Sturla Gunnarsson's very cool movie
Category: Beowulf & Grendel News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 18, 2006 | Publication: Famous (Famous Player's Theatre) Magazine | Author: Ingrid Randoja
Sturla Gunnarsson is standing at a pay phone on a dirt road in a tiny village in Costa Rica talking about Vikings, fjords and monsters.
The director of Beowulf & Grendel is enjoying a warm vacation after spending 45 days on the rainy, windy and very chilly coast of Iceland shooting the medieval adventure pic that stars Gerard Butler as the Norse hero Beowulf, who battles a troll names Grendel.
Gunnarsson was born in Iceland but his family immigrated to Vancouver when he was six years old. However, the filmmaker who gave us Diplomatic Immunity, Such a Long Journey and Rare Birds, has never lost touch with his homeland, which is why he jumped at the chance to return to the island and make a film based on the ancient Anglo-Saxon poem.
"The Icelandic landscape has been in my imagination since I can remember, that's where I was born, and those images have been swimming in my unconsciousness," says Gunnarsson.
But making a film in such harsh conditions tested the hardy Gunnarsson and his cast.
"For the actors there was always an unwritten character in every scene --- the weather --- and you didn't know what he was going to do, but you had to go with it, which was fabulous because that's the world these characters lived in. You get into the 'no acting required' territory. If you could manage to stand on your mark without being blown over and speak the lines loud enough for anyone to hear them then that was an accomplishment.
"For me, working in those conditions, was exhilarating in a sort of beautiful and horrible way. Every time you'd achieve a shot there was so much pride on set because every shot was so hard fought."
The story focuses on legendary hero Beowulf, who comes to the aid of the Danish king (Stellan Skarsgard) whose people are being terrorized by the troll Grendel. Beowulf realizes Grendel is an intelligent foe, and with the help of a witch (Sarah Polley) unearths reasons behind Grendel's gruesome attacks.
Getting the much-in-demand Butler to star was another epic challenge.
"I saw Gerry in Lara Croft, Timeline and Dear Frankie and decided he was my guy," explains Gunnarsson.
"Our casting director got the script to him. First his agency read it and passed, so she got it to his manager, who read it and also passed (laughs). She called him back and said, 'Are you out of your f---ing mind?' He read it again and said, 'You're right this is a great script.' So once we got all of his management to read it, then Gerry read it and loved it right away. Gerry was in right from the start, but we had to get through all the keepers first.
"He was a real trooper, slopping around in that mud and water and sh-t all day long. Lots of guys could have said, 'I'm outta here, talk to my agent.' Gerry is an interesting guy, very masculine and forceful on a certain level, but very sensitive also, and those guys are in short supply.