“Success isn’t by accident and, if it is, it won’t be long lasting.” With his expert portrayal of Cato in 2012’s The Hunger Games, it’s hard to believe that Canadian-born actor Alexander Ludwig would experience anything but long-lasting success. Even as a young boy, the actor was eager for work. “I stole my mom’s phone, called her agent, and asked for a meeting.” That meeting led to a role in a Harry Potter commercial and before nine-year-old Alexander knew it, his acting career had begun.
In 2014 Ludwig continued an exploration of his range playing his fiercest role to date in The History Channel’s Vikings, which is in its third season. Moving forward, he looks to keep the bar high, focusing with steadfast dedication on his craft. “There are offers all over the table which I’ve been so flattered about, but I want to make sure I stay on a good path and really do a great movie… I’ve noticed that the people who have made it in the industry have focused on one thing at a time.” He recently starred in When the Game Stands Tall, as well as Final Girl, and has finished filming Go With Me alongside Julia Stiles and Anthony Hopkins. In addition to these films, Alexander has acted as one of the newest brand ambassadors for Bulgari.
Check out our Q&A with the rising actor for The Untitled Magazine‘s “Legendary” Issue 7, and download the free “Legendary” Issue App on iTunes now!
Indira Cesarine: Tell me all about your role on Vikings?
Alexander Ludwig: I played Bjorn, the son of Ragnar Lothbrok, who is played by Travis Fimmel, the show’s lead. I come in at the third episode. In the first two, you see the younger Bjorn played by Nathan O’Toole, who is just spectacular. He did an excellent job. I come in at the third episode and it’s really about the whole second season, where the audience expects to see Bjorn really finding his place in the Viking society, as a man and as a warrior, and go on to do the legendary things that he was known to do.
IC: How closely do you think the series presents what it was really like historically?
AL: I’m a huge history buff, so being a part of this show is great. I had multiple conversations with our fantastic writer Michael Hirst about the show, and how real and true it was to what actually happened. So I’d say about eighty percent of the show is accurate to the events that occurred back then. It’s amazing. Michael is a creative genius… he really develops the characters as much as he wants. The great thing about this show is that it’s very character driven, and the violence and all that is just a byproduct of how they live, but it’s not the focal point of the show, which I love. I did my due diligence and my research, and I saw where the family goes and what happens. So the audience can expect it to get crazier and more interesting as the show goes on, because it is a really intelligent show and what this family did is just unbelievable.
IC: I think true stories are always the most interesting!
AL: I agree, and you know what? It’s really hard to stay very true, especially when you think about Vikings, because there isn’t much information about how they lived compared to other historical figures and events. It was so long ago, so it’s interesting, as an actor, to be able to learn so much. My knowledge about their culture and how they lived has just grown so much since I’ve worked on this show.
IC: Now how did you get started with acting?
AL: I was 9 years old when I realized this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My mom used to be an actress, so I told her and my dad that this is something I wanted to do and it’s what I love, and they were supportive parents. They were a little worried about their kid getting all messed up in the entertainment industry because, as we’ve seen, that’s a very real risk. Anyway, me being the little shit I was, I stole my mom’s phone and I called her agent when I was 9 years old and asked for a meeting. I think he was like ‘but he’s 9 years old calling me… he’s on the phone, but he gave me a call so maybe he’s worth meeting.’ I went in for a meeting and the next thing I knew, I was signed. When I was 12 years old, I really started going out on auditions. My first audition was a Harry Potter commercial, and I booked it. Ever since then, I’ve slowly worked my way up, and it’s been a wild ride.
IC: So you actually stole her phone and called her agent? What did the agent say?
AL: I mean it’s hard to remember, but I think at first he was just like ‘who is this girl calling me?’ I’m like, ‘it’s a boy, I am 9 years old, and I want a meeting.’
IC: So your parents were supportive of your desire to be an actor?
AL: Absolutely; they’re very firm believers that if you want something, you’ve gotta go do it yourself and work hard. I can honestly say that I would not be here without their support. My mom took me to every audition and I would not be here if it wasn’t for the support of my family.
IC: You’ve had some pretty big roles, including Cato in The Hunger Games. Do you feel like that role was your breakthrough moment?
