Baltasar Kormákur is one of the national treasures of Iceland’s film industry, as a writer, director, producer and actor. His Icelandic films, like 101 Reykjavik and The Deep, often screen at the Toronto International Film Festivals (with the former winning the festival’s Discovery Award in 2000). Kormákur is also a noted actor in his country and appeared in the hit movie Reyjavik-Rotterdam. A few years after starring in that film, Kormákur would direct its American remake, Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale.
Today, Kormákur moves between big-budget American films and Icelandic projects. He is currently preparing to make Everest, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hawkes, Josh Brolin and Jason Clarke, based on the true story about a 1996 disaster on the mountain that killed eight climbers. Until then, Kormákur is celebrating the DVD and Blu-Ray release of his buddy comedy/thriller 2 Guns, starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.
Recently, we sat down for an exclusive interview with Kormákur, who spoke about the films that influenced 2 Guns, working with a pack of bulls on the set, Iceland’s rise as a centre for film production and more.
Check it out below and enjoy!
We Got This Covered: 2 Guns’ setting, feel and pace reminded me of a few types of films. It reminded me of 1980s buddy comedies and 1960s spaghetti westerns. Where did you get your influences from for some of the film’s action scenes?
Baltasar Kormákur: Midnight Run, John Wayne, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It’s those kinds of movie that have a tone that don’t take themselves too seriously, but they’re not out there either. I wasn’t going for a Rush Hour style, where you have the comedian and the straight guy, which is kind of based off of 48 Hrs. I was more leaning toward guiding the cast together like Robert Redford and Paul Newman. They’re two serious stars and there’s some chemistry there, which is fantastic. That’s what I was hoping for and I think I got that in some way with Denzel and Mark. I mean, 2 Guns is based on a comic-book, and for me, some of the comic-book adaptations out there have become very serious, and take themselves very seriously. When Hollywood is at its best, nobody can make that tone better than the movies I mentioned earlier.
WGTC: You shot this movie in New Mexico, a place quite different from your native territory. What was it like shooting there in those rugged locations and with those landscapes?
Baltasar Kormákur: I loved it. I am coming from a place where nature is all around you and I love it when you can feel the place. It doesn’t matter if it’s warm or cold, it’s just that you have a sense of place. I don’t really need to know exactly in which town I am. If the surrounding in the frame gives me a feeling of where I am, that’s great. That’s why I really loved shooting there. It’s very specific. There’s plenty of western and Sergio Leone work that influenced me. I didn’t want to feel like I was trying to make a spaghetti western, more use it as a reference, wink at it. We were more ‘winking’ at the genre. We had this fun saying, from producer Adam Siegel, that we were making, “A western without the hat.” “Don’t put a hat on it.” Any time we thought we were going too close to a western, he would say, “Let’s not put a hat on it. Ease off a bit.” That’s what I was attempting.
WGTC: There were a lot of action directors who were considered to make 2 Guns [like Antoine Fuqua, Doug Liman and Martin Campbell]. How did you manage to come on board?
Baltasar Kormákur: After I finished doing Contraband, I was doing ADR with Mark [Wahlberg]. He brought it to my attention. I thought that kind of tone, the playfulness that you don’t see many thrillers tend to do, I felt I had some freedom to play with. I put in some comedy and action directors are never brought in to do any kind of comic work. The scenes have a bit of space for playfulness and that’s what appealed to me. Also working with Mark again and Denzel. We decided to try to go for Denzel right off the bat. When he accepted it, I was very excited to get the chance to work with an icon.