‘The Northman’ star breaks down the naked swordfight scene

The Northman
Image via Focus Features

Warning: Spoilers for The Northman to follow.

In an interview with IndieWire, Emmy award-winning leading man Alexander Skarsgård gave some insight into The Northman‘s climactic finale, including how particular the cast and crew were about the choerography, and the creative decisions behind the scenes that were informed by the history that lends itself to the film.

Be warned, from here on out, this article will contain spoilers for The Northman’s climax. So close out now if you want to catch the flick in theaters (or if you’re holding out for streaming).

Based on the story of Scandinavian folk hero Amleth, The Northman is the story of the aforementioned protagonist seeking long-desired revenge against his uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang), who murdered Amleth’s father and usurped the kingdom. In the film’s climax, Amleth ultimately exacts retribution against Fjölnir, but not before engaging in a long duel with him atop a volcano. As if that wasn’t intense enough, the two actors donned nothing but flesh-coloured thongs for the scene, so as to make their combatants appear to fight each other naked.

According to Skarsgård, who plays Amleth in the film, the nudity was a must for this scene, citing stories about real-life Vikings stripping down before a fight in order to intimidate and shock their opponent; if we understand being naked as being vulnerable, to willingly participate in a fight whilst naked is a sign of courage.

The actor noted the amount of planning and rehearsal that went into getting the footage, also commenting on how much easier it is to portray violence in film than nudity; a dichotomy that has raised many questions and sparked about as many conversations.

“We had to be smart about the way we choreographed that sequence and the relationship between us and the camera,” said Skarsgård. “All those big scenes, you just have to meticulously plan and rehearse and go over it again and again, so you find that fluidity, the flow of the scene.”

“In our puritanical society, it’s easier to portray violence on screen than nudity, which I find quite strange.”

The Northman releases in theatres across the United States on April 22.