Fresh off his latest season as the Norse conqueror Ragnar Lothbrok on the historical drama Vikings, Australian actor Travis Fimmel trades in his medieval gear from that show for the more formidable armor of Sir Anduin Lothar. A knight and leader of the Alliance, Lothar is sworn to protect the Stormwind Kingdom of the planet Azeroth from the incursion of orc hordes from another dimension in Warcraft.
Fimmel brings his trademark earthiness to the role, which is his first lead in a tentpole-style spectacle and follows a range of parts in mostly smaller films as well as television. If Warcraft hits it big — not necessarily a sure thing for a movie based on a video game, but a possibility for this one — then Fimmel can add “huge geek-friendly franchise” to his list of accomplishments. We caught up with the amicable Australian at the press day for Warcraft, where he discussed bringing Lothar to life, working with director Duncan Jones and what he stole from the set.
Den of Geek: How far off is this from something like Vikings? They share the trappings of tradition, and of mythology, and battle, and that sense of honor and duty…
Travis Fimmel: The biggest aspect in Vikings, other than…When you think of it, you think it’s all rape and pillage or whatever. But why the show is on the air is because of the heart it has and family bonds and the loyalties between people. I feel like that’s the most similar thing to Warcraft. There’s fathers in it. There’s love stories in it. There’s loyalty and trust issues. And it’s set with this just tremendous background of the game’s visuals. There’s some amazing sets and some amazing visual effects.
Did working in something other than a big green room help it come to life for you? Apparently you guys got to work on some pretty impressive sets.
Yeah. We worked on some amazing ones. Some we didn’t see nothing, for sure. And some we had the broomstick out with the tennis ball on the end. But no, some of the creators, and set designers, and carpenters, it just blows your mind how much effort they put into it, the detail.
When you are taking characters from a video game, they can be sort of archetypal or they can be even one-dimensional. What brought Lothar to live for you?
It’s not even just my character. There are many races, many species in the film. There’s good and bad in all of them. Nobody wants to play a one-dimensional character. What’s great about the film is it’s not the obvious good guys, obvious bad guys and the good guys have got to beat the bad guys. People pick teams, I feel, or will pick teams in this film. Some will be with the orcs, the horde, and some will be with the humans, the alliance. That’s what I think is cool about the film.
Did you look at the game before or after doing the movie?
I did after. We had Rob Kazinsky, who was like in the top 10 in the world as a player at one stage. So whatever I needed to know, I asked him. And Duncan played the game, too.
What did Duncan bring to the film as a director that enhanced it for you?
I think the research is the biggest thing, and being prepared. A film like this, you have to know every single detail. I don’t know what I’m looking at half the time, and he has to be able to explain it. There’s not a question he didn’t have an answer for. You have to be able to rely on your director. He is very good at it.
Tell me a little bit about the training you did for the part.
I got there a bit late because I was working on Vikings. I had to work out a bit just to wear the armor and to try to learn to move with the armor. It’s so bulky and you can’t lift your hands above your head and that sort of stuff. It took about a week before people worked out the quickest way to put it on me. It’s such a cumbersome thing. But visually it’s so true to the game and it looks great.
Did you take anything home as a souvenir?
Yeah. I stole a couple things. They’ll be on eBay if the film does well. [laughs]
What’s the coolest thing you brought home?
I can’t say what it is because then they’ll know it’s missing. They’re very strict on the set.
When you guys start Season 5 of Vikings?
Well, at the moment there’s still 10 more to air. We filmed 20 for Season 4. So we’re showing 10 and then there’s another 10 in October. I haven’t read any scripts yet for Season 5.
What do you think has touched people so strongly about that show?
Well, it’s a beautiful country, Ireland. And the crews just do a tremendous job. Everything they do, the construction of the little towns. I mean there’s just a lot of heart in it. There’s a lot of drama in it and family bonds and friendship bonds. And then with the great action, as well, and the beautiful scenery. Vikings has been a great experience. You get so many great friends. And I love Ireland and the people and crew. It’s a beautiful place. I can’t wait to get back there.
You are also in a film out now called Maggie’s Plan, which couldn’t be more different from Warcraft. Is it nice to be able to go back and forth between these bigger and smaller projects?
Yeah, for sure. And while you are working on Vikings, too, you’ve got to fit a job in a certain time slot. And I was so happy that Maggie’s Plan came up and I was able to do it.
You get to wear normal street clothes!
Yeah, yeah, which is great. It’s great to be able to dress yourself.
What is next for you?
I’ve got a few things. There’s still Vikings. And I’ve got a few films that I want to do, have been talking to people about. So we’ll see what happens. I think I’ll go home for a bit as soon as I finish the press on this. I just hope people enjoy it. Visually, it’s amazing. It’s got great stories. I’d just go watch it for Paula Patton, to be honest. She’s gorgeous and such a talented woman. Yeah, if you want to be immersed in a world that you’ve never seen before, check it out.
Warcraft is out in theaters this Friday (June 10).