INTERVIEW WITH THE 10TH WARRIOR:
ASBJØRN "BEAR" RIIS,
"HALGA THE WISE"
- How did you get cast as Halga the Wise?
- At that time, I had a manager called Terry Selzer who got contact to Pat McCorkle Casting in New York.
- Could you tell us about the four weeks boot camp training to prepare for the role?
- That was a real good time, especially for me that could enjoy it to the full because I was already in good shape. Every morning, we started with two hours of horseback riding, followed by two hours of sword fighting and two hours in the gym. The rest of the day was two hours of Viking language, and that was funny - I ended up learning the others Norwegian, until Dennis arrived [Note: Dennis Storhøi speaks five languages: Swedish, Dutch, English, French and Norwegian]. And last, some of us had bow and arrow training in the late afternoon.
- What language are the Vikings speaking in the movie (before they speak English)?
- They tried Norwegian, but we ended up with all kinds of Nordic accents. In my case, I used the old dialect from my island Mors, in the North of Denmark.
- It seems to me that you are in the opening shot of the movie, one of the two men standing on the railing of a Viking boat sailing on a rolling ocean. Am I mistaken?
- That is correct. It all started out with sailing almost five weeks, around Vancouver Island, and the last work ended up with the Viking ship, in a huge studio in Vancouver, with a green screen.
- Five weeks?!! We barely see two scenes taking place inside the longboat in the final cut! What was occuring during this journey through the sea?
- We did a lot of shootings on the whale scene with Halga. Other shots were travel scenes on the way to the North, some rowing, looking for land and storm scenes. It was a fantastic experience to feel like the Vikings on tour!
- When do your wife and four sons appear in the movie?
- My wife and sons should be in the scene where we are entering the village at King Hrothgar's and also in a scene where my son Klaus should give me poles for the waterline fence.
- Other members of the cast had relatives involved in the shooting, like Dennis Storhøi's wife, Mona. Did they edited out some actions during her sacrifice, shortened her speech? In the final cut, this scene is very short, so I was just wondering if they shot more of it...
- Mona did say an old prayer, but that was when Edgtho and I lifted her up for each line she spoked to us. It was shot from a distance. And that was it!
- Speaking of funerals, why is Buliwyf the only warrior to get Viking funerals? What about Halga and the others? Did they filmed more funeral scenes? I heard about a scene showing Ibn and Herger discussing about whether or not they must burn Buliwyf's dog with his master during the funeral...
- We did a lot of shootings, from the Great Hall to the resting place for dead Vikings, and also inside it, where we made jokes about them, as Vikings did at the time. I was supposed be burned with Buliwyf.
- Where exactly was located this "resting place"?
- It was a place underneath the Great Hall, where the dead Vikings were temporarily at rest, before they were burned with their belongings. We shot inside it, when we carried the dead to their wooden resting places. We joked a lot in those scenes, about the women and other things the dead guys had been up to before... The scenes included Dennis [Storhøi], Neil [Maffin], Tony [Curran] and I. I was carrying Ragnar.
- They shortened the role of Thorkel, played by Sven Ole Thorsen, didn't they?
- No. Sven was only in the tent scene, close to the oracle woman, and outside the tent, in the burial and the Vikings take off scene. I have known Sven for many years, and through the last 16 years he has been in more than 100 films! Not big roles, but he did good in VIKING SAGA and GLADIATOR.
- Back in early 1997, there were rumours circulating about Arnold Schwarzenegger doing some cameo appearance in the movie. Did you hear about this on the set?
- No. I only saw it on the internet when I went back home.
- What about the storm which wreaked havoc on the set on August 97?
- That was an experience! We were in the middle when it came, and trees broke like matches, our trailers got hit and tents flew around the circus. We had to move down to the waterline where it was safe!
- On your homepage, it is said that Anne Bancroft plays the "Second Oracle" in the movie. So you do confirm the rumour? Strangely, she is not listed in the final credits...
- Yes, she was the second oracle woman, the one they meet in the woods.
