Many fans draw comparisons between Vikings and Game of Thrones, and in speaking with Looper, Hirst did contrast his show with Game of Thrones in one important way: Vikings doesn’t use green screens. “We went initially for everything that was as real as it could be, and then later we enhanced it,” he explained. Even outside of green screens, Vikings uses special effects “sparingly” — something Hirst takes pride in. He noted, “We obviously have to enhance some of the shots, but […] most of the fight scenes are for real. In other words, our actors like to fight.”
Each actor did as much of the fighting as they possibly could on their own, but it wasn’t just combat. “They rode horses and they rowed boats, and they did all the physical stuff,” said Hirst. “They really wanted to get muddy and bloody for the sake of the show, and I think that showed.”
Hirst also took time to highlight his own overarching philosophy about his fight scenes. “It was very important for me to have the audience embedded in the battle and caring about the characters in the battle. These are not just huge nameless, faceless visual-effect armies moving from left to right and right to left across the screen. You are with some of your favorite characters in any battle scene, in any fight, and you care,” said Hirst. “As an audience [member], you care whether these characters live or die.”
The final ten episodes of Vikings season 6, along with the rest of the series, are available on Amazon Prime Video in select territories now. Season 6B will begin airing on History on January 1. Stay tuned to Looper for more exclusive Vikings coverage.