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Actors know to expect the unexpected. After all, part of the job is becoming wildly different characters from one role to the next. And oftentimes, therein lies the challenge. But with The Northman, director Robert Eggers posed a particularly challenge to his cast. Star Alexander Skarsgård needed to embody a character hellbent on revenge. The actor has admitted how exhausting The Northman was to make. And now he’s elaborated on the film’s most “primal” moment.

'The Northman' star Alexander Skarsgård wears black and poses
‘The Northman’ star Alexander Skarsgård | TOLGA AKMEN/AFP

Alexander Skarsgård plays a Viking out for revenge in ‘The Northman’

In The Northman, Skarsgård plays Amleth, a Viking prince who flees his mom after his father (Ethan Hawke) is murdered. As a young boy, he witnesses such violence, and that shapes the bloodthirsty man he becomes. And audiences get to witness his efforts to avenge his father’s death and rescue his mother (Nicole Kidman).

Fans of Eggers’ previous movies might know to expect incredible attention to detail in The Northman. After all, the film is the director’s third period piece, following 2015’s The Witch and 2019’s The Lighthouse. Even before his latest movie hit theaters, critics were already praising the production, relentless pacing, and intense violence.

The actor admitted a ‘primal’ moment during the climax took a toll on him

So it’s no wonder that Skarsgård underwent such a challenging time while filming The Northman. In a conversation with Empire, the actor opened up about his experience making the movie.

“It was the end of a very long, complex shot of the Viking berserkers raiding a Slav village. The choreography was so difficult, with all these elements, 50 people fighting simultaneously, the extras and the horses… making it look perfect was a real undertaking. … That climax, where I rip a guy’s throat out and howl at the moon… it was primal. I just let it all out. I was exhausted, and I think you see it in the shot. I was a wreck. Truly a wreck.”

Indeed, Eggers’ movie doesn’t compromise with its vision of brutality. But given the world in which Amleth lives — and indeed the mission he devotes his life to — that approach certainly fits the story The Northman is telling.

Could ‘The Northman’ become Robert Eggers’ biggest hit to date?

In some respects, The Northman feels like the culmination of everything Eggers has done in his career so far. The film is by far the most expansive, the most expensive, and the most ambitious he’s tackled. And it features returning players from both of his previous movies, Anya Taylor-Joy of The Witch and Willem Dafoe of The Lighthouse.

But will The Northman be Eggers’ biggest box office hit? That’s a loaded question. Given the movie’s budget — reported to be as high as $90 million, according to The New Yorker — it will likely fall short of turning a profit during its theatrical run. However, it’s all but certain to exceed the $40 million worldwide gross of The Witch.


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