This Was Probably Alexander Skarsgård's Toughest Day On Set Of The Northman

Robert Eggers ("The Lighthouse") returned to the screen last month with "The Northman," a bold, brutal and visually striking Viking revenge epic that lets Alexander Skarsgård go full feral. The film sees Prince Amleth (Skarsgård) vowing vengeance after his deceptive uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang) slaughters his father (Ethan Hawke) in cold blood, whisks his mother (Nicole Kidman) away to be his Queen, and ascends the throne. What follows is a mythic odyssey of legacy, violence, and aggressive screaming — lots of aggressive screaming. It's a bloody and unrelenting experience that transports you back to a time where savagery reigned supreme and villages were raided with the utmost barbarism.

Skarsgård gives a truly transformative performance before our eyes, but Amleth takes time to seek his revenge. He's the film protagonist, but is by no means a hero. The tragedy he suffered as a youth mutates him into a ruthless killing machine built on the foundation of a decades-long revenge path. "The Northman" is chock full of moments that feature Skarsgård unleashing a wave of Viking brutality, but there's one scene in particular that the "Legend of Tarzan" star considers the most taxing of them all. 

Mild spoilers for "The Northman" follow!

Let's gather around the campfire and ROAR our campfire song

While asked by Variety about which was the toughest day on set of "The Northman," Skarsgård spoke about that haunting Berserker ritual around the fire:

"Toughest day on set was probably...we had quite a few intense [laughs] physically and mentally difficult days. There's one scene, in which, it's a shamanic transformation, ritualistic scene, in which our characters, the Berserkers, basically transform and leave their humanity behind, and become their spirit animals. My character's name is Bjorn Ulfur, which means bear-wolf, so he basically transforms into a hybrid of a bear and a wolf, and that was not easy [laughs]."

I've been startled by plenty of movies, but never quite in the same manner as watching Skarsgård go full Berserker at the top of his lungs. It's something right out of a horror movie. The scene that Skarsgård is referring to takes place before the village raid, which can be seen throughout most of the film's marketing. But it's the feral nature of Amleth's bonfire transformation that sets the course for what "The Northman" has in store. If you've ever had to yell because you just needed to get it out (looking at you, fellow retail and restaurant workers), you'll know that building up the energy to do so can be draining, and it makes you wonder what else you're capable of. It's no wonder a scene of this intensity took a lot out of him. 

Skarsgård gives a truly frightening performance, especially in tandem with the other Bersekers. Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsbourough's haunting score, coupled with the animalistic chants of this scene makes for a really intense experience that not only shows the death of the child that once was, but the monster that he'll ultimately become. As the fire roars, Amlet's metamorphosis into the bear-wolf is less a physical one but more of spirit. By the scene's end, he has shed his empathy for human life, and embraces the absence of his humanity. It gives me chills just thinking about it.

"The Northman" is currently in theaters from Focus Features.