Icelandic musician Björk Guðmundsdóttir will return to the big screen 20 years after winning Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival. Björk has taken on a role in the new film by Robert Eggers titled The Northman. The Viking saga is Egger’s third film, and follows the success of his movie The Lighthouse that came out last year. It will also be Björk’s third feature film. She will be playing a character listed only as Slav Witch. Björk’s teenage daughter Isadora will also appear in The Northman. Let’s take a look at this unexpected news, and what we know about Björk in the world of cinema.
Björk on the Japanese Cover For Her Album “Post” | Image via Elektra Records
What Is The Northman All About?
The Viking epic was apparently pitched to Robert Eggers by actor Alexander Skarsgård who will star in the film (along with his brother Bill). The film is set in Iceland and was about to start filming when the coronavirus pandemic shut down production. This might also be why Björk agreed to appear in the film, to boost the industry of her beloved home country.
The Northman has a few other big names attached to the project. Both Alexander and Bill Skarsgård are set to appear in the film. Other A-List actors such as Nicole Kidman and Willem Dafoe are also on the cast list. According to Dazed & Confused Magazine, The Northman “takes place at the turn of the 10th century, and follows a Nordic prince (Alexander Skarsgård) who seeks revenge for his father’s death.”
The Northman Will Be Written By A Long-Time Björk Collaborator
The Icelandic poet and novelist Sjón wrote the screenplay for The Northman. A prolific writer and collaborator, Sjón has known Björk since her days in the band The Sugarcubes in the 80’s. He once appeared as a guest vocalist in the band. Since then, Sjón has collaborated with Björk on lyrics for many of her albums. This includes Selmasongs – the soundtrack to Dancer In The Dark – which was the last film that Björk acted in. Undoubtedly the involvement of her long-time friend and collaborator is part of what drew the Icelandic musician to the project. If we are lucky, Björk will also collaborate with Sjón on an epic soundtrack for The Northman.
— Erik Anderson (@awards_watch) August 19, 2020
Björk Has Acted Before, And Won Awards For It
The versatile musician has acted before, although her roles have been limited. In 1990 Björk starred in the film The Juniper Tree – where she also played a witch. But she received the most acclaim for her role in the 2000 film Dancer In The Dark. Björk won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival that year for her depiction of a single mother going blind, who turns to musicals for escape. The film itself also won the Palme d’Or, the highest award for a film at Cannes.
Image via Zentropa Entertainment
Björk was also nominated for Best Song at the Academy Awards that year, for her duet with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke on the song I’ve Seen It All. The musician famously showed up the awards show in a swan dress and performed the duet by herself. (Yorke was not invited, nor acknowledged in the nomination.) Sadly, she did not win the award for Best Song. But she did make Oscar’s history and liven up an otherwise boring ceremony. (Bob Dylan ended up taking home the prize that year even though he did not bother to show up at all.)
Björk Once Swore Never To Act Again
However, it was the brutal treatment of director Lars Von Trier during the filming of Dancer In The Dark that drove Björk away from any future acting roles. She once famously swore that she would never act again. And in 2017, the musician revealed details of Von Trier’s sexual harassment and abuse.
It is also widely known amongst Björk fans that Von Trier manipulated the musician into appearing in the film in the first place. Björk was originally hired to write and perform the soundtrack for Dancer In The Dark. However Von Trier allegedly threatened to change the music if the singer did not take on the role of Selma in the film. This set the pattern for abusive behavior that dramatically affected the musician. Her negative experience filming Dancer In The Dark drove her away from future acting roles. Until now at least.
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Björk Will Act Again In The Northman
Björk has definitely shown that she has acting chops. Although her role in The Northman seems like a small one, this Björk fan is excited to see her back onscreen in the future. And really, playing an Icelandic witch in an epic saga feels very on-brand for her.
Björk performing at her Cornucopia Live show in May 2019 (I was at this show!) | Photo by Frédéric Vicomte via Wikimedia Commons
The inclusion of Björk’s daughter Isadora in the film is also an intriguing one. The young woman is notoriously private, although she is a prominent environmental activist. It will be interesting to see what role Isadora takes on in The Northman, and if she will appear in scenes with her mother.
It seems as though the production shutdown forced Eggers to cast some smaller roles from the Icelandic community. Lucky for him that Björk was in town, and willing to give acting another shot.
(Featured image by Zach Klein via Wikimedia Commons)
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.