Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Untold Truth Of Travis Fimmel

Travis Fimmel has been turning heads for nearly two decades. Yet it wasn't until his performance as the electric Ragnar Lothbrok on History's "Vikings" that Fimmel exploded into the mainstream. His Ragnar was a study in contrasts: equal parts barbarian and intellectual; lover and fighter; explorer and farmer. Along those lines, Travis Fimmel is a man whose journey has been full of twists and turns.

Along with the hit historical fiction show about pillaging and exploration, Fimmel has starred in a live-action screen adaptation of the "Warcraft" video game and a quirky independent rom-com called "Maggie's Plan" written and directed by Rebecca Miller. He's also played the head of a gang of thieves in 1972 in "Finding Steve McQueen," and one of the few human survivors of Earth's destruction in "Raised by Wolves."

Travis Fimmel is a leading man who chooses to live a simple life despite his growing money and fame. He's a successful actor who, according to GQ, doesn't think much of his chosen profession. He went from dreamboat clean-faced underwear model to specializing in characters who are scarred and haggard, with scraggly beards and inscrutable expressions. How much of that is acting versus how much is Fimmel is unclear, since Fimmel himself is reserved and enigmatic. Just like Ragnar, though, Fimmel started his life as a farmer, according to People, without any dreams of fame or ego. After years of adventuring and soul searching he's returned to the farm, still uncaring about the fame of it all.

Travis was briefly a professional Australian Rules Football Player

According to an archived bio from "The Beast," the television show in which he starred alongside Patrick Swayze, Fimmel moved from his family farm to Sydney to pursue a career in Australian Rules Football. He played for St. Kilda, or at least was reportedly on the team. He suffered an injury before the start of the season and that ended his career.

In another interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Fimmel downplayed his athletic prowess. When the interviewer asked, "Didn't you dream of playing for the St. Kilda Saints until that broken leg sidelined you?" he responded, "Nah... wasn't that good mate."

How much his pro career is a tool to spice up his bio versus how much it was an actual prospective career is up for debate. He certainly has the build and body of an athlete, and considering his proclivity for doing many of his own stunts and his ability to swing weapons on screen, he has some prowess.

One thing's for certain, though: if he had become a pro athlete in Australia, it would have been a huge loss for the rest of the world.

His journey began as a Calvin Klein underwear model

Once the AFL thing fell through, Fimmel enrolled briefly in college before traveling abroad, kicking around London and Los Angeles. As he says in a New Yorker article, Travis was "working in bars, living above bars — it was kind of the funnest time." An article from Fashion Industry Broadcast recounted how he was discovered in a Melbourne gym by the Chadwicks modeling agency, leading him to Los Angeles where he was signed by L.A. Models.

After a few modeling gigs Travis was looking for something more solid to get a visa to stay in the US. In the process he signed a huge deal. Calvin Klein himself locked Fimmel in to be the poster boy for their new campaign. "His presence was jaw-dropping," Klein recalled to Interview magazine. "I called Steven Klein right away and said, 'Don't do anything. Just put him in the underwear and put him up against the window.'" 

According to Fashion Industry Broadcast, this billboard was allegedly so arresting that it caused traffic accidents. Off that, Fimmel was the first male to lock in a six-figure contract for Calvin Klein. And according to W Magazine, Fimmel was supposedly the inspiration for hunk Smith Jerrod on "Sex in the City."

Not bad for a farm boy from Australia.

His big break was playing Tarzan

Fimmel made the natural progression from model to actor and after several years landed the title role in the 2003 Warner Bros. series "Tarzan." It only lasted for one season but it was his big move into television, a WB show lauded by CNN at the time as one of the "five hottest things happening in entertainment right now."

While only lasting one season, it proved the pretty face could act, something no doubt helped by the fact that he did most of his own stunts. He quickly racked up starring roles in movies like "Surfer, Dude" with Matthew McConaughey and series like "The Beast" with Patrick Swayze but it wasn't until he became legendary Viking Ragnar Lothbrok on History's "Vikings" that he became a well-known leading actor.

But it's appropriate that "Tarzan" was his first big break since his childhood habit of running around his farm barefoot and fishing landed him, according to the Tampa Bay Times with the nickname Tarzan.

Fimmel was done with TV after Vikings -- until Ridley Scott came along

"Vikings" was a big commitment, full of long shoots with Fimmel spending hours floating around in Viking ships and getting tattoos painted onto his head. He also spent a good chunk of the year filming in Ireland, halfway between his homes of Los Angeles and Australia. While Fimmel was already in talks with other TV series while at "Vikings," when his time as Ragnar ended he felt he was finished with TV. He did star in the ill-fated Quibi short series "50 States of Fright," but Fimmel's head seemed to be far from the small screen.

"I thought I'd never do [a TV series] again. But Ridley... it's all Ridley Scott," he told Rotten Tomatoes.

That Ridley Scott series is HBO's "Raised By Wolves," a sci-fi action movie set in a dystopian future where religious wars have decimated Earth, leaving only a small group of survivors to colonize a foreign planet alongside a super-powered enemy android.