AL: Well, Hunger Games definitely put me on the map, and that was an incredible film to be a part of. That was the first steppingstone to where I am now. I got a lot of notoriety from that and critically, my part was looked upon in a good way, which I was really happy about. When you work as a kid, you’re doing these Disney movies or whatever, and then you stop, because you’re in this awkward phase of puberty and whatnot, and then you start your career over again. Luckily, Hunger Games came my way, and it put me on the map in Hollywood. The next thing I knew, I was getting offered to do Vikings. Before that, I was doing Lone Survivor, so it was snow balling. I really give credit to Gary Ross for that, because I know I wouldn’t be here had I not done Hunger Games. There’s also definitely an urge to show another side of me, because I do not want to be a villain for the rest of my life. If I did play a villain in all three of the Hunger Games movies, I don’t think I would have done it, because I wouldn’t ever want to be typecast as one thing. I love playing interesting roles; it doesn’t matter if they’re a villain or a good guy, I just never want to get stuck in a niche. I’ve been really happy with the way my career has been going lately, because I’ve been all over the map with these types of movies, from Hunger Games to Vikings to Lone Survivor, which is a really heart-felt movie. It’s just gut-wrenching, so I get to show my more innocent side, which is great. I feel really fortunate.
IC: Can you tell me about your experiences working on the set of Hunger Games?
AL: It was wild. I had never been on a film where there was celebrity-level attention before the movie even hit theaters. It was amazing. Everyone already knew who you were and what you were doing and everyone was trying to sneak on set and get photos. You couldn’t walk anywhere, and it was nuts. That still happens today, but I think now, with the work I’ve done, I’ve got a lot more credibility as an actor, as opposed to just a celebrity or a pretty face. That’s not what I want to be. So lately I’ve been really, really pleased that I still get the best of both worlds. I get the credibility as an actor, and I also have all of my great, amazing fans surrounding me. I don’t think anyone has seen something of that caliber, ever. Because social media has been getting so crazy, it was so much easier for them to reach audiences all around the globe. Being a part of that kind of phenomenon was just a dream come true. And, from that, I was able to do the movies that I love and get the roles that I really care about.
IC: I hear that you’re also a musician?
AL: Yeah, I am. I’ve been playing guitar since I was a kid and that was always my dream; to go touring and perform. But through working with really talented people lately, I’ve been able to pick their brains, and I’ve noticed that the people who have really made it in any industry have put all of their eggs in one basket and really focused on one thing at a time. So that’s what I’ve done; I’ve put that on the back burner. I still play – it’s really therapeutic and I really love music, but right now, my goal is to continue with my acting career. I’ve been really, really happy with the way it’s going. I do plan on getting to my music one day down the road, but right now I’ve been on a roll, and I really want to keep that going.
IC: What do you feel would be the best role you’ve played so far in your career? What resonates with you the most?
AL: Lone Survivor, absolutely. Just being included in that caliber of cast and that film was amazing. Now, as an actor, I think Vikings was the best decision I’ve ever made because I’ve been able to show so much depth to myself and my character and really develop a character which I love. But I think, so far, Lone Survivor is definitely the thing I am the most proud of.
IC: So I heard you’re also going to university full time. Did you finish your degree now, or are you still studying?
AL: Well, my family’s all about getting your degree, and I would still like to get it. I have not finished yet, but when everything started getting crazy and this was always my plan… I was like, ‘Look, if it takes me ten years to get my degree then I’m doing something right.’ Because, at the end of the day, what I want to do is what I am doing now, and University isn’t going anywhere. But by no means have I stated that I don’t want to get my degree. Right now, I need to focus on my career, so I just took a leave of absence. I plan on continuing down the road, but right now I am doing what I love. I’m happy, so that’s exactly what I want to be doing.
IC: Well, you’re probably learning a ton anyways and it’s an experience that you could never gain in school!
AL: Exactly. It’s one thing to go to a class and learn about something, but it’s another thing to be doing it. You learn so much more from just doing it and that’s why I think if I went back to University, I wouldn’t study acting per se. I would study something about behind the scenes on film or something that I’m not as familiar or comfortable with.
IC: Do you have a favorite actor that you admire?
AL: Absolutely. Nobody could ever be like ‘oh I want to be the next hit actor,’ but somebody whose career I really do admire, especially right now, is Leonardo DiCaprio. I’ve met him before, and he’s one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. What I really love is that he is really ambitious and he really embodies the character… he puts his work first. Obviously, family and friends come first, but he puts his work right there in front of him and he’s really focused on that. I admire that in him. When he was young, one thing I noticed he did is he chose people that he wanted to work with for the rest of his life, whom he admired. Scorsese was his guy. He made it happen. Leo is kind of my guy, and I would love to one day work with him in any aspect. I think he’s such a talent, and I really love what he did with his career.
IC: If you could collaborate and work with any director who would it be?
AL: I would say Peter Berg has always been up there for me, so working with him has already been a milestone in my life, and we’ve maintained a great relationship. I’m really happy about that. I love working with new, edgy directors. I would love to work with Martin Scorsese. I also love Michelle MacLaren, who’s actually a very close friend of mine. We’ve always spoken about working together, and one day down the road I would love to work with her. She just got off of directing an episode of Breaking Bad and she’s a spectacular director.
