Pro­file Travis Fim­mel

De­spite the bad hair and learn­ing lines in three lan­guages, this Aussie ac­tor is loving his role as a plun­der­ing Norse­man, writes Deb­bie Schipp.

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - CELEBRITY -

IT’S taken a decade for for­mer Calvin Klein un­der­wear model Travis Fim­mel to be­come an ‘‘overnight’’ act­ing suc­cess.

The boy from coun­try Vic­to­ria was listed as one of the next big things in the US in 2003 hot on the heels of his role in tele­vi­sion minis­eries Tarzan. He then costarred with Pa­trick Swayze in 2009 in tele­vi­sion se­ries The Beast, and has a string of movie roles to his credit.

But it wasn’t un­til he nabbed the lead role of Vik­ing war­rior Rag­nar Loth­brok in hot his­tor­i­cal drama Vik­ings that crit­ics de­cided Fim­mel, 34, had scored his ‘‘break­out’’ role.

Al­though you get the im­pres­sion fame is far from the mod­est and unas­sum­ing Fim­mel’s mind. Fact is, he’d just love to go farm­ing. Speak­ing from the set of Vik­ings in Ire­land, where film­ing is well un­der way for sea­son two, Fim­mel bats away any men­tion of the ac­co­lades he’s re­ceived for the show.

‘‘I was very for­tu­nate to get the role. I have no com­plaints,’’ he says.

‘‘The scripts are bril­liantly writ­ten. The cre­ator, Michael Hirst, is hugely tal­ented. So ev­ery­thing you need as an ac­tor is in that script.’’

Fim­mel’s chal­lenge is to make his Vik­ing war­rior hero re­lat­able – de­spite the Norse­man rep­u­ta­tion for rap­ing, pil­lag­ing and plun­der­ing.

It’s meant a crash-course in what his­tory is avail­able about the fear­some war­riors, which has proven an il­lu­mi­nat­ing and fas­ci­nat­ing study.

‘‘They were cu­ri­ous peo­ple, the Vik­ings. They wanted to know what else was out there in the world,’’ Fim­mel says.

‘‘There wasn’t enough re­sources where they were from for them to sur­vive with their pop­u­la­tion go­ing up, so they had rea­son to go out and – well I’m not sure about the rape – but they had rea­son to go and plun­der and dis­cover new lands.

‘‘The thing is, they never read or wrote. So ev­ery­thing doc­u­mented about them was doc­u­mented by the peo­ple that they at­tacked, so you get this fear­some per­spec­tive.

‘‘So our job has been to hu­man­ise them a lit­tle. Try to put in con­text for peo­ple their be­liefs and the rea­sons why they did what they did when they in­vaded.’’

While the war­rior in his al­ter-ego Loth­brok may be fear­some, Fim­mel says Vik­ings have their sav­ing graces.

‘‘They love their chil­dren, they love their fam­ily and they want to help out their com­mu­nity,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s a very hu­man trait that from a per­sonal level ev­ery­body al­ways thinks they are the one do­ing the right thing. No­body ac­tu­ally thinks to them­selves, ‘I am a bad guy’.

‘‘Look at the Vik­ings’ ref­er­ence points that they lived by – it was an hon­our to die.

‘‘That’s why they were un­afraid to die in bat­tle – be­cause it was pas­sage to their own ver­sion of heaven.’’

He ad­mires Loth­brok’s cu­rios­ity and his am­bi­tion.

‘‘Noth­ing’s ever good enough. He doesn’t do things by halves. He’s al­ways try­ing to prove him­self and bet­ter his life and bet­ter his fam­ily’s life,’’ Fim­mel says.

‘‘He does some hor­ri­ble stuff by to­day’s be­liefs and, as an ac­tor, it’s my job to make him like­able and get the au­di­ence, if not sup­port­ing him, un­der­stand­ing him – even though he’s at­tack­ing in­no­cent peo­ple.’’

The ath­letic Fim­mel, who ex­celled at AFL as a teenager and spent un­til he was 17 work­ing on his par­ents’ farm (and still high­tails it back there when­ever pos­si­ble to work), has no prob­lems with the phys­i­cal­i­ties re­quired to play Loth­brok.

‘‘I think Aussies al­ways try to keep fit, and I just grew up do­ing phys­i­cal work on the farm so it hap­pens nat­u­rally,’’ he says.

The Vik­ing com­bat scenes come eas­ily, thanks to ‘‘great sword masters and chore­og­ra­phers on set’’, but he strug­gles to re­mem­ber lines.

‘‘It’s like be­ing at school and do­ing home­work. I never liked school, so I don’t like do­ing lines,’’ he says.

The fact that those lines may be in any one of three lan­guages – English, Saxon or Norse – only in­creases the frus­tra­tions.

‘‘Dur­ing takes there are a lot of di­alects,’’ Fim­mel says. ‘‘And be­tween takes, there’s a lot of very Aus­tralian di­alect – swear­ing – from me.’’

Fim­mel may like to dis­ap­pear to the farm be­tween roles, but while shoot­ing Vik­ings he’s found it dif­fi­cult to blend in with the crowd. That’s thanks largely to a hairstyle best de­scribed as out-of-con­trol Mo­hawk­meets-mul­let, com­ple­mented by an out-of­con­trol bushranger beard.

‘‘Well, yeah it’s pretty em­bar­rass­ing,’’ he laughs.

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