It may seem different from "Vikings" but it involves a power struggle, a voyage to a foreign land, and Travis Fimmel scowling and smiling behind a long, scraggly beard.

While he has several movies in post-production, and his 2016 summer epic "Warcraft" grossed close to half a billion dollars worldwide, Travis is confirmed to be returning to the small screen not only in Season 2 of "Raised By Wolves" but also as the lead character in a new series, for now known as the "Untitled Wyatt Earp Anthology."

Fimmel has his own ranch, like the farm he grew up on

When Travis Fimmel hit his late teens, he left his family farm to explore what else the world had to offer. In part he left because he saw how hard the life is, proven by the fact that his parents just recently sold their farm. In his 2013 interview with the Tampa Bay Times, he put his reasons for leaving simply: "It's either I sit on the farm and be poor, or get off the farm and try not to be poor, I guess." So Travis bounced around big cities for a while before realizing, sure enough, he wanted to live on a farm.

Before buying his farm, he was living on a stuntman's ranch outside of L.A. According to GQ, he apparently tried living in the Hollywood Hills, West Hollywood, Malibu, and Santa Monica before finally settling on his own ranch outside of Los Angeles.

Now he has some big plans for renovation. In a New Yorker article, he detailed his priorities: "I've got this time off because of COVID, and planting a lot of trees. Fruitless mulberry, because they're great shade trees. Peppercorn, because they're so drought-tolerant. Eucalyptus, because I'm trying to make everything as Australian as I can ... I'd much rather be doing this sort of stuff than putting on makeup and playing make-believe."

Like Ragnar had always wanted, Travis Fimmel has returned to the farm.

He impressed Daniel Day Lewis

Fimmel's conflicted, unpredictable and screen-stealing performance as Ragnar in "Vikings" turned a lot of heads. One of those just happened to be a three-time Academy Award winning actor: Daniel Day Lewis. According to the New Yorker article, he impressed Day-Lewis enough that the acclaimed actor referred Fimmel to his wife, Rebecca Miller. Miller then cast Fimmel in her 2016 film "Maggie's Plan."

Fimmel plays an oddball pickle "entrepreneur" in the Greta Gerwig-starring New York-based romantic comedy. "Maggie's Plan" made several film festival appearances and as of now has an 86% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. It should be added that Rebecca Miller is a novelist, director, independent filmmaker, and the daughter of legendary playwright Arthur Miller — between her background and that of her husband, Fimmel found himself in talented artistic company. 

"Maggie's Plan" was unique in Fimmel's oeuvre, showing the actor's range as he left action-adventure behind for a comedy that many reviewers compared to a early Woody Allen film. He still had the big scraggly Ragnar beard and the Viking's voice, but he carried them with wry humor while wearing a beanie with large ear flaps.

He has the same acting coach as James Franco, Brad Pitt and Jared Leto

When Travis first began his journey from underwear model to actor, he connected with an acting coach, which he has maintained was the key to his success.

"The best thing I ever did for my career was study a lot, go to acting class a lot," said Fimmel in an interview for Backstage. That acting class was with Ivana Chubbuck, a legendary acting coach who's worked with a long list of successful actors, among them Brad Pitt, James Franco, and Jared Leto.

Chubbuck has worked with Fimmel since 2001, and according to Chubbuck it's more than just a teacher-student thing. "First of all he's my friend too. I love Travis. I'm so proud of him," Chubbuck said in a 2015 interview with the AU Review.

As for Travis's take on Ivana? Despite the fact that she's the only acting mentor and teacher he's had since going from modeling to acting, he wrote a testimonial for her website: "Ivana has taught me that a character's intentions are best revealed within behavior, that behavior can contain the layers and richness of their pain, desperation, and need. Because, words can lie, behavior tells the truth."

He originally wanted to play Floki instead of Ragnar

Travis Fimmel's performance as Ragnar no doubt played a large part in "Vikings" becoming so popular. He embodied the enigmatic leader's divide between curious enlightenment and bloodthirsty savagery so well that one couldn't imagine anybody else in the role. His pillager was equal parts seductive and savage, frightening and friendly. Yet when he first went in for the show, Travis had another character in mind.

Travis Fimmel originally was gunning to play Floki "but Gustaf [Skarsgård] was already cast." It makes sense given Fimmel's own desire to shy away from the spotlight, focusing on being a talented craftsman instead of the leading man he could be. Plus, as we can see from the eccentric portrayal that Fimmel brought to the historically stoic Ragnar, he would have been a very compelling fit for a mischievous genius. There is no mystery, by the end, as to who Ragnar's closest male supporter is: always and forever the mad genius Floki.

In the end, though, it wouldn't work out too well if Floki stole every scene he was in. And if Fimmel had played him, that probably would have been unavoidable.

He's not really into being an actor

Travis Fimmel is notoriously not all about being an actor. Just look through his interviews. In GQ he says, "I never wanted to be an actor, ever. I still don't."

Discussing his career in Interview Magazine, he says, "I don't know why I'm doing it. I still have no idea why I'm doing it." He adds in the same article, "Do they think we're curing cancer? I think people take themselves too seriously if they get offended by it; it's just a job ... There's some great stuff about acting and all that. It just doesn't affect me."

