Alexander Skarsgård details his exhausting time shooting ‘The Northman’

The Northman
Image via Focus Features

The Northman is an action-packed Viking epic that Alexander Skarsgård describes as a grueling experience.

The movie is set in Iceland at the turn of the 10th century and follows Nordic Prince Amleth (Skarsgård), who, as a young boy, witnesses the murder of his father by his uncle. He manages to escape with his life intact and vows to seek revenge for his family and to reclaim his land.

In an interview with IndieWire, Skarsgård described how difficult it was to bring the Viking warrior to life. “He absolutely is [a perfectionist]. But he’s also a genius,” he said about director Robert Eggers. “The Northman was the first time I worked on something that was so meticulously stylized, and you almost had to see it as a dance between the camera and the actors, because the camera was constantly moving, and so were we. If the timing was slightly off, then we’d have to go again. I’ve never been more tired than after those six months.”

The Northman trailer showed just how violent the story is going to be. The ax-wielding Skarsgård looked convincing in the demanding role as he fights his way through his enemies on his meaningful quest, and the scenes had the atmospheric style the innovative Eggers is known for. Both his films The Witch and The Lighthouse have been hailed for their stylistic execution, and it would seem The Northman will also have Eggers’ patented attention to detail.

Skarsgård talked about a particularly demanding scene that had to be done in a single take. “To shoot it all in one shot means you do this four-minute take,” he explained, “and then a horse deep in the background looks the wrong way and you have to do it all again … You’re so exhausted that you want to cry. You feel like you finally got all the choreography of the fight worked out, but then you have to go again and again and again. There’s always something in the background that wasn’t quite right. The flip side of that is when you finally get it, it feels like winning gold at the Olympics.”

While this isn’t his first time in an action-oriented role, it has evidently been the most taxing. Skarsgård starred in the movie Tarzan (2016) alongside Margot Robbie and played the titular, vine-swinging character, and he saw his fair share of blood in HBO’s True Blood series.

At the very least, Skarsgård will be surrounded by some top-of-the-line talent. Ethan Hawke plays his ill-fated father, King Aurvandil, Nicole Kidman plays Amleth’s mother Queen Gudrún, Anya Taylor-Joy plays Olga, a woman with cunning abilities, and Willem Dafoe plays Heimir the Fool.

The Northman will land in theaters on April 22, 2022.