Alexander Skarsgård talks about going Berserker


You’ve played a Viking before, as that was the backstory of your vampire in True Blood, Eric Northman. There’s that word again!

Yeah, we shot a flashback to how I was “turned”, and it was during the Viking Age. It was around that time I started thinking about one day playing a Viking in a film, and to do that for a few days on True Blood got me even more excited. It’s something I’ve been secretly dreaming of for many years. I’ve been fascinated by Viking culture since I was a kid. We grew up, in the summers, on an island in the Baltic on which there are hundreds of runestones from the Viking Age. Some of my earliest memories are walking around looking at these runestones with my grandfathe­r, and imagining what these Viking raids down to Constantin­ople and Mesopotami­a a thousand years ago would entail. So you could say it’s a dream role.

Why was Robert Eggers the right director to collaborat­e with?

I happened to have a meeting with Rob regarding something else. Afterwards, we ended up talking about Vikings for two hours. That, and having seen The Witch

– the extraordin­ary depth of that movie – made me feel that he’d be the perfect filmmaker. He works almost as a scholar in his approach to filmmaking. He spent two to three years working with the top Viking scholars and historians about every detail. We could have a sword, but if it looked like something from the late 11th century rather than the beginning, that wouldn’t be good enough.

How demanding was the shoot?

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my career. Rob’s style of shooting is incredibly meticulous. There are no cuts in almost any of the scenes. They’re all single-camera – almost like a dance between the actors and the camera. When you have something like the Berserker raid of the Slav village, with 40 to 50 stuntmen and actors, hundreds of extras, and horses, it was incredibly draining. Doing it once is exhausting, but then you have to do it 29 more times; sometimes everything looks great, but there’s a horse deep in the background facing the wrong way. On a “normal” movie you have coverage, so it’s not the end of the world if one second of that two-minute scene isn’t perfect, because you can cut around it, but we didn’t have that luxury. So we were all incredibly tired. But when you finally get a take Rob is happy with, it’s the best feeling ever – it’s like winning gold at the Olympics!

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