Director / CrewI am Michael Hirst – A writer and creator of Vikings on the History Channel. Ask Me Anything!
Jan 31st 2017 by Michael_Hirst • 12 Questions • 9234 Points
A clip from "Alive Inside" of Old Man in Nursing Home Reacts to Hearing Music from his Era first went viral on Reddit!
"Brian's Songs" is a story of Love, Friendship, Music and ALS https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1406732546/brians-songs-love-friendship-dreams-and-als
At one point in the story of Athelstan, why did you use crucifixion? Do you think it could happen despite being forbidden by the emperor Constantine?
did you make eye contact with him?
That was based on historical fact. There were two Christian monks who were captured in England by the Vikings and taken to Scandinavia. At least one of those returned with the Vikings army and was captured and crucified. This is true. It happened. I made it happen to poor Athelstan.
Hmmm. Sadly it was too good for this world...
Did it send chills down his sp.......wait, he doesn't have one.
We will certainly see them go to Iceland.
Hi Mr Hirst! Thank you for doing this Reddit AMA. I have 2 questions.
- What books do you recommend about the vikings?
- Are you planning on releasing any of the scripts that you wrote for Vikings?
How many detainees did you personally speak with?
Customs and Border Patrol is refusing to allow attorneys to speak with detainees. In violation of the court order.
I got hired to make a website for a guy. He took me into a nursing home. It was like Dante's Inferno!
Henry was in a wheelchair, parked in the hallway. He spent every day for the last 10 years like that. We gave him some Cab Calloway and he woke up- as you may know- the clip of Henry from "Alive Inside" first went viral on Reddit! https://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/1h50hy/old_man_in_nursing_home_reacts_to_hearing_music/
I knew in that moment I had to make "Alive Inside"- it took me 3 years.
Are Helga and Torvi your daughter's? Or just a coincidence with the name (Hirst)?
What do you do day to day in your job as an attorney?
I have a law degree but I am a campaigner here with a broad portfolio of responsibilities. Sometimes it's holding a spine behind a senator who needs one; sometimes it's analyzing policy.
Not sure I have a faborite but I really liked The Big Short
How did you originally come to the decision that Ivar wouldn't be able to walk? The historical record on him is pretty unclear on the meaning of "Boneless."
Why a spine?
Hello. I don't know if you can answer this but I'll ask anyway. Do you know how many ships have you used and how many of them were destroyed during the production?
Are you going to now start following him around with a pair of truck nuts?
Hi Brian, when you wrote your songs, what where the bands that inspired you?
In the first season, we had one ship. It was a ship manufactured in the Czech Republic and carried over to Ireland. We now have 9 or 10 ships and lots of smaller ones. We've never destroyed a ship but it's an amazing symbol of how the show has grown. In the back lot, we used to have 4 wooden houses and now it's like 2 acres of buildings and towers and walkways. It's just grown and grown, same with the number of ships. Now we can put hundreds of warriors out to sea. The show has just grown incredibly. It's amazing to see the kinds of ships. When I went to the museum and saw a real Vikings ship, I could see the difference. I could see how absolutely beautiful these ships were with craftsmanship I don't think could ever be repeated.
ALSO: the Senate is about to hold a debate on confirming Rex Tillerson. Senate Democrats are trying to hold it up. Call your Senators and tell them to Reject Rex!
Townes Van Zandt Muddy Waters Guy Clark Hendrix Dylan Beatles Steve Earle Jerry Garcia John Prime Clapton and Townes Van Zandt
Why do you think Vikings were so invincible, even when the western armies had better weapons, more modern war tactics (described in books) and sofisticated defense mechanisms (like that one in Paris)?
Why is Rex Tillerson bad for the planet?
Rex Tillerson spent his entire career at ExxonMobil. His job was to find, extract, and burn carbon. Which, as everyone but this administration knows, causes climate change. Which is really bad for the planet. That's the short answer. There are many more reasons, ask away!
Act. Write. Shovel dirt. Read. Doubt. Watch films more than once.
Don't cross the line. Unless it is cool.
Was there much hesitation in losing the main character of the show and thinking whether it would hugely affect the series?
Was it really as chaotic as they say?
A lot of fans were hoping Athelstan /Ragnar would be reunited, even for a moment after his death why did you choose not to do that?