- Your severed (fake) head can be seen among others in the Wendol Mother cave...
- Yes. That was Jeff Dawn's work. They made a cast of my head, and he molded the rest. He also made a scar on my face and another big scar on my left biceps. He's a very skilled make-up artist and also a fun guy to be around!
- What is this helmet Halga is wearing in the movie?
- It is in fact a gladiator helmet. In one of the camp fire scenes, Herger and I are telling stories from the good times, and a story comes up, about how I got my helmet - I was in a country where I won the fights and some women, and we laugh, and talk about a woman, and that fight, and so on...
- During the second attack, Halga seems to break some horse's neck... Was I dreaming or what?
- I was the only one in the cast who did my own stunts, and one of them was standing with my back to 75 horses trembling and passing me, when one of the Wendols should hit me in back of my head with his weapon. They did that take three or four times and, man, I was hit hard! Another one was the close leaning of a Wendol's horse. I should come running and hit the riding attacking Wendol full force with my right arm. I did and the horse went down, of course with guidance from the stuntman, but the horse fell too far and resulted in the stuntman got trampled on his face by other horses passing by! I also did a full attack with my two hands sword. The stuntmen, of course, were packed in silver suits. After the blow from my sword, he flew back of the horse and landed on his neck, and was out for some time! That night, nine people went to the hospital, injuried from horses, swords, flaming arrows, etc.
- They shot the second Wendol attack in pitch black, right?
- That is correct. There was no extra lighting, only from the torches and fires!
- Tell me about the horses. McTiernan seems to love horses...
- I was riding the biggest of them all, McT's Shire, Amanda. She was 19 hands (6 foot 6 inches over her back) and 2200 pounds!
- I read that one of the many horses used on the set died during the shooting, but not one of McTiernan's... Do you recall this incident?
- There were no horses harmed under the shootings, and I should know, because I spend a lot of time with the wranglers. I like big horses too!
- Do you know why they changed the title of the movie, from EATERS OF THE DEAD to THE 13TH WARRIOR?
- The story was they agreed on a name with more popcorn in it, a way to sell more movie tickets!
- Did you participated in additional photography on this movie? There seems to have been a lot of reshoots or retakes during 1998... Several alleged reasons were invoked, from Antonio Banderas' back problems during original filming to very bad test screenings...
- Yes, I was standing by for Disney all summer 98! These questions are all connected to the same thing: namely, that McTiernan and Michael Crichton did not agree on the final editing of this movie. So you are right about the reshootings in LA, in 98. McTiernan wanted to bring more life into us, the Vikings, and Crichton wanted to follow his book, with a twist of Banderas' ideas. He had in fact a back injury that he had for some time, but it had nothing to do with the reshootings! McTiernan was fired in 98, or should we say he left, and didn't even want to see the final result. I agree with him!
- Did Banderas have a great input on his character?
- Yes, that is correct.
- Do you remember when did the reshoots take place?
- Not exactly, but most of it took place July and August. As I mentioned, I was standing by for Disney from May to late August.
- Who directed the reshoots? McTiernan or Crichton?
- They were both at the reshootings, where the dispute took place, at the end of the shootings...
- Whose members of the cast were involved in the reshoots?
- Most of the 13 warriors, Antonio's stuntman [Casey O'Neill] and some extras. Antonio was also working on another movie that summer [Note: CRAZY IN ALABAMA, his first feature film as a director].
- Did they actually "reshot" scenes they had already shot back in 97, or did they shot "new" scenes?
- I know they reshot the farewell scenes, between Herger and Ibn; cave scenes, with the Wendol Mother; some tent scenes; and Herger's swordfight duel at King Hrothgar's.
- Do you think they (at one point) decided to focus more on the Banderas character, hence editing out a lot of scenes involving the Vikings and reshaping the movie in order to make Ibn the hero, instead of Buliwyf and his folks?
- If you notice how many scenes there are with Ibn in close-up, just in the camp fire scenes! Smart guy invest money in a film to get creative control! You get the picture...
