Alexander Skarsgard Says Shooting The Northman Was His Most Difficult Job Ever

Many actors go through grueling physical punishment for roles, whether it's Christian Bale transforming his body like he was made of Play-Doh or the pain suffered by the cast of "Suicide Squad" while acting with Jared "I send the grossest things as gifts" Leto. Similarly, ask anyone on the cast of "The Batman" and they'll talk about their intense experiences on set. 

Now that "The Batman" is about to be unleashed on audiences, it's time to look at the next film that made its cast miserable for the sake of our entertainment: "The Northman."

The hard life of a Viking

You may be shocked to hear that a movie about Vikings was a physically-demanding experience. As trailers have already shown, Robert Eggers' latest offering is full of brutal battles, whether it's one-on-one sword fights, raids, sieges, or the occasional naked swordfight on a volcano. It is not a huge surprise, then, to hear its main star, Alexander Skarsgård, say the film was "physically and mentally the most difficult job I've ever had, but also the most rewarding" during an interview with Total Film for the new issue of the magazine (via GamesRadar).

Skarsgård continues:

"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. 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."

Thing is, he wasn't the only one to say something to this effect. In that same interview, his co-star Anya Taylor-Joy also commented on the physical demands of shooting the film. "I'm not a complainer," she said:

"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. 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...'"

It seems Eggers was really going for authenticity while shooting "The Northman," which makes me wonder about the naked volcano fight.

A tale of Viking revenge

According to Robert Eggers, "The Northman" was inspired by an actual Norse legend, the tale of "Amleth," which in turn inspired "Hamlet." The legend tells the story of a prince whose father dies at the hands of his power-hungry brother, who then marries the widowed queen, forcing the prince to enact revenge.

When the trailer for "The Northman" came out, however, it bore a striking resemblance not to William Shakespeare's play, but to a Japanese story about Vikings. "Vinland Saga" is a manga series written by Makoto Yukimura, later adapted into a wonderful anime by "Attack on Titan" animation studio WIT. That epic tale tells the story of Thorfinn, the young son of a mighty warrior who deserted a battle and fled to Iceland looking for some peace and quiet. Of course, things are not that simple, and when he gets betrayed and murdered, Thorfinn will swear revenge. What makes that show fascinating is the great care it pays to historical facts, drawing from Norse sagas and involving several historical figures into its story, many of which will be familiar to "Vikings: Valhalla" viewers. 

If you want some hot Viking action to keep you waiting until you can see Alexander Skarsgård freeze and get dragged through the mud, "Vinland Saga" will do the trick. Plus, it features one of the greatest anime villains of the past decade.

"The Northman" will raid theaters on April 22, 2022.