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How Jeb Stuart's Die Hard Informed His Approach To Vikings: Valhalla's Action - Exclusive

In the almost 35 years since it was released, "Die Hard" has come to be regarded as one of the best action movies of all time. Often imitated but never duplicated, the movie features a compelling hero in Bruce Willis' John McClane and plenty of heart-pounding action. The Netflix series "Vikings: Valhalla," a spinoff of the popular show "Vikings," offers a similar combination of intriguing characters and thrilling action. While the comparison between the '80s-set movie and the eleventh century-set historical drama may not be obvious, there's a good reason for it: Jeb Stuart, the man responsible for co-writing "Die Hard" (with Steven E. de Souza) is the creator of "Valhalla" and wrote the show's first two episodes.

Stuart is best known for penning action films — in addition to "Die Hard," he wrote "The Fugitive," "Lock Up," and "Just Cause" — and he's brought all of that experience to "Valhalla," which has helped make the series something truly special. While it certainly has all the historical trappings viewers expect, the story balances its action with character development. In an exclusive interview with Looper, Stuart explained how he pulled this off.

Great characters leads to gripping action

The action sequences in "Valhalla" are especially enthralling because of the way they put the show's main characters front and center even amid a gigantic battle. Stuart noted this was key to the way he's conceived of action sequences ever since he wrote "Die Hard". "All of [those action scenes, including] 'Die Hard,' they're character-based action," Stuart observed. "It's not action for the sake of action or 'we need a big set piece here,' it's that this particular character required that or needed that."

Stuart took this character-based approach throughout the series, whether it was the one-on-one fight between Freydis Eriksdotter (Frida Gustavsson) and the Berserker in Episode 3 or the huge battle on the London Bridge in Episode 4 that sees multiple main characters come together. He was also quick to give credit to the stunt coordinator, who was just as concerned about ensuring the action was organic to the characters and their story as Stuart was.

"Tons of credit goes to ['Valhalla''s] Irish crew who can do just about anything. Credit goes to one of the best stunt coordinators I've ever worked with in Richard Ryan, and I've worked with lots of stunt coordinators," Stuart revealed, "but Richard gets what the script is trying to say with the character's actions. In other words, it's not like, 'I know what the script said, but I've got this cool kung fu move and...' They didn't do that, so why are you bringing that to the table?"

All the experience and hard work that he and others brought to "Valhalla" have added up to create a show that Stuart iadores. "[With] 35 years of experience in this business, I've worked with some really wonderful people, but I've tried to bring all the good stuff together in a show like 'Valhalla,'" Stuart reflected. "I think it shows. I love the action and I love the character action, but you can't love character action unless you love the character. Otherwise, it's just a stunt."

The eight-episode first season of "Vikings: Valhalla" is now streaming on Netflix.