Alexander Skarsgard experienced a serious case of whiplash during the making of Robert Eggers’ “The Northman,” in which he plays a 10th century Viking prince seeking revenge for the murder of his father. Within the matter of a week, the Emmy-winning actor went from playing a tech billionaire in “Succession” Season 3 to getting dragged in the mud while on “The Northman” set. Skarsgard told Total Film magazine that “The Northman” was “physically and mentally the most difficult job I’ve ever had.”
“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,” Skarsgard said. “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.”
Skarsgard’s “The Northman” co-star Anya Taylor-Joy told Total Film that the film’s set conditions were pretty miserable. “I’m not a complainer, and [Eggers knows] that, but there was one day when the mud was up to my knees, and it had frozen overnight, and I’m barefoot,” she said. “It had got to a point where I think just squeaked out, ‘Please!’ And they were like, ‘Oh, 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…’”
Getting roughed up is all part of the journey on a Robert Eggers set. “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. The actor last worked with Eggers on his breakthrough directorial debut “The Witch.”
“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 contined. “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.”
Focus Features is set to open “The Northman” in theaters April 22.
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