The Northman's Alexander Skarsgård Says Being Labeled 'A Dude Who Takes His Shirt Off' Has Cost Him Roles

Alexander Skarsgard in The Legend of Tarzan
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

As much as fans love seeing the hottest of Hollywood take their shirts off and show off what a dedicated workout routine can result in, being known as someone who looks great with their shirt off can be less than positive for actors it seems. Star of 2022’s upcoming film The Northman, Alexander Skarsgård, has opened up about being labeled as “The Guy Who Takes His Shirt Off” and how it may have affected his career negatively. Even though fans are typically pretty happy about his characters forgoing a shirt.

While actors like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Momoa are great reps of American Hollywood stars who pull off the shirtless look with ease and lean into their fit lifestyles, Alexander Skarsgård has become one of Sweden’s most recognizable actors who has become somewhat of a sex symbol, appearing with his shirt off in a number of films and TV projects.

In an interview with The Times (via Variety), Alexander Skarsgård explains that even though he has some traits typical to his fellow Swedes, he was branded as one of the “sexy hunky” actors, which then led to people not taking him seriously in his craft of acting. 

I don’t really know if that was the reason I wasn’t getting roles. Starting out in Sweden, there was stuff about being tall and blond. But most people here are tall and blond. Still, after my first job, I was on a stupid ‘sexy hunky hot list’ and then people didn’t take me seriously... If you want characters with depth but have been labeled ‘a dude who takes his shirt off,’ you’re not going to get those offers.

Now, it’s kind of important to note that Alexander Skarsgård is a member of a pretty prominent Swedish actor family, his father being Stellan Skarsgård, who is, and pretty much always has been, taken very seriously. He has appeared in a number of major American films since starting out in Sweden in the late 60s, like Good Will Hunting and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune

Alexander Skarsgård is the eldest son of Stellan Skarsgård, with one of his younger brothers being Bill Skarsgård, another domineering actor. You’ll recognize him from a lot, including his role of Pennywise in the newest version of Stephen King’s It and as Kro in the MCU’s Eternals. He’s also set to play Eric Draven in the reboot of The Crow, so he’s nabbing some pretty classic roles as well as some major new ones. His other brothers Gustaf Skarsgård and Valter Skarsgård are also successful actors who you have probably seen before. 

It’s kind of wild that Alexander Skarsgård has been cast as the hunky pretty boy who takes his shirt off, both because of his family legacy and because he himself has proven himself capable of taking on serious roles and putting on a captivating performance in them. Skarsgård’s performances in films like Melancholia and Big Little Lies are stand out, and his roles in films like Zoolander and Kill Your Darlings show range. 

Even when Alexander Skarsgård does spend the majority of a movie shirtless, like in Legend of Tarzan and his upcoming film The Northman, his abs don’t take away from what his acting brings to the screen. From what we know about The Northman so far, it’s clear that Skarsgård’s character is so much more than someone who looks good with his shirt off. He appears to have so much depth as a Viking prince out for revenge. 

Judging by what Alexander Skarsgård himself says about the possible roles he has missed out by being somewhat put in a box and labeled as the dude who takes his shirt off, it’s clear we could have missed out on some seriously amazing films with him at the helm. With The Northman steadily approaching with a release date of April 22nd, though, we aren’t totally being denied the actor in great roles, even if it does involve him looking awesome without a shirt

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.