s an immersive, affecting journey. Skarsgård realized this first-hand following the movie’s world premiere in his birthplace of Stockholm, Sweden, when these in attendance shared their takes on the film’s closing shot with him. “Some people saw it as a happy ending, some people were sad, some people felt that it was a life wasted. Others felt that Amleth had accomplished something monumental,” he mentioned. “That really inspired me.”

For those who don’t thoughts understanding slightly extra about The Northman, Skarsgård spoke to TIME about changing into a bear-wolf man, being starstruck by Björk, and his favourite Viking enjoyable reality.

Much has been mentioned of the analysis director Robert Eggers did to ensure The Northman was as traditionally correct as attainable. What had been you studying or watching to arrange for the function?

Just like Robert, my go-to Viking Bible, my supply of inspiration, was Neil Price, who was additionally a guide on the film. His e book, The Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings, it’s a very nice learn in regards to the tradition and in addition how the Vikings lived, their relationships to the non secular world, and their gods. I realized in regards to the fylgja, the feminine spirits inside all Vikings that management their destiny, and the Nords, these three feminine entities which can be arguably essentially the most highly effective creatures in the entire Norse mythology, which is so integral to the story and what provides Amleth company. For anybody who’s I extremely advocate Neil’s e book. It’s a very nice learn and actually accessible. It’s mainly if the Bible had been written by somebody on mushrooms.

Why was it so necessary to you that The Northman was so steeped in Viking historical past?

I’m all for taking inventive freedoms and liberties, however we tried to keep away from that in The Northman so that it’s going to really feel as in the event you’re being transported again in time. That the viewers will see the world via the eyes of Amleth and perceive the complexity of it. The purpose was to try to give an correct depiction [of the Viking Age] and go a bit deeper into the mythology. We wished to keep away from clichés on the subject of the Vikings and really get to know the true characters behind these clichés. We wished to point out a number of fantastical components that may appear loopy to us in 2022, however to Amleth, dwelling a thousand years in the past, it’s utterly regular. He expects the Valkyrie to choose him up when he’s lifeless and he’s not stunned when he has to duel a 7-foot-tall skeleton large. All that supernatural stuff is predicated on tales he’s been advised since he was very younger so it’s as actual as the bottom he’s standing on.

Some have joked that your expertise on The Northman may give Leonardo DiCaprio’s expertise on the 2015 movie The Revenant a run for its cash. As far as I do know you didn’t sleep in any bear carcasses, however what made this such a tough movie to shoot?

Rob [Eggers] is all about authenticity so the struggle scenes had been shot in very distant areas up round Northern Ireland and Iceland, and that was a blessing and a curse. It’s logistically sort of a nightmare taking pictures on a mountaintop, with the rain and the wind and the chilly. There are not any roads, so you’ll be able to’t get gear up there, however that makes it much more of an immersive expertise for us actors in entrance of the digital camera. You don’t need to fake that it’s chilly or moist, every thing is actual and it’s not a set constructed on a soundstage. You’re really out within the components. I sort of thrived on that. It was bodily and mentally powerful, however I cherished that approach of working, as difficult because it was.

What was essentially the most difficult scene to movie?

The hardest was most likely the ultimate struggle on the volcano as a result of it was not solely a technically difficult scene, however it additionally needed to be the emotional climax of the film. So to attempt to instill that at 5 o’clock within the morning whenever you’re freezing chilly out and also you’re bare, coated in blood and dust, and making an attempt to recollect the choreography of a protracted sword struggle, all of the whereas remembering the place your character’s at and what’s occurring within the story was fairly powerful.

Amleth carries himself like a beast. How did you create his animal-like stroll? How did the bodily transformation assist you to get into the psyche of this character?

I attempted to revert again to one thing extra primal, however it’s all in his warrior identify: Bjorn Ulfur, which implies bear-wolf. There’s this scene, the shamanic ritual that he goes via earlier than the raid during which he sheds his humanity and turns into his spirit animal, the hybrid of a wolf and a bear. I felt that it was crucial to attempt to embody that and really feel that in Amleth’s physique, which might be a bit extra bear-like in his posture and the way in which he strikes. You see it in his eyes as nicely. After he completes the ritual, the deserted little boy who additionally exists inside him is totally gone. He’s a predator.

You set to work with Björk on this movie, which marked her return to appearing after greater than 20 years. What was the expertise of working reverse her like?

Absolutely magical. Björk hasn’t achieved a film since Dancer within the Dark so to share that second along with her was a rare privilege. She is an extremely distinctive human being and that evening [we shot the scene] was magical. Obviously whenever you shoot with Björk it’s going to be a large full moon that evening. I’ve very sturdy recollections of this beautiful moon behind her head. Björk’s sporting this unbelievable crown and I used to be pinching myself that I had the privilege of being there for that. I used to be having a tough time staying in character as a result of I used to be so awestruck and excited to be there along with her. I nearly felt like I used to be a part of the viewers, like consuming popcorn and being amazed by her efficiency.

The Northman additionally has you reteaming along with your Big Little Lies co-star Nicole Kidman. How would you describe that relationship? What makes you need to preserve working along with her?

It’s about belief. Big Little Lies was such an unbelievable expertise, partly as a result of the character of that relationship is so brutal and darkish. In order to get via that we needed to maintain one another’s fingers and utterly belief one another. Nicole and I shaped a really sturdy connection on that set and when you could have that with an actor you by no means lose it. It’s all the time there. When Nicole and I had been reunited, our first scene was a 5–web page dialogue scene during which my character confronts her. We hit the bottom working as a result of we all know one another so nicely. We simply dove in and he or she’s so phenomenal on this film. Just extraordinary.

Is there a Viking enjoyable reality you’d like to depart readers with?

There are so many, I don’t know the place to start, however there’s one little anecdote that I assumed was fairly fascinating. At evening, the Valkyries, the feminine warriors, journey down via the skies from Valhalla to gather the lifeless warriors from the battlefield. They are so busy driving forwards and backwards, selecting up all of the lifeless warriors from the battlefields, that the horses get sweaty and the sweat beads fly off the horses as they journey up and down. So whenever you get up within the morning and step out into the grass and you are feeling the morning dew, that’s really the sweat from the Valkyries horses. Ever since I learn that, everytime I’m within the countryside and I step out early within the morning into the grass and I really feel that dew, I consider the Valkyries and their horses.

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