‘The Northman’ Star Alexander Skarsgård Doesn’t Remember Filming the Movie: ‘It’s a Muddy, Bloody Haze’

The Northman stars Alexander Skarsgård as the Viking prince, Amleth, and tells a Hamlet-like tale of betrayal and revenge. Parts of the movie were shot in grueling conditions. And when trying to recall details of his performance, Skarsgård just remembers it being a “muddy, bloody haze.”

'The Northman' Alexander Skarsgård as Amleth shirtless covered in blood holding a weapon in each hand
Alexander Skarsgård as Amleth | Focus Features

Alexander Skarsgård can’t remember the Old Norse he spoke in ‘The Northman’ 

Skarsgård joins Nicole Kidman, Anya-Taylor Joy, Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, and Björk in Robert Eggers’ The Northman. The Viking saga follows Prince Amleth as he seeks revenge on his uncle for killing his father. 

In a few scenes, Skarsgård’s Prince Amleth chants in Old Norse. The actor had to learn and memorize the ancient dialogue. But when trying to remember what exactly he said, the actor admitted he could hardly recall filming the movie. 

I don’t remember any of it, it’s been a year,” Skarsgård said in an IMDb fan Q & A.  “And I barely remember shooting the movie. It was just like a muddy, bloody haze.”

What Skarsgård did remember was how similar Old Norse is to Swedish, his mother tongue. And he noted some of the words in the dialogue were recognizable. 

Robert Eggers thinks filming conditions made Alexander Skarsgård’s performances better in ‘The Northman’ 

Some of The Northman scenes were filmed in muddy rainy conditions. And according to Eggers, those challenging aspects of the shoots may have fueled Skarsgård’s gripping performance. 

“I’m just trying to get the scene, but I think that some of Alex’s performance is just because he wanted to wring my neck,” the filmmaker told IndieWire. “That’s not any kind of calculated, sadistic directing technique. It’s just like, we had focus buzz, or the lens was fogged, or somebody slipped in the mud and the take wasn’t usable.” 

Eggers revealed that one intense ritual scene required the cast to work in the cold and rain all night long. And when the scene had to be re-filmed, Skarsgård thought Eggers did it on purpose. 

“The adrenaline these guys had to do this over and over again was so sustained,” he said. “Then we got it and it was like, ‘That’s a wrap, thanks everybody, go home, wonderful job.'” 

“And then, as everybody’s getting in their cars on the way back to the trailer, taking off their stuff, we realized the lens was fogged on the good take,” Eggers continued. “So we said, ‘You guys have to come back, put your wet stuff back on, and do it again.’ Alex was like, ‘You did that deliberately!'” 

Alexander Skarsgård calls ‘The Northman’ his most challenging project yet

Skarsgård has been in several blockbuster series and films, including Big Little Lies and Godzilla Vs. Kong. But citing the grueling conditions, the award-winning actor calls The Northman his most challenging project yet. 

“It was physically and mentally the most difficult job I’ve ever had, but also the most rewarding,” he told Total Film. “The days were really long and hard, and we were out in the mud, and up on these mountaintops with the wind and the cold.”

Ironically, the week before he started filming The Northman, Skarsgård was shooting his scenes as tech billionaire Lukas Matson in Lake Como for Succession

“So I literally went from playing one of the richest dudes on the planet in a crazy, beautiful villa, surrounded by yachts and helicopters and luxury, and got on a plane and flew to Iceland to get shackled and dragged through the mud,” he recalled. “It was definitely a waking-up moment and a humbling experience.”

The Northman opens in theaters on April 22.

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