- There supposedly was talk about changing the name of the Wendols during shooting... How did you call them during actual shooting? I've heard about the "Bear-people"...
- Some of the actors started to call them the "Wenns".
- Could you shed some light on the nickname of your character, Halga "the Wise"?
- We all had names. In my case, "Wise" was a duke with a great appetite for women!
- I saw pictures of a scene when Halga grabs the Arab caravan scout from his horse and carries him back to the camp under one arm?
- The entrance scene to meet the Vikings was a shot where I am very drunk. I walk down to the Arabic caravan, and say a lot in Nordic language, with a big burp into the caravan leader's face, standing stearing and trying to figure a way out to communicate with him. Finally, I decide to lift him of his horse and walk up to the tents. Ibn askes Melchisideck "What was that ?" and Omar Sharif says "I think we are invited to dinner"!
There were many scenes taken out, like the one where I get tired at looking at Ibn's innocence, and grab him from behind, lift him up and drop him between the slave girls I had just been laying with, and all the Vikings grinning, I say to him that he has to learn the Viking way with the women!
Another one was at the harbour in Byzantium, where Weath is dead drunk, and I pick Weath up, and walk down the side of the water, when Herger arrives, laughes and says "Wake him up", so I toss him into the water and I tell him that "A man must finish his drink on his feet"!
On the Viking ship, we see big whales and Ibn has never seen them before, and one of them is coming straight against the ship. I jump up on the railing, with an oar and slap it hard into the water and say to the whale "Be off, you horny bastard"! There were a lot of good scenes taken out for the sake of making us Vikings impersonal!
- About that particular scene, the special effects guys experienced some troubles with their mechanical whale and I was wondering if they edited out this sequence just because the whale wouldn't work...
- There was some problem regarding the right way to make a wave, after the whale had dived underneath the Viking boat. But the reason why we didn't see it in the film was a lighting problem: it was difficult to match the background light there had from the shooting of the real whale they did before in the Caribbean sea, as I was told by John Sullivan [Note : second unit director and visual effects supervisor].
- The scene of Halga's death reminded me a bit of Conan's father's death in CONAN THE BARBARIAN (great movie, by the way). When directing, did McTiernan mentioned any movie references?
- I never hear McT say anything about that, other than, when we arrived in Vancouver for our first costume tests, they were playing THE VIKINGS on a VCR, to put everybody in mood! And I remember when we were in the make-up and hair design trailers, we always heard music from BRAVEHEART and other Celtic music, again to motivate us!
- King Hrothgar mysteriously disappear at the end of the movie (he even seems not to attend Buliwyf's funerals). Was he killed during the last battle scene?
- That was it about King Hrothgar, he was only in the Great Hall scenes, with no further story. As you have seen, he's guided from his Queen, to stay with the women and children in the loweer levels of the Great Hall..
- They allegedly shot some "mass suicide scene" of the Wendols...
- I haven't heard anything about that!
- I noticed names of characters during the closing credits which meant nothing for me : do you know what characters in the movie are "Hulda", "Freyda", the two "Arab Generals" and "the Wendol Mother Companion" (played by some actress, Yolande Bavan, but in the final cut, the Wendol Mother is only attended by some Wendol bodyguard)?
- I knew Freyda, she was a slave girl at King Hrothgar's. She is passing by me in the eating scene, in the Great Hall, where I slap her in the butt, with a following look at each other. (It was, as you know, cut out.) Hulda, as I remember her, was in the tent scene. The Arab generals, I don't know, the same for Yolande Bavan!
- I also noticed that the order (said to be the "order of appearance" of the characters in the movie) is not matching the real order of appearance of the characters in the final cut...
- I do not know the reason for this. I guess the order of appearance on the list is ruled by the way the production saw the importance of the cast for shooting/editing and final presentation...
- Finally, how did you feel about the released version of THE 13TH WARRIOR?
- Poorly. You must understand I have seen all the good taken out, and I know how much it could have been! So I am looking forward to a director's cut!