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Of Natives And Vikings
Surrounding Karl Urban in his quest for justice is a group of both Native Americans and Viking characters – each of whom has their own agenda for his future. Another key Native American role is that of the headstrong Blackwing, who vies with Ghost both for Starfire's love and for control of their people's future. Jay Tavare, an actor of White Mountain Apache, Navajo and mixed European heritage – and whose long list of credits includes The Missing, Cold Mountain and Adaptation – approached the role with enthusiasm.

"When Marcus came to me about me about playing Blackwing, I immediately saw the character as a kind of peacock. He's the guy who starts out with it all – he's got the girl, he's supposed to be the next Pathfinder and he's one of the tribe's strongest warriors. But then he loses everything and has to come to grips with the tough lesson that life has other plans for him,” observes Tavare.

Although Tavare is intrigued by history, he enjoyed getting the chance to use some playful imagination to bring to life a period about which so little is known. "Usually, if I'm playing any First Nation people, I like to be as accurate as I can. But with this film, there is such a fantasy element to it, that I felt it was a good place to try something a little more wild and take some dramatic license,” Tavare explains. "You know, Vikings meeting Indians – it has a great comic book element to it right from the start.”

Yet the physical plight of Blackwing would become harrowingly real for Tavare.

"Blackwing gets captured, hung upside down over a fire and shot with arrows and that's just in one day,” he notes. "It was an incredibly tough shoot, but luckily, Marcus works so fast that you never are suffering for long!”

Meanwhile, the role of Gunnar, the fierce leader of the Viking clan, is taken on by a true action film favorite: Clancy Brown, who was recently seen in dark turns as Brother Justin Crowe in the award-winning HBO series Carnivale, and as a mysterious American military officer in two episodes of Lost. Like his castmates, Brown was drawn to the screenplay's broad range of themes inside a searing saga of a one-man war for justice. "It's about identity, it's about loyalty, it's about the evolution of culture – it's about a lot of things if you want to read into it,” says Brown.

While getting ready for the role, Brown read up on the volatile history of the Vikings in the 9th Century, and came up with his own vision of what drives Gunnar. "Gunnar is one of the disenfranchised Vikings of Iceland who have recently had to adopt Christianity,” Brown explains. "I fancy that Gunnar and his band are from the ‘old order' of Vikings who revel in the lifestyles of their forefathers where they'd just go out and take what they want.”

Indeed, Gunnar leads the Vikings on fiendish attacks of Native communities, until catching Ghost becomes his blinding obsession. He's a character with a definite cruel streak, yet Brown sees Gunnar's devilish actions as a part of his times and his culture. "Vikings aren't wiping out these peaceful people because they hate them; this is just what they do. They go in, wipe out a village, take the people and sell them into slavery. It's commerce for the Vikings,” Brown observes. "It's just a part of life, and there's no malice. Gunnar is not inherently evil; he's just 100% Viking.”

The biggest challenge for Brown came when Marcus Nispel requested that the character speak entirely in Icelandic, the ancient language of Norsemen and not a simple tongue to master. Somehow, though, Brown became so fluent that he impressed everyone on the set. "Clancy spoke the language like he was born in Iceland,” remarks Karl Urban. "Whenever Gunnar's speaking there's this great sort of earthy, whiskey resonance he gives to the character.”

Adds Marcus Nispel: "We al

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