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SYFY WIRE The Northman

The Northman's Alexander Skarsgard kept nude fight scene thong, NSFW bits recreated with CGI

One of The Northman's most important scenes had some CGI help, but not where you might expect.

By Matthew Jackson

Computer generated images are a ubiquitous part of genre filmmaking at this point in history. You can use CGI a lot, or a little, you can create whole worlds or you can slightly alter existing ones. In some scenes, virtually everything about the environment is generated with a computer. In others, very subtle additions are put in to give the finished film a little extra... something.

In the case of The Northman, much of the film's visual style was delivered practically, as writer/director Robert Eggers and his cast and crew worked on large-scale sets to transport viewers back to ninth and tenth century Scandinavia. But one of the film's most pivotal scenes, despite its bare bones setup, required a little unexpected digital boost.

**Spoilers ahead for The Northman.**

Much of Eggers' film takes the approach of a straightforward revenge movie, as the prince turned wandering warrior Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard) sets out to kill his Uncle Fjolnir (Claes Bang), who killed Amleth's father (Ethan Hawke) and stole his mother (Nicole Kidman) away to claim the throne for himself. The film is largely driven by Amleth's quest to hunt down Fjolnir, make his life miserable by posing as one of his slaves, and finally facing him in one-on-one combat. But because this is a fantasy epic as much as it is a historical drama, when the duel finally takes place, it takes place in the middle of an active lava field, with both Amleth and Fjolnir fully nude, swinging swords at each other's bare bodies as fire rages around them. 

You might think that, apart from the lava itself, this is a scene that maybe didn't need much else. After all, it's just two guys swinging swords at each other, and they don't even have to worry all that much about costuming. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, though, Eggers noted that both Skarsgard and Bang did have a little digital... help. 

"We actually had to add things digitally because they were wearing thongs [instead of being naked] because no one wanted to get their bits chopped off," Eggers said. "So, we actually had to add some CG genitals for certain shots so that they didn’t look too Ken doll-ish. You’ve got to make it look real, so I’m sure we did some full-body scans of Alex. They’re out there."

Though most of the fight takes place in silhouette, as Amleth and Fjolnir duel in darkness surrounded by fire, it would indeed have looked weird to viewers who realized the two men were naked but didn't see the requisite...anatomical accuracy, even in shadow. But despite the post-production additions to the scene, Skarsgard's memories of the fight itself are a little more present for the actor. On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert this week, he revealed that one of his wrap gifts from The Northman was the blood-stained thong he wore for the volcano fight, complete with a nice frame and the movie's logo.

"It wasn't a choice, it was a gift," Skarsgard explained to Colbert. "That's how much they valued my performance, my contribution to this movie."

The Northman is in theaters now, digital bits and all.