Can these CBP officers be arrested? If yes why haven't any been arrested?
Thank you for doing the AMA,
What's your favorite episode/moment in the entire series? By the way, I loved the way you ended it with Ragnar, one of the coolest, if not the coolest characters ever in a TV show.
Anything to help with the fact that I always feel like a nuisance asking for favours or calling in chits? Anything like this happen to you when you first started?
I agree Ragnar just was one of the coolest characters ever because he wasn't a conventional Viking. This whole show is about questioning the cliches about the Vikings. And Ragnar was a thoughtful, deep introverted character. And, Travis played him amazingly. And, should have gotten a lot of awards for his performance. There isn't anything like it on TV. My favorite episode this season was 14 (and 15)...that to me, was like one episode. Episode 14 was Ragnar and King Ecbert together, two characters who were so different but in many ways so similar. And, then of course, the scene of the death of Ragnar which I think is some of the most powerful TV I've ever seen.
You must serve people! You gotta remember your project does not matter. How you are helping the other is what allows you to ask people to help you!!!
Thanks for the AMA
How much of the show is based on actual history?
After I said it I looked up the movie and you are gong to be alright i think. That movie was made so long ago. Not that many people can know of it.
It's all based on actual history. It starts life with my research into the sagas and into the history and I have historical advisers who helps me. And even though I'm not writing a documentary everything is based on historical fact and I would only say that Vikings is the second biggest show across Scandinavia and they think that it is pretty authentic and pretty real. I had a conversation with the head of Scandinavian studies at Harvard and he said to me "this is the first time my culture has ever been taken seriously and intelligently." I went to the Vikings ship in Oslo and the curator said "I just want to say thank you. Because of your show twice as many people come to the museum. You have reawaken the interest in our history."
I agree. I even like the idea that I'm doing a nod to it!
But I do appreciate your analysis
Thank you for your show! All the team of Vikings France thanks you. Are we going to see France again in the future?
Well I have the advantage of starting this in my forties, I have tried to get my sixteen year old daughter to read the Art of Communication to try and get her to quiet her mind and take some time away from her iPhone and being connected. Just left Sundance and spent stayed with a legit hip hop star and he and his wife are working on TM. You work really hard and then you start to wonder why, divorce, stress etc... and you look around out how messed up everyone is so you try and find something that makes sense....
Yeah man, it's really interesting journey this thing called life. And the twist of it all is the truth of it is nothing like what "they" say it is! 40 is a great time to master this stuff, actually it's about the time most people do.
Hi Michael. Vikings appears to have been a huge success. Are there any other historical time periods or civilizations you'd be interested in portraying?
I'm working on a couple of other ideas right now of different civilizations. All kinds of civilizations interest me. Partly because you can't make this stuff up. The real stuff is 1000% more interesting than anything that you can invent in fantasy. There's so much more I want to do with my Vikings characters and their journeys are far from over. I love history. I love connecting the past to the present.
Did Ragnar realize (Or even care) by telling Ivar to attack wessex, Alfred could be hurt or killed?..
No, he didn't care about Alfred. Ragnar is an interesting guy. He had lost his faith in the pagan gods, but he was still a Viking. A Viking code of honor is revenge. He knew he was going to die and he wanted his sons to avenge him. He knew Ivar would do the job most efficiently.
How does the writing for Tudors and Vikings differ? Weren't our better knowledge of history in Tudors more restrictive for building dramatic archs?
With Tudors there is a mass of real information. There is so much recorded history. To write a drama about it is a lot to do about selection, select what story lines you want to pluck out of the material. You have to make big choices what to ignore. With Vikings, there's very little raw material. The sagas were written a hundred years after the end of the Viking age. And, the other information comes from Christian monks who were the enemy. So, in theory there is a lot more freedom writing about the Vikings. But, I had a settled purpose that I wanted to be as truthful to them as I could be. I wanted for the first time to tell the story from the Viking point of view.
Hi, mr. Hirst! I want to know: why Hvitserk never speaks? I really wanted him to be more important.
That's a good point. Hvitserk is going to start speaking big time very soon.
I don't have a favorite character. I live with daily with all of the characters. I was as invested in Lagertha as Ragnar. As a writer you have to love your characters in order to make them live on the page and screen. All of the characters have a little bit of me in them.
