The Vikings have
big-budget, sci-fi creature thriller Outlander is filming in Nova Scotia until
early January [PICTURES]
By STEPHEN COOKE Entertainment Reporter
AFTER 1,000 years, the Vikings have
returned to Atlantic Canada.
OK, they’re not real Vikings, but all
it takes is a slog down a muddy back road in Nine Mile River and you’ll feel
like you’ve tumbled through a time warp to a millennium ago.
An acre of land in southeast Hants
County has been transformed into a Norse village for the action epic Outlander
starring Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ), Sophia Myles (Art School
Confidential) and John Hurt (The Elephant Man), with an impressive array of
thatched huts and barns, a high stockade wall and a large royal banquet hall with
a huge wooden façade.
Add the magical snowfall that
blanketed the set on Monday night, and you could imagine yourself being among
the Scandinavian warriors in a year with only three digits if you just ignored
the bright electric lights, racks of camera and sound equipment and crew
members in their all-weather gear.
"At the end of a show like this
I usually burn my clothes," laughs Outlander executive producer Don
Carmody while trudging through the slippery mud that lies everywhere in and
around the set. He’s supervising the first evening of three weeks of night
shooting on the film, which tells the tale of a Viking village that encounters
a visitor from outer space (Caviezel’s character Kainan) and the alien monster
which has followed him across the galaxy.
"This is the Vikings meet
Predator, that’s what attracted me to it," says Carmody, whose resume
includes comedies like Porky’s and Weekend at Bernie’s II as well as
supernatural thrillers like Gothika and Silent Hill. "It’s a great action-adventure
yarn, the same way Predator was. You thought it was some kind of war movie, and
then it turns into this fight against a deadly creature from space. This is the
kind of movie I’d want to see, so that’s my first criterion.
"It gets pretty scary; it gets
Alien-like, at certain points. Much like Alien, you don’t see a lot of the
creature at first; you’re not quite sure what’s going on. And when the
characters do see the creature in all of its glory, it’s too late."
Carmody was last in Nova Scotia
producing the Disney historical adventure Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale, filmed
largely around Louisbourg. Initially he planned to shoot picturesque exteriors
in Cape Breton, but eventually went even further to Newfoundland, to shoot in
the fjords of Gros Morne and the harbour of Little Port. But besides Nine Mile
River, Nova Scotia filming is taking place in Oakfield Park and Kinsac Lake,
with later soundstage work being lensed in Electropolis and the Via Rail
building in downtown Halifax.
But on this snowy night, director
Howard McCain — who co-wrote the film with Dirk Blackman — and his camera crew
are huddled in the tight confines of a blacksmith shop set. They’re filming a
scene where Caviezel, in his spaceman role, has been tied up by his Viking
captors. While the cameras roll, the intensely focused actor — who has played
parts ranging from a U.S. soldier in The Thin Red Line to Jesus Christ — uses
every muscle to strain against his bonds.
Using his foot, he manages to extract
a hot iron from the blacksmith’s fire while McCain, sporting a red beard that
makes him look like one of his Viking extras, tells him when to wince in pain.
But Caviezel is unable to free himself before being discovered by bearded
muscleman Bjorn, played by hulking Canadian actor James Rogers. Rogers roughs
him up with relish, before being admonished by the fair Freya, played by Myles.
"It’s every boy’s dream,
y’know?" says Rogers in his trailer, adjusting his leather armour.
"You get to dress up and play make-believe and have a lot of fun, meet a
lot of great people. It’s a great time. Bjorn is as Viking as it gets. He’s the
most Viking in the village, he just wants to eat and kill and do everything
evil that there is to do.
"It’s really fun playing him,
because you get to touch on something inside yourself when you step outside the
boundaries, and really run with it. . . . I had to take a little bump the other
day to make Jim Caviezel look strong, that was a little tough to do," he
chuckles. "Oh, I’m joking, Jim’s great. Everyone here is a professional, the
stunt guys are great, so it’s been a breeze to do the physical stuff."
Rogers considers his role in
Outlander a dress rehearsal for his next big assignment: a three-year contract
with World Wrestling Entertainment, which will have him do pretty much the same
thing, only as a deep voiced grappler named Big Deal. "Well you may be
Stone Cold Steve Austin, but you’re no . . . Big . . . Deal!" he says,
practising his tag line with gravelly gusto.
"It’s kind of the same thing,
I’ve always been big, and it’s just easy for me to be scary," grins
Rogers. "For this film you just put a beard on me and give me some braids
"It’s a little crazier than
normal, but it’s a lot of fun."
But not all the Vikings are rampaging
maniacs. Hurt plays the diplomatic king Rothgar, while his ambitious nephew
prince Wulfric is portrayed by dashing British actor Jack Huston, 24-year-old
grandson of famed director John Huston, sporting elaborate brass platemail
armour and a striking temporary neck tattoo.
Huston’s hot-blooded prince forms one
corner of the love triangle that develops between himself, Freya and Kainan,
while learning what it takes to be a leader.
"The thing we love about the
movie is, it’s got all these different elements," says Huston, who recently
performed a stint as Andy Warhol’s photographic cohort Gerard Malanga in the
story of model/icon Edie Sedgewick, Factory Girl. "It’s got sci-fi, the
epic Viking setting, the romantic triangle, as well as just great characters.
That’s why everyone took it on, including John Hurt, who’s the coolest guy in
the world; an incredible actor, and one of the three actors you’d want to work
with in your career."
Coincidentally, Hurt also starred in
the late Huston’s 1969 comedy adventure Sinful Davey, but working with him
isn’t the only perk for the younger Huston, whose film career is just starting
to take off.
"On the whole, you only read a
handful of scripts per year that you actually like," he explains.
"Not to say they’re not well-written, but which personally attract you to
a role. And Wulfric is a great role, there are so many layers to him, and he
goes through one of the biggest journeys in the movie.
"It’s very hard to have someone
who seems like a villain at the start wind up as someone the audience likes by
the end of it. But Howard and Dirk have been working on this for years, they
have everything mapped out in their heads, everything is storyboarded to a tee,
so that’s it right there; there’s definitely a vision at work."