Yes, Alexander Skarsgard is under no false impressions that you are looking forward to Godzilla vs. Kong to see the adventures of his character, a geologist named Dr. Nathan Lind. You see, Godzilla has been causing some problems for humans for unknown reasons and, just maybe, Kong can take care of business and let Godzilla know that his antics aren’t appreciated by means of a knuckle sandwich. And Dr. Nathan Lind has been studying Kong for years and has a good idea of what Kong’s motivations might be and what Kong actually wants.
So, yes … there are times where there is not a lot to talk about when even one of the lead actors in a movie admits people aren’t coming to see him or his character. Though from past interviews, I know Skarsgard has a pretty good sense of humor, so the real questions soon devolved into kind of outlandish fake questions and, luckily, Skarsgard ran with them.
Also, Skarsgard’s next film is The Northman, which is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, he teams with Robert Eggers, which will be the director’s followup to the acclaimed The Lighthouse. Second, it will completely screw up Google searches for True Blood fans searching for Skarsgard’s character, Eric Northman. And, yes, he’s thought about that and wonders how many people will show up expecting to see vampires. (There will be no vampires.)
It’s funny, because just the title of this movie, that isn’t false advertising.
It’s almost a two-hour-long movie, and it’s like an hour and 55 minutes of fighting.
So what’s this like for you? When you sign onto something like this? Because it’s Godzilla and Kong and they’re going to wind up getting a lot of the attention.
It’s humbling for a narcissistic actor like myself, to be put in my place, to show up on set and know that no one will go to see this movie because I’m in it.
Well, that’s not true. I have noticed over the years you do have a fan base that goes nuts for you.
That’s flattering to hear. But I’m under no illusion that I’m the star of the show and that anyone will go see the movie because they want to see Nathan Lind, the geologist.
Yeah, well, in a way, to be a vessel and a way for the audience to get to know, in my character’s case, Kong, more so than Godzilla, because I’m with Kong throughout the movie. But in a way to not necessarily humanize Kong, but to show a different side of Kong, to show that he has empathy. He’s lived a very solitary, lonely life on Skull Island without social connections, without family. And the thought of him to be reconnected, or to find his family in Hollow Earth is, is kind of the driving force, to reconnect. So I felt like my job was kind of set that up in a way and to kind of show the audience that side of Kong.
Well, you said people aren’t coming to see Dr. Nathan Lind, the geologist. But once here, where you tell me, how you’ve spent the last five years, studying with geologists and following them around and becoming a trained geologist yourself, people will look at this in a different way.
Right? Well, that’s how seriously I take my job.
You threw yourself into it. The last, maybe, ten years, you’ve been studying with geologists, just to know exactly what you were doing in this movie.
It’s just the kind of actor I am, Mike. Even though I play a very peripheral character and no one cares, I still take my craft seriously. And that means a decade of studying geology and living, breathing the character. Just to give the audience that sublime performance that I give in the movie.
When you’re giving the technical jargon during the movie, viewers can rest assured that you know exactly what you’re talking about, because you studied for so long with trained geologists.
Exactly. And they can see that in my eyes, that I’m not lying. I’m not pretending. I’m not acting. I’m not playing a geologist. I am a geologist.
You are a geologist.
So when you filmed at Hollow Earth, in the center of Earth, was that on location?
Obviously, it was.
Yeah, I could tell.
And being there was trippy. I felt like you can’t … the audience can tell whether you’re there or when you’re actually there, or if it’s the soundstage with green screen. So the only way to do it, when you make a character driven drama, like Godzilla vs. Kong, is to actually go there and actually spend time down there and be there with Kong. So it was six very intense months, deep down in the center of the earth with a gigantic ape.
That’s why we haven’t seen you in a while — because you’ve been down there.
I’ve been down there, with a gigantic ape.
Being serious, doing the “there they are” reaction seems especially difficult in this movie, with these being such central characters. And I know that’s part of the deal with a lot of movies, but this seems even more that.
Absolutely. Watching the movie, I could tell that I’m reacting to the wrong thing, like I’m reacting to something else. And they play my reaction to something that I think I’m reacting to, but many things have changed. Or they use that reaction to something else. So they kind of make it work. So it’s like, I look at something, and I think I’m reacting to something completely different, but I’m not. They completely changed that. So it’s quite a ride and exciting to watch the movie, because I’m as surprised as the audience. When I watch it, like, “Oh really? That happened.” And, “Oh, look at my reaction here.”
The scene that we all saw in the trailer, which surprisingly happens pretty early in the movie, where Kong just punches Godzilla in the face. So do you watch the movie and go, “If that really would have happened in front of me, I might’ve reacted quite differently than I did even in the movie”?
Well, that specific sequence, they actually had in the pre-visualization, so that actually looks quite very, very, very close to what the previs two years ago looked. So Adam [Wingard] played us that. So pretty much the whole fight scene was choreographed before we shot our reactions to it. So I knew that that punch was going to land, and that’s what I’m reacting to.
We’ve given Dr. Nathan Lind a lot of time, and we’ve given King Kong a lot of time. We haven’t really talked about Godzilla. He gets annoyed when people bother him. I relate to that.
Me too. Going into the movie, I was very much team Godzilla. I love the old Godzilla movies, like the ’60s and ’70s, that era, when it’s zero special effects.
Just a guy in a suit and it’s awesome.
It’s a middle-aged dude in a suit, kicking a miniature version of Tokyo on a set.
In your next movie, you’re working with Robert Eggers, The Northman. You’re done filming that, right?
We’re done. Yeah, we shot for six months during the pandemic. We started last summer and finished just before Christmas.
Did you look at his prior movies and just go, “I have to be part of this.”
Well, I courted him. I loved both The Witch and The Lighthouse. And was developing The Northman and was trying to find a director for it. It was a very different iteration of the script, and the story was very different from what we ended up shooting. But I had a version of a viking movie that I wanted to make and basically went after Rob. He was my dream director and I thought that he would be perfect for this. And that, when I mentioned it to him, it turned out that he was a huge viking fan and knew everything about the mythology.
That doesn’t surprise me for some reason.
Yeah, he knew so much about that world and that era and got really excited about the idea of potentially making this movie. And then he found Sjón, this Icelandic author and poet and screenwriter. And Sjón and Rob together wrote the screenplay to what ultimately became The Northman, the movie that we shot. So it’s something on that was slowly percolating and growing over the course of eight years. So, to finally be on set last year, with the greatest filmmaker of our time and some of the greatest actors of our time, was the highlight of my career, for sure.
Have you thought about how this will screw up Google searches for your True Blood fans?
[Laughs] Yes, I am very much aware of how problematic the title is.
Well, not problematic. True Blood fans are going to have to put in a few other keywords now.
Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. I do apologize for that. And I’m sure some people will be pretty disappointed if they go to see a stand-alone movie about Eric Northman, and then they sit down and it’s a goddamn Viking movie and not a vampire in sight.
I think they’re in for a treat, to tell you the truth.
Well, I hope so. I hope so. I’m very excited about the movie, but I have to admit that, unfortunately, there are no vampires in the movie.
‘Godzilla Vs. Kong’ hits theaters and HBO Max on March 31st. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.