The Last Kingdom stunt coordinator talks crafting epic battle in Seven Kings Must Die

The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die. Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred in The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023
The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die. Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred in The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023 /

Earlier this month, Netflix premiered Seven Kings Must Die, a two-hour long movie concluding the epic five-season arc of Uhtred of Babbanburg from The Last Kingdom. While the movie was a little sloppy at times, one thing didn’t disappoint: The final battle was a spectacle on par with some of the very best we’ve seen in recent years, from Game of Thrones to Vikings.

The battle is a spin on the real-life Battle of Brunanburh, which took place in 937. That battle is cited as one of the defining clashes between the Saxons and Vikings.

So what goes into recreating a battle of such epic proportions? caught up with the mastermind behind the battle, stunt coordinator Levente Lezsák. Filmed in Hungary, the battle used 180 extras and 120 stunt performers.

The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die battle inspired by Braveheart

While Lezsák wasn’t overly influenced by the iconic battles from Game of Thrones, he was inspired by Braveheart. “I try to keep away from any other shows, especially the most popular ones, because I try to find my own way of creating a battle,” he said. “But obviously, there are impressions from my life. Braveheart, for example, was one of my favorites when I was a kid. The big battle was so stunning; everybody wanted to be Scottish when they came out of the theater.”

Moreover, he’s keen on the idea of tying battles into the emotional beats of the story, rather than action for the sake of action:

"The thing I realized from Braveheart that I’ve carried throughout my career is that every action sequence has to serve the story. If you just do action after action it becomes boring after maybe a couple of minutes and people will lose interest. The big battles of Braveheart were great because they were character-driven, and that was the case with The Last Kingdom as well. Each battle represents some kind of turning point in this ongoing journey of Uhtred."

Interestingly, Lezsák researched traditional European martial arts and implemented them into the stunt performer’s training regime. “Even though people usually always think about martial arts as being Chinese or Japanese, we also have a beautiful European martial arts tradition that started to flourish in the Middle Ages,” he explained. “I also did research on how the Vikings used their short swords and their shields. There are lots of great re-enactment people keeping the Viking tradition alive, and they use the weapons authentically, so I watched their videos.”

He ran a boot camp to get everyone up to standard with how to perform traditional techniques. “You can easily see the difference between someone who’s just trying to copy a fight style as opposed to having it come from inside. I tried to be faithful to history as much as I could.”

Working with horses on the set of The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die

The battle utilized dozens of horses, which is a logistical nightmare for the production. The horses have to be trained to work on sets with hundreds of people coming and going.

“Horses are fleeing animals. It’s abnormal for them to be part of a huge battle sequence,” Lezsák said. “But on the other hand, you can train them for fights with ‘natural horsemanship.’ This method shows you how to deal with body language and make deep bonds with horses. Once they admit you as a member of the herd, as an ‘alpha,’ then you can teach horses tricks.”

"I also studied lots of books from the Middle Ages because [in Europe] we have a military tradition that includes great horse masters from the 15th century who wrote about how to train horses for warfare."

He added that there were no horses harmed during the production of the show.

Seven Kings Must Die is now streaming on Netflix.

Next. The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die (nearly) tops streaming rankings. dark

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