Alexander Skarsgård On How The Northman Compares To Other Viking-Inspired Films He’s Seen, Including Thor: Ragnarok

Alexander Skarsgard's Amileth wears a bear's head and screams in the dark in 'The Northman.'
(Image credit: Focus Features)

We wouldn’t have guessed it years ago but, as of late, the Vikings genre has seen an uprising. Between the wildly popular Vikings series from The History Channel, to its Netflix spinoff, along with How To Train Your Dragon, The Last Kingdom and the Thor movies, there have been plenty of successful properties inspired by the Scandinavian seafaring people. And this weekend, Alexander Skarsgård stars as a Viking warrior prince in The Northman, which differs from other films in the genre.

The Northman is an A24 film from writer/director Robert Eggers, who previously made critically acclaimed favorites The Witch and The Lighthouse. While Skarsgård spoke about his latest flick, he shared the story behind the film with these words: 

How this idea was born was basically about 10 years ago I started thinking about how I've never seen a historically accurate depiction of the Viking age. I've never seen a big, epic Viking adventure film based on the old Icelandic sagas that captures the laconic tone that's really harsh, just like the landscape. It started to percolate in my head about why I've never really seen that.

Alexander Skarsgård, who is a producer on The Northman (and got seriously ripped to play the lead role) told Slash Film that a decade ago he had aspirations to see the Viking age be depicted in a historically accurate way, but he’d never seen it be accomplished. Skarsgård was born in Sweden, which makes his ancestors perhaps directly aligned with the Vikings. 

Of course, his father is Stellan Skarsgård, who coincidentally starred in two of the Thor movies. The younger Skarsgård spoke to the difference between The Northman and Marvel’s depictions of Norse mythology: 

I think that the ‘Thor’ movies are wonderful, and they obviously take a lot of creative freedom. They're very inspired by a lot of the old sagas and have elements of them, but they've turned into something else. I think they're very entertaining. Taika [Waititi] is a dear friend of mine, he did an amazing job on his ‘Thor’ movie. I loved it, thought it was super funny, but again was wondering why there had never been a more realistic or more grounded Viking movie.

The Northman features an incredible cast including Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe and Björk. The movie was born out of Alexander Skarsgård’s own desire to make a Vikings film, which later turned into a discussion with Robert Eggers, who co-wrote and helmed it. The movie is an action epic that serves as a revenge tale for a Viking prince who seeks justice for his father’s murder. 

Thor, on the other hand, is based on Norse mythology and Marvel comics, making it a lot more shiny than the grimy and relentless world of The Northman. Chris Hemsworth’s God of Thunder will return this summer with Thor: Love and Thunder

The film has earned rave reviews from critics overall, with CinemaBlend also giving the flick a great 4.5 out of 5 stars in our review. The site’s own Eric Eisenberg called the movie “hypnotizing” and “special” when describing his experience with the film. The film managed to hit the No. 4 position at the box office during its opening weekend, earning $12 million. It's a special movie, one that's made all the more unique by its faithfulness to Viking culture.

Check out our interviews with the cast of The Northman and stay up to date on the upcoming 2022 movie releases coming next on CinemaBlend. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.