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From Zoolander to The Northman: The rise of Alexander Skarsgård

With the release of Robert Eggers’ upcoming historical bloodfest, The Northman, leading man Alexander Skarsgård looks set to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. He looks unrecognisable as the protagonist, Amleth, the Icelandic prince seeking revenge on his uncle, and it’s shaping up to become one of the best films of the year and possibly the decade so far. 

The film has been noted for its visceral cinematography and script, and understandably, this was felt mostly by the cast, with Skarsgård bearing the brunt of this, as his role required more screen time and stunts than his co-stars.

He recently opened up about one of the film’s most violent scenes in an interview. The Stockholm native explained: “The choreography was so difficult, with all these elements, 50 people fighting simultaneously, the extras and the horses… making it look perfect was a real undertaking. That climax, where I rip a guy’s throat out and howl at the moon… it was primal. I just let it all out. I was exhausted, and I think you see it in the shot. I was a wreck. Truly a wreck.”

Despite the fact that he’s now the leading man in what might well be Eggers’ masterpiece, Skarsgård’s career has been leading up to this for a very long time, as the 45-year-old hasn’t always been front and centre, and for a long time, he was just any other actor. 

Even though he played the titular hero in 2016’s The Legend of Tarzan, Skarsgård’s filmography is a real assortment of quality. It’s full of forgettable or criminally overlooked titles, ranging from Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia to Battleship and even The Hummingbird Project. More recently, he’s even starred in the acclaimed HBO drama, Big Little Lies, as the abusive husband, Perry Wright. However, there is one other role that Skarsgård has played that is pretty iconic, and even though it’s not well known that it’s him, it couldn’t be any more of a departure from Amleth.

20 years of ‘Zoolander’ Ben Stiller’s comedy gamechanger

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The year was 2001, and comedian du jour Ben Stiller had just released one of his finest films, an irreverent parody of the fashion industry, Zoolander. At the exposition, we meet the clueless protagonist, male model Derek Zoolander, and his group of friends, who are also male models and are equally as clueless. 

After Zoolander is ousted as the world’s premier top model by his rival, Hansel, it cuts to Zoolander back at his apartment, where he and his friends are all hanging out, criticising their enemy. Although the three of his friends are memorable for different reasons, the standout has to be Meekus, the blonde-haired one in the green t-shirt, of obvious but undisclosed European origins. 

If you hadn’t already guessed it, Meekus, everybody, is played by Skarsgård. It’s a very niche point, but you cannot doubt just how timeless this character is. He’s the sharpest tool out of the four of them, and his terrible jokes have endured in the memory for 20 years. 

Who can forget the gag about Hansel not combing his hair, “Exsqueeze me, but have you ever heard of styling gel?” It’s camp as hell, and he delivers his lines with verve. The little back and forth he has with one of their friends, Brent, is also incredible, and the “Earth to Brent, I was making a joke” line is timeless.

It’s indicative of the oscillating careers that Hollywood actors often have before hitting the big time that Alexander Skarsgård starred as a hilarious minor character in Zoolander a staggering 21 years before he got his true break as a leading man. His career has been a real adventure, and we’re sure it’s only really just getting started. However, we just hope that he hasn’t forgotten his role as the wisecracking male model, as it’s a brilliant one.

Watch the Zoolander scene below. 

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