What are some of your favorite stories of women from the sagas? Who were your favorite characters? Do you ever use them as inspiration for writing your own characters?
I loved writing female characters. I'm incredibly proud of the fact that the History channel is a male skewing channel but now it has a huge female following b/c of Lagertha and the strong female characters in the show. I like writing female characters. I hate shows that just have female characters as decorations, and have female cliched characters. I think all of the female characters in Vikings are interesting. I'm invested in them and they have a huge role in the show. I draw them in from the sagas and from historical records, but I make sure they are just as important in the show as the male characters.
Well, he's in a way not evil. He has brittle bone syndrome. It's a terrible disease and what we've learned is people suffering from this syndrome and they're at risk for breaking their bones every day, they're angry. Ivar has grown up with this condition and he's angry. He feels he has to do better than his brothers to succeed, and he pushes boundaries. He knows that he was left outside to die by Ragnar, and he's always trying to prove himself. He doesn't recognize boundaries. I have huge sympathy for him. I don't condone what he does, but I understand why he does it. And, it makes him an amazing character to write about b/c I never know what he's going to do next.
How challenging has it been for Alex Høgh Andersen to adapt to playing Ivar the Boneless? And is Ivar a hard character to write?
When Alex first showed up to read for Vikings, he was reading for some of the other brothers. When I saw him and when I heard him, I thought he had the potential to be an amazing Ivar and I knew Ivar was going to be a big character to me, so he read for him and we cast him. He's perfect. He's very young, but he's a great actor and he's going to have a great future.
Would you rather live in 2017 Scandinavia or ~700 Scandinavia?
If I lived in 700 Scandinavia, I'd be dead by 28, which was the average life expectancy of the Vikings male. So, that's not too attractive. Vikings has opened a window on to a culture that has been sort of neglected and satirized for too long, a culture that's rich and fascinating. And it made an impact on the whole world.
Regarding the founding of Normandy, hadn't been there more norsemen settled aside from Rollo?
Historically speaking yes. Normandy means literally the land of the North men so Rollo succeeded in bringing many of his kinfolk into France to settle there. So, the Viking DNA is pretty heavy in Normandy still.
We are going to go back to the Mediterranean for sure.
What would be the major differences between writing the script for Vikings and a novel about them in terms of the writing process in your opinion? And would you ever consider writing a book series for alongside the TV show?
I use history books as my resource. I'm not attracted to the idea of writing historical fiction. I love visual media. I love movies, working in television. I like telling stories in pictures, and I think you actually reach a wider audience if you dramatize these stories in television.
Will Alfred- Ivar have a similar relationship to Ragnar- Ecbert going forward?
I don't think so.
Wow. Whatever subject or period you're writing about, write a scene with 3 or 4 characters and obviously the first time you write it, all the characters explain who they are and what they are doing. And, it's important that you start at that point. But, then...you throw that scene out the window. You rewrite the scene with the same characters and they should all conceal who they are and what they want. And in that way, you start to get closer to what human interaction is actually like.
Why was it decided to have Bjorn lead the Great Heathen army instead of Ivar?
Bjorn is Ragnar's eldest son. Bjorn has had more experience in war. There are many tensions between the brothers which will actually explode in time. But, for the purposes of revenging their father's death, it's natural that Bjorn should lead them. And, only Ivar of course objects to this b/c Ivar objects to everything.
Hi Michael! i love the show! i have 2 questions
how old are Bjorn and his brothers in the show?
Something has been bugging me and i feel like the Entry into Algeciras was way to easy for the vikings, why did you decide to not give the muslims some kind of defence ?
- I don't know exactly. When we cut forward in time and Ragnar disappears, I thought of them as late teens (maybe). And Bjorn maybe in his mid 20's. As I say, most Vikings were dead by the age of 28 so it's a youthful culture. They're all young men. It's not surprising that Ecbert that the Saxons can be much older than their Viking equivalents.
- The Muslims weren't expecting any kind of raid on their communities. Certainly not from Vikings. They would never have heard of Vikings. They were essentially a very peaceful community.I think it's this amazing thing that Bjorn sailed into the Mediterranean. We were surprised (today) and people in the time were surprised.