Epic Viking trilogy

A Viking story, filmed in Norway and following the life of Harald Hardrada, could soon come to the big screen

Photo: Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry / Flickr Trond Giske, Norwegian Minister of Trade and Industry, met with Susan Phillips and Barrie Osborne to discuss the project.

Photo: Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry / Flickr
Trond Giske, Norwegian Minister of Trade and Industry, met with Susan Phillips and Barrie Osborne to discuss the project.

By Larrie Wanberg

Feature Editor

The Sagas from Viking times are among the greatest adventures ever documented.

Leif Erikson is the best known Viking in North America, because of his discovery of America in the year 1000 A.D., five centuries before Christopher Columbus.

A lesser-known Viking among the public outside of Norway is the story of one of the greatest Vikings – Harald Hardrada, also referred to as “the last of the great Vikings.” His story, as described in the Sagas, is sometimes told in documentaries or special TV programs, but no wide screen film has yet been made until now.

Such an epic movie is on the plate of Barrie M. Osborne, Academy Award winner for The Lord of the Rings, and producer of The Matrix and others. He and scriptwriter and producer Susan Philips recently scouted filming sites in Norway with the Norwegian Film Commission, the Western Norway Film Commissioner and Innovation Norway.

“The story of Harald of the 11th century will be brought to life on the big screen, not in two hours, but in a trilogy that spans his full dramatic life,” said Osborne.

Phillips stated, “Our first script is focused on when Harald is young. A valiant man, he struggles against outer adversaries and inner demons, and becomes romantically involved with some very different women. He eventually rises to become one of Norway’s greatest Viking Kings.”

While Leif Erikson was an adventurous explorer, Harald Hardrada traveled to Russia and Constantinople, and the Mediterranean. He was known as a fierce warrior and became a King.

“At the end of his life,” Phillips explained, “his ambition to rule the British Isles put fear in the minds of Anglo Saxons, until he was killed in the battle of Stamford Bridge in England in 1066.”

Barrie and Susan were recently in Norway to meet Trond Giske, the Minister of Trade and Industry, and Innovation Norway. Their stated objective was to try to use their influence to have film tax incentive laws in Norway, so that it could be financially possible for them to film there.

“Barrie clearly understands the value of tax incentives to attract major films, because of what he did with the Lord of the Rings in New Zealand,” said Phillips.

She continued, “There has never been a great epic authentic Viking film. I hope our film also will help to change the image of the Vikings, in that their image seems mostly to be that they were barbarians and primarily out pillaging and plundering. It doesn’t mean that this film isn’t action-packed and dramatic – the authenticity only adds to it all.”

“About forty percent of this story takes place in Norway. We want to film there for the authenticity, and also for what this will do for tourism in Norway,” commented both of them.

Susan researched for years to write the script for this Viking film, working with the leading Viking historians. From all of her research, she has also crafted a series of documentaries that are an in-depth view of the authentic Vikings and Norse culture at that time – not as barbarians, but as a tribal-like society with a strong role of the women, and a strong honor code.

“The documentaries, which have already been started in Norway, are in alignment with epic film,” said Phillips, “and with Oystein Rakkenes, who is one of Norway’s leading documentary filmmakers who has won a ʻNorwegian Academy Awardʼ for a documentary film.”

In America, the ancestral history of Vikings is huge in popularity among Norwegian Americans. Five million Americans self-declare Norwegian ethnicity, which is equal to the total population of Norway. Americans with one or more ancestors in their family tree is estimated at 50 million.

The ticket lines are expected to be long when the epic shows.

This article originally appeared in the October 15, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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Larrie Wanberg

Larrie Wanberg, 1920–2021, contributed features to The Norwegian American for many years, drawing on eight decades of life experience highlighted by three career recognitions: as a researcher through a Fulbright Scholarship to Norway in 1957; as a health care provider in behavioral science through a 27-year military career and awarded upon retirement in 1981 the highest non-combat medal, the Legion of Merit medal; as an educator, through a 50-year career in college education, culminating in the 2010 Public Scholar award at the UND Center for Community Engagement. Wanberg passed away in May, 2021.