The call came late one Thursday evening. “Do you want to be a Viking,” the voice asked, “in a movie?” It was a silly question, hence the squeal of “yes” in reply.
“Good. Be down at L’Anse aux Meadows by 8.30 a.m. for wardrobe,” the voice continued.
With those words Viking No. 4, that’s me, came to be on the set of a Parks Canada introduction film that will eventually be shown at the site’s new interpretation centre.
Whether or not Viking No. 4 makes it to the silver screen is yet to be seen, however, the 15-minute film will be shown as a feature piece in the visitor centre theatre.
The aim of the dramatic and engaging film is to set the stage for further exploration of the cultural and natural resources of L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, and encourage visitors to make an emotional and intellectual connection to the place.
“The film will support high quality memorable visitor experiences at the centre that inspire visitors to experience and personally connect with L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site,” a Parks Canada spokesperson said of the film.
“After seeing the film, we want visitors to feel excited about what will happen next in their experience, and to feel pride for this place as a local, national and international treasure.
“We also hope that people will feel that they have a personal role to play in protecting places such as L’Anse aux Meadows.”
Lights, cameras, action
Without a Norse name, traditional clothes or — let’s be honest — a clue at what I was doing, it was a relatively simple foray into stardom which I hoped would propel me to lofty heights alongside Brad Pitt or, to a lesser extent, David Platt off Coronation Street.
With no dialogue to learn all that was required of me was to look angry, pained, slightly dishevelled and, when asked, untrustworthy and suspicious.
Considering our convict heritage in Australia and our seemingly absurd celebration of crooks and criminals Down Under, all of those ‘looks’ come quite naturally and, thanks to an oversized round wooden shield with its tiny metal inlaid crevice handle that crushed my hand every time I picked it up, I didn’t even need to fake a grimace or a pained look.
As if some kind of soothsaying clairvoyant I’d fortuitously — or lazily — maintained a lush beard and mangy hair through the spring giving my head a certain rustic Viking appeal. Decked out in a spare slave outfit supplied by Parks Canada, the only thing left was to find a good ol’ chunk of mud to splatter on my face to give the impression of a weary thrall.
Then it was on to the set — the wide expanse and craggy hills of L’Anse aux Meadows.
The following hours contained everything from extreme close-ups to wide sweeping shots as director Dan Forgues positioned the hoard of experienced Vikings reenactors Mark Pilgrim, Wade Hillier, Mike Sexton and our ‘chief’ Jim McDonald— and me — around the landscape like an elaborate game of chess.
Sworn to secrecy about the plot, all I can say is that as fleeting acting careers go, mine was of the briefest kind, but in a weird paradox my Viking role seemingly merged into my high school acting debut when I played a cantankerous American tourist visiting Fiji who complained about the weather.
Standing around in horizontal rain on a windswept beach in northern Newfoundland — presumably just like the Vikings did when they landed in 1000AD — I too cursed the weather and the Vikings for not discovering Fiji.
Where to now for my not-so-burgeoning acting career?
Being that the next season of “Republic of Doyle” will feature New Zealand-born, but Australian-claimed Russell Crowe (we’ll take anyone with an Oscar), I’m hoping Allan Hawco will see fit to draft me into his hit TV show.
There’s not enough mute Australian Vikings in that show for my liking.
The Northern Pen