IC: Did you ever have a mentor throughout your career, or were you just going at it yourself – the 9 year old picking up the phone and calling an agent?
AL: I find that mentors come from everywhere, and there’s never been one. My family are the people I try to be like. I love the way that they are as people; they’re genuinely great people, but I also think that while on a set, I will find someone whom I aspire to be like. For example, I was on Lone Survivor, and myself and Mark [Wahlberg] became close. Eric Bana was on that set as well. We worked most of our scenes together, so I really learned a lot from him. We still stay very close and, in that aspect, he was a big mentor for me.
IC: Have you ever had a performance where it was a challenge to get into character?
AL: Absolutely. I think whenever people struggle with an actual performance, a lot of it has to do with the writing. If you get a really great script, it’s very easy to connect with the character, and you know the writer has really done his job. But then, of course, you get certain films where you know the writing isn’t as great and you really have to make the most of it. Luckily, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with director-writers who know what they want to see and they’re also writing the script. So it’s very much a collaborative environment. I would say one of the hardest films I’ve ever had to do was Final Girl – an independent film. I starred in it with Abigail Breslin. It will be hitting the film festivals within the near future, but the only reason that it was really tough was because we were filming for three weeks in, basically, a blizzard in Northern DC with no cell reception. It was all night for three weeks. It was like being in prison and that was awful. But, I will say that I grew a lot on that set as well. When you push yourself to the limits and you know you’re there to work and to make a great movie, you pull through. We did it, so I was really happy.
IC: Was there anything that you would say to yourself to get through the day?
AL: The best thing you can possibly do is remind yourself of why you’re there and what you’re doing. For me, just re-reading through the script would click back with me, like; ‘oh that’s why I’m here. Because I’m making a good movie.’ As long as I think I’m choosing good projects that I want to be involved with, I will never have a problem getting through the shoot.
IC: Do you have any words of wisdom that you live by?
AL: I definitely like that James Dean quote, ‘Dream like you’ll live forever, live like you’ll die today.’ I guess that’s one quote. But my motto is really ‘you gotta roll with the punches.’ My dad’s close friend told me that when I was a kid, and I agree, you gotta go with what happens. The universe has a way of working itself out. One thing I’ve realized from my personal motto is that success isn’t by accident, and if it is, then it won’t be long lasting. The people who have gotten where they’ve gotten – they are there because they have worked night and day to make themselves the best they can be. As long as you are a good person and genuine, you’re gonna go far.
IC: That’s a good attitude!
AL: Thank you. Well, I’ve been so pleasantly surprised with the people I work with who have had success. For the most part, I have yet to meet somebody that I dislike. Everybody whom I’ve met has been a genuinely good person. It makes me very happy to be a part of an industry where even though you hear about all these assholes, everyone I’ve worked with has just been such great human beings. That’s what I aspire to be like.
IC: When you hear the word “legendary” what comes to mind?
AL: I think it’s somebody who has made a mark on this world, or who has really inspired someone or something to a great degree.
IC: Can you name any of the legendary people who inspire you?
AL: In the aspect of films, Robert Redford is absolutely a legend, in that he revolutionized the industry with the Sundance Film Festival. He’s really left his mark. That is what a legend is: someone who leaves their mark on the world and leaves it a better place. I mean, you don’t want to hear about a legend that leaves the world worse off. A legend is someone who is a hero in a certain way.
IC: Are there any current projects that you’re working on that you want to tell us about?
AL: Absolutely! I have a football movie coming out August 22nd that I did with Jim Caviezel, Laura Dern and Michael Chiklis. It’s about the greatest winning streak in football history and the movie starts off with the first time the team loses the streak and it’s about their strive and their struggle to get back to what this legendary coach really did.
IC: Are you a big football fan?
AL: Not at all. I’m from Canada. So football is not very big. But I will say I am now. I am hooked on football now, but before I did the movie, I couldn’t even tell you how to play the game. But if you brought up, say, a hockey movie, then I’d be all over it.
Make sure to pick up a copy of The Untitled Magazine‘s “Legendary” issue 7 for more on Alexander Ludwig here now!
Photography by Indira Cesarine
Fashion Editor: Indira Cesarine
Grooming by Kerri Urban @ Exclusive Artists Management
Shot 1: Alexander wears a jacket and t-shirt by Nicholas K with sunglasses by Diesel.
Shot 2: He wears a camo t-shirt by G-Star and jeans by Jardine.
Shot 3: Gray shirt by Nicholas K, denim jacket by Jacob Davis and sunglesses by Diesel.