The Northman’s Alexander Skarsgård Reveals Why He Got So Ripped For The Role

Alexander Skarsgård in The Northman.
(Image credit: Focus Features)

2022 has been full of some pretty awesome new release films, and there are plenty more to come. The Northman is one film I’ve been looking forward to seeing, and ahead of the film’s theatrical release star Alexander Skarsgård has opened up about getting super ripped for the role of the Viking prince/berserker. While the actor has certainly looked good shirtless for practically decades, there is a bigger reason why he had to go extra hard on sculpting some muscle mass for The Northman.

Alexander Skarsgård has been open in the past about being type-cast as the “Dude who takes his shirt off” in films and how it may have led to him losing out on roles. While he certainly seems to take his shirt off a good amount in The Northman if the promo material is anything to go off of, it sounds like he had to go above and beyond in getting his body ready for his shirtless scenes in The Northman.

In an interview with Empire on their podcast, Alexander Skarsgård talks about being spoiled as an actor, admitting that becoming seriously fit is actually pretty simple for those in his profession. Yeah, they’ve got to do some heavy lifting (literally), but everything is pretty much planned out for them to get the goal production wants to see on screen. Here it is in his own words:

When you're an actor, you're spoiled. You have a lot of help. The studio will get you the best trainer and the best nutritionist and the best plan. They organize everything. So you don't really have to do much. They tell you what to do and when to do it. Of course, you've got to put in some work yourself. But for The Northman, I was very excited about finally making the movie after years of pre-production, and planning, and talking to Rob about the character and the story. There's so many months and years of just hypothetically talking about the character in loose terms. But then when you start training, that's the first day when you go into real pre-production, at least for me as an actor. And it becomes very real that you're actually getting ready to do it.

While it seems obvious, it’s kind of refreshing to have a star state how straight forward training is for film. Getting fit for a role is, like Alexander Skarsgård says, all a part of the work that goes into the film. Actors transform their bodies all of the time to fit what a role calls for (sometimes to frightening degrees - I’m looking at you, Christian Bale), and for those actors who start working on a role long before cameras actually start filming, it can turn into a very real connection to their character.

Explaining even further, Alexander Skarsgård says that he was thrilled to be getting started transforming into the Viking berserker for The Northman, and that gaining muscle mass for the role was incredibly important to pull the character off. As proof of this, Skarsgård relays that his character isn’t entirely human, and has the spirit of a bear wolf. He, of course, needed the muscle and dominating figure to convincingly shed his skin to reveal such a strong and large creature. Here is what the True Blood alum says, exactly:

I was incredibly excited and motivated to actually start that journey, putting on some weight. It felt important. My character's name, when he's a berserker at the beginning of movie, is ‘Bjorn Ulfur’, which means Bear Wolf. There's a scene at the beginning of the movie in which he transforms – he sheds his human shape and becomes this spirit animal, a hybrid of a wolf and a bear. I'm a bit too lean for that character, so it was important to have a bit more bulk and be slightly more bearlike in my posture and size.

Alexander Skarsgård was already known to be a towering figure, standing at around 6’4. While he’s typically playing tall and dominating characters and was super ripped in Tarzan, he was still, overall, seen as tall and lean. After The Northman and his insane body transformation of a more savage and brutal strength, it’s possible we may see him stand up to the roles we see from actors like Henry Cavill and Chris Hemsworth, who are known for that body type. 

The Northman can already be seen in some theaters and will officially release to theaters tomorrow. People have already shared their thoughts on the film, and they are hyping Alexander Skarsgård and his character up big time, but you’ll have to form your own opinion by checking him and his new berserker body out yourself. 

Carlie Hoke
Content Writer

Constantly thinking about books, coffee, and the existential dread I feel from Bo Burnham’s Inside.  While writing I’m also raising a chaotic toddler, who may or may not have picked up personality traits from watching one too many episodes of Trailer Park Boys.