Many children don’t really know what their parents do for a living. “My Daddy works at a bank.” No he doesn’t, you little dummy, Daddy’s a Dynamic Implementation Technician for Strategic Corporate Marketing. There’s a difference.
It was with this concern in mind (that his child might be getting the wrong impression) that Clive Standen, who plays one of the central bloodthirsty marauders in History’s Vikings, decided to bring his four-year-old son to work. There, he showed him the fake foam weapons, the sweet red syrup they use as blood and introduced him to his other Viking colleagues.
Now, instead of believing that his father earns his livelihood by swinging swords, conquering lands and lopping off heads, he thinks his father’s job is to take off his shirt and cover himself in syrup with other men. It’s ok, he’ll have plenty of opportunity to clear things up on classroom career day.
We caught up with Standen in Toronto to talk about his martial arts past, his Viking mannerisms and what his four-year-old son thinks of having a head-splitting Viking for a father.
Season three of Vikings debuts tomorrow on History.
Is all that hair real?
It always changes. In the first season it was real, in the second season my hair was long with hair extensions and the third season it was all hair extensions. I started getting other roles and started looking like a Hells Angel. I did the film Everest in the meantime and a TV series called Atlantis and hopefully I will get another job because people typecast. But the beard has always been real. In season one there were a few characters that had stick-on beards, so this is better than that.
Have you ever worn a stick-on beard?
No, but I’ve heard stories of guys who want to have their lunch and have to un-glue their mustaches to put something in their mouths.
You mentioned you have kids.
Yes, three kids. My oldest son Hayden is twelve, my daughter Edi is eight, and I got a little feral cave boy who is four, Rafferty. My little one is into swords, knights and dragons, so he sees daddy going to work as a Viking and I think he thought his dad was a barbarian. I got worried that he thought it was completely fine to go around and knock peoples heads off with his wooden sword.
When you go through our studio you have these three amazing rooms filled from top to bottom with shields and swords and real replica weapons made from metal and wood and bamboo. Then, in the prosthetics room they have life-like heads people who have their heads chopped off in the show––it’s gruesome. Then you have something that looks like the set of Breaking Bad. You have these massive barrels and they’re all filled with different types of fake blood. My little four-year-old was drinking this stuff like “mmm, sugar.” So now he thinks I just take my clothes off and cover myself in sugar.
That’s a conversation that not a lot of people have to have. What about the women in your life? What does your wife think about the role?
We got to a point where I get home and we’re not allowed to talk about Vikings anymore. She says I started to develop different mannerisms. I would do a lot of DIY around the house, so when I mess something up she would hear me go “grrrrr.” I never use to growl like a feral meathead before. So yeah, she has nothing to do with the entertainment industry, so it’s nice that when I go home, it’s just about being with my wife and kids.
Anyone with a brother can really make a connection with Rollo. Brothers can get you like nobody else. Do you have a brother?
I have an older brother and I do use parts of our relationship. I mean I love him dearly and I’d fight till the death for him, but at times I’ve wanted to strangle him (laughs). But we’re always there for each other and that’s the main thing.
How did you get into martial arts and fighting on stage?
When I was 13 I was apart of a stunt play. It was when Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves came out and it was my first paid job. I’d sail out of a tree as Wulf Little and tell the tourists they had to run. I was quite young, so behind the scenes they let me go on the horses and joust, and I also learned to do a lot of broadsword fighting. For the martial arts I spent 18 years doing Maui Thai boxing, so that comes in handy. It just helps you get movement in your muscles quicker.
And what do they teach you about fighting Viking style?
We have two stunt coordinators and they worked on big movies like Troy. The goal is to kill or be killed. Like, this guy is in my way and I need to get to the other side of the battlefield and I’m going to take him out the easiest way. If that means I’m going to stab him in the back, then I’ll do it. We try to make it as gritty as possible because our aim is to bring the audience with us.
Is it challenging, the physical work?
For me it is, yes (laughs). I didn’t realize that I’d be fighting with hardly any clothes on. Because all those stunt guys are running at you with metal weapons and steel and they’re covered in pads under their costumes. You’re running at the same speed as them and thinking, what’s going to happen when I smash into them? I’ve been bruised lots and even caught the tip of a spear once on my chest. The next day they’re like, “that looks so kick-ass, were just going to add some fake blood around it.”
There are a bunch of very strong female characters on the show. Were you surprised by the broad audience the show draws?
Michael Hirst writes women, not specifically strong women, just women. The problem lies with all the other TV shows that get away with writing women that aren’t women. Because I look at Lagertha and Siggy and I see my wife, my daughter and my mom. Michael has this gift to just write equally.