Despite his nonchalance about the "job" of being an actor, the fact that he's worked with an acting coach for going on two decades shows in his performances. Like it or not, he seems committed to being the best actor he can. In that same interview, he's later asked whether he's had to fight for any roles. "Most jobs you have to fight for," he answers. "For my first job, I auditioned like 13 times. You go back in, you're writing letters. It happens all the time. It's not a very easy industry to be a part of."

Given that struggle and commitment to craft, one has to wonder if maybe a part of Travis Fimmel likes being an actor — at least a little.

He's private about his dating life

Travis Fimmel is also notoriously private about everything in his life. It's tough to find pictures of him at big see-and-be-seen parties. He describes his desire to keep out of the social scene in a Sydney Morning Herald article, saying, "I've never understood how you get sucked into it, unless you're a wanker." This seems to go doubly for getting into the Hollywood dating scene.

When the Sydney Morning Herald asks him about finding a wife and becoming a family man, he says, "Women are complicated." In a 2002 interview with W, he says, "The kind of girls I like certainly wouldn't know I did Calvin, and I certainly wouldn't tell them. I'd just say that I'm working in a bar."

Yet a good-looking leading man like him has been linked, without confirmation, to many women over the years. The most recent gossip, from 2020, says he was rumored to be dating Paula Patton, his Warcraft co-star.

Nothing is confirmed, however. So for those who have a crush on the Aussie, Travis Fimmel is, on paper at least, still looking for Mrs. Right.

Fimmel was living in a trailer as his time on Vikings ended

As GQ points out, Fimmel prefers to go to the VFW hall instead of West Hollywood hotspots and drives a pick-up instead of a Tesla. When Outside magazine went to interview Fimmel just as he was transitioning off "Vikings" and doing publicity for "Warcraft," the writer found him in an unexpected place.

Fimmel didn't have a palatial mid-century modern palace atop the Hollywood Hills, and no oversized kitchen with a nutritionist on call. Instead he was living on a ranch owned by a stuntman, in an 18-foot "beige and white Nomad travel trailer."

The actor had been spending years going back and forth between L.A. for auditions, Ireland for "Vikings," Australia to visit the family and anywhere else a peripatetic actor on the rise would go. It makes sense, then, that he wouldn't spend a ton of money buying a swanky bachelor pad to use a month or two a year. Still, even the author of the Outside article points out that "among a generation who've shunned material possessions as barriers to life experience, Fimmel has achieved an advanced state of stoic minimalism."

At the time, fresh off a hit TV series and a starring role in a film that grossed more than $400 million, Fimmel's only possessions, according to the article, were a horse, the trailer he lived in, and a 1982 GMC pickup with a '73 bed.

He was briefly a busker in London

Pre-celebrity Fimmel was a bit of a rambler. Emerging from his childhood working the family farm, Fimmel spent some time messing around with pro Australian Rules Football, briefly enrolled at RMIT University to study architecture (according to the Sydney Morning Herald, Fimmel says, "I don't think I passed any subjects") and bounced around cities like Los Angeles and London. While the Calvin Klein ad in many ways began his career, Fimmel looks at it in a more utilitarian way. When Interview magazine asks him if his brothers, Australian miners, ever joke about his modeling, Fimmel replies, "They know I was just trying to get a visa."

Yet of all the gigs he's picked up, one of the more interesting ones is certainly that of a busker. According to a video interview for Rolling Stone, he and a friend were briefly buskers in the London subway, performing Sam Cooke's "What a Wonderful World." As Fimmel says, "I can't sing, my friend couldn't sing. We tried to make money and we gave up very quickly."

It should be added that busking, or performing music on the street, is actually respected as a valid way to make money as a performer in London, with a formal licensing program and everything. So just imagine getting off "the tube" and seeing Ragnar Lothbrok singing Motown.

He hates performing live, even in auditions

It makes sense that Fimmel's busking career never took off. According to the actor himself, he hates performing live. In the GQ article, Fimmel expresses his feelings about live auditions: "I hate it. Absolutely hate it. It's very unrealistic. There's people that like to get up and talk in front of people. I wasn't the kid that enjoyed reading out loud in class."

Every article and interview discusses how much Fimmel prefers to eschew the limelight. And as GQ points out, "more upsetting for Fimmel is that, against all odds, this farm-raised Victorian is particularly noticeable."

Fimmel notes in the same article that he can't avoid doing contractually-required publicity for his various projects but he gets more selective about how and where he does it. Regardless what press he does, Travis Fimmel likely won't be performing on a stage near you any time soon. As he said in a New Yorker article, "I could never be in a play, onstage. I'd break down and cry."

Has he gotten over the stage fright when auditioning at least? Travis tells news.com.au, "I've always been really s**t in auditions ... 90 percent of the jobs I have gotten is me putting myself on tape because I get too nervous in front of people."

So no live auditions. But as long as Fimmel keeps playing characters who break all the leading man stereotypes, he can audition however he wants and nobody's gonna complain.