×

‘Adrift’ Director Baltasar Kormakur on Casting Shailene Woodley, Shooting Surrounded by Sharks

Baltasar Kormakur has taken on epics like “Everest,” an action-comedy in “Two Guns” and an atmospheric Icelandic TV drama series with “Trapped.” The director-producer-writer is often drawn to tales of extreme elements and survival. Starring Shailene Woodley and Sam Claifin in the true story of a couple who faces tragedy on the ocean, “Adrift” open June 1.

Why are you so drawn to stories about the sea?

I’m Pisces, my sign is water. I was a competitive sailor as a kid and I was drawn to the sea. This was my first story about about sailing. Iceland is surrounded by water, so it’s part of my life.

What is it about tales of survival that attracts you?

It’s very raw and visceral, coming from a country where nature and the weather are a constant. When people face these elements, the person behind the person comes out — the mask comes off.

What appealed to you about the book the movie is based on?

It was one of the first scripts I’ve seen that’s a woman against nature.

Were there any scary moments during filming?

Kind of every day! Filming in Fiji, at one point we were surrounded by 50 bull sharks. I tried to make it safe, but it’s easy to get it wrong under those conditions. It was 12 to 14 hours a day in the water.

What made you think Shailene Woodley was the right choice to star?

I loved her performance in “The Descendants.” There’s something earthy about Shailene, she’s a free spirit, a nature-loving girl. Her emotions were authentic, and she’s very strong in the water. She did her own stunts in the water and under the sailboat.

Why do you switch back and forth between working in Hollywood and Iceland?

Hollywood is a great opportunity to play on a bigger stage, with a bigger budget. But Iceland lets me create something as part of a community — I opened a studio there — and gives it more of a meaning.

When will we see Season 2 of “Trapped”? 

Early next year. It has sold out around the world.

What’s the biggest difference between working in film and TV for you?

The way it’s evolved is that most people are just making films for television. It gives you more range for the characters, they don’t have to be instantly empathetic, you don’t have to get everyone (in the theaters) in the first weekend. TV is like slow cooking, it allows you to take your time. But I love films.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Knives Out

    Rian Johnson's 'Knives Out' Sells to KKR's New Distribution Company in Germany

    Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” has been picked up for Germany by the newly established distribution company owned by New York-based private equity group KKR. Fred Kogel’s rapidly growing, but still unnamed, German independent production and distribution operation has taken all rights for Germany and Austria on the all-star whodunnit, which stars Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, [...]

  • Director Mati Diop poses for photographers

    Toronto Film Festival: Director Mati Diop to Receive Inaugural Mary Pickford Award

    French actress and director Mati Diop will be honored with the inaugural Mary Pickford Award for outstanding female talent at the Toronto International Film Festival’s upcoming Tribute Gala. TIFF announced the news along with their schedule of events including live performances and interviews featuring directors and actors such as Oscar winner Javier Bardem. “Mati Diop’s [...]

  • Hollywood Recession Business Placeholder

    How an Economic Downturn Could Ravage Hollywood

    Trade-war fears, stock market volatility and, most recently, bond market signals that point to a pending recession are rattling investors, igniting concerns that another devastating downturn may be just around the corner. As those worries reverberate all the way from Wall Street to Hollywood, the entertainment industry is in for an unsettling reminder of the [...]

  • 'La Muralla'

    HBO Latino Snaps up Bolivia’s ‘Muralla’ by Gory Patiño (EXCLUSIVE)

    In its continued bid to provide a diverse range of films from Latin America, HBO Latino has acquired U.S. pay TV rights to Bolivian Gory Patiño’s thriller “Muralla” from Alfredo Calviño of Habanero Film Sales. “Muralla” was Bolivia’s official entry to the 2019 Oscars and Golden Globes. Back home, where it had a 10-week theatrical [...]

  • Wagner Moura

    Wagner Moura’s ‘Marighella’ Slated for Nov. 20 Release Amid Calls for Boycott

    SANTIAGO, Chile – “Marighella,” Wagner Moura’s contentious directorial debut, is slated to bow in Brazil on Nov. 20 but Moura fears that its domestic release could be hampered by ongoing calls to boycott it by conservatives and the government of President Jair Bolsonaro who claims, among other things, that Brazil’s 21 years under military rule [...]

  • Disney Music Group Launches 'For Score'

    Disney Music Group Launches Composer Podcast Series

    Disney Music Group, in association with Treefort Media, will debut “For Scores,” a new podcast series featuring interviews with film and television composers from Disney, Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox. Set to launch this week, the podcast is hosted by Variety contributor Jon Burlingame and “will give voice to award-winning visionary composers, exploring [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content