Alexander Skarsgård was “intimidated” by Hafþór Björnsson in The Northman

Alexander Skarsgård stars as Amleth in director Robert Eggers’ Viking epic THE NORTHMAN, a Focus Features release.Credit: Aiden Monaghan / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC
Alexander Skarsgård stars as Amleth in director Robert Eggers’ Viking epic THE NORTHMAN, a Focus Features release.Credit: Aiden Monaghan / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC /

We live in an age of moviemaking where just about anything is possible with visual effects, but there are still some things that no amount of movie magic can fake, including the sheer size of Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, the actor who played the Mountain on Game of Thrones and the world’s strongest man. Björnsson made a huge impression during his time on Thrones, which helped launch his acting career.

Björnsson’s latest is The Northman, a Viking revenge movie from The Witch director Robert Eggers. The movie stars Alexander Skarsgård as Prince Amleth. When Amleth’s father (Ethan Hawke) is murdered and his mother (Nicole Kidman) is captured, Amleth flees, intending to one day return and set things to rights. He passes himself off as a slave in order to stay under the radar, which is where he meets another slave played by Björnsson.

Game of Thrones
Image: Game of Thrones/HBO /

Alexander Skarsgård recalls the intimidation of filming with Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson

According to Skarsgård, it was pretty intimidating to film a fight scene with Björnsson. We’ve all seen what happened to Oberyn Martell, so that’s pretty easy to imagine.

“[Björnsson] came out to set when we were shooting a scene, the first time you meet Amleth. Hafþór wasn’t, obviously, working that day, but he came to set just to say hi to everyone. And, yes, I was intimidated,” Skarsgård told Entertainment Weekly. “Shaking Hafþór’s hand — I’m 6′ 4” — I was like [Skarsgård strains his head to look up], ‘Hi, sir. It’s a pleasure.’ His hand just dwarfed mine.”

"He tried to go easy on me, but he still has to tap me lightly and I just went flying. I was definitely quite sore after that week of filming. You do not want to fight the strongest man on the planet."

Björnsson, for the record, is 6’9” and weighs over 300 lbs. So yeah, even tiny little taps from that guy could end up feeling like a hammer blow.

Nonetheless, the heavyweight is a consummate professional. Director Robert Eggers confirmed that Björnsson was a man of few words but was committed to getting his scenes down well. “We’d do a take, and he would be like, ‘Are you happy with Hafþór?’ I’m like, ‘Yes. Yes, it’s great.’ ”

Filming on The Northman was “borderline insane”

Facing off against Björnsson wasn’t the only challenging aspect of filming The Northman. Skarsgård reflected on a raid scene where dozens of extra and animals were all running around the set to simulate the chaos. “It’s an undertaking that is almost borderline insane,” the actor said, “but I also really thrive on that, the madness of that and the possibility of shooting a big action scene like that in a way that could potentially feel more immersive than all the other action movies.”

The Northman is out now in theaters.

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h/t Yahoo! Entertainment