‘The Northman’: Alexander Skarsgård Was ‘Shackled’ and ‘Dragged’ Through the Mud on Set

Alexander Skargsård went from filming the extravagance of Succession to the grittiness of The Northman. However, he doesn’t regret the experience, even despite having a really difficult time on the set. Skarsgård explained how he was “shackled” and “dragged” through the mud on the film set of The Northman. His co-star, Anya Taylor-Joy, echoes his story with her own horrors.

‘The Northman’ actor Alexander Skarsgård plays Amleth

'The Northman' Alexander Skarsgård as Amleth screaming with animal  head
Alexander Skarsgård as Amleth | Aidan Monaghan/Focus Features

The Witch and The Lighthouse filmmaker Robert Eggers wrote and directed The Northman alongside co-writer Sjón. The action-packed movie intends to ground audiences within its world in Iceland during the 10th century. The Northman follows a Nordic prince named Amleth (Skarsgård). He’s seeking revenge after his uncle kills his father.

Skarsgård leads The Northman in the lead role. He intends to take his rightful seat on the throne, although it won’t be so easy. Amleth will undoubtedly have to make choices between love for his family and violence toward his enemies. The original story supposedly inspired William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Alexander Skarsgård was ‘shackled’ and ‘dragged’ through the mud in a difficult, yet rewarding experience

Total Film interviewed The Northman actor Skarsgård about his experience filming The Northman. He talked about the serious difficulties in getting through it, but he also called it “rewarding.” Eggers appears to really put his actors through the wringer, but the finished product always proves to be worth all of the pain.

“It was physically and mentally the most difficult job I’ve ever had, but also the most rewarding,” Skarsgård said. “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.”

Skarsgård continued: “The week prior, I was working on the television show Succession, on which I play a tech billionaire in a villa on Lake Como. 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. It was definitely a waking-up moment and a humbling experience.”

‘The Northman’ co-star Anya Taylor-Joy ‘squeaked out’ for help in the freezing mud

However, Skarsgård wasn’t the only actor who had difficulty getting through The Northman. His co-star, Taylor-Joy, also had a particularly hard time getting through some of the set’s conditions. Eggers called her a “trooper” to Total Film.

“I’m not a complainer, and Rob and Jarin know that, but there was one day when the mud was up to my knees, and it had frozen overnight, and I’m barefoot,” Taylor-Joy said. “It had got to a point where I think just squeaked out, ‘Please!’ And they were like, ‘Oh, OK, it’s bad. It’s really bad. We need to get this done. If Anya’s saying, ‘Can we please roll? I can’t stand here any longer … ‘”

Taylor-Joy looks back on the authenticity of the film. The experience on the set reflects back to drawing out the best possible performances from these actors.

“Because of the authenticity that we’re bringing to it, in terms of the costume, in terms of the landscape … we don’t have to imagine much,” Taylor-Joy said. “You can just inhabit. You can just exist. You’re not on a stage where the director is saying, ‘Hey, remember, it’s really bloody cold.’”

Taylor-Joy concluded: “It gives you a real appreciation as to how tough these people were. Because nothing about this life is easy. There is no cushy going home and watching a movie while you’re all toasty, eating dinner. No, it’s pretty miserable all of the time.”

The Northman hits theaters on April 22.

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