After the success of 2015’s “Everest,” Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur was inundated with offers for big Hollywood projects.
“I was involved in a few things, a big Fox film that didn’t go for a number of reasons,” Kormákur recalled when I sat down with him earlier this week.
But sometimes the right script comes to the right director at the right time. So when “Adrift” finally found its way to Kormákur all other scripts were quickly disregarded, as it instantly chimed with him “on a personal level.”
Mostly because he was a competitive sailor when he was a kid, which meant he knew “this world quite well” and could add depth and detail to the tense survival drama, but also because he “loved the idea of a woman against nature.”
“Adrift” is certainly that, as it tells the true story of Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) and Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin), who were stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for over a month in 1983 after their yacht was caught up in a hurricane. With Richard gravely injured, Tami had to try and navigate them to Hawaii, even though the boat was stricken and she had no supplies and power.
Kormákur used his expertise to immediately adjust the original script for “Adrift,” which previously begun proceedings in the midst of the hurricane.
“For me, it was totally essential to start in the middle of the ocean, after the hurricane, with a 24-year-old girl shouting a name, and she is 1,400 miles away from land. Now you are like, ‘How did she get there? And how the hell is she going to get out of there?’”
Filming on water is famously difficult, and Kormákur admitted that the studios involved were “a little nervous” that he was going to spend “6 weeks out in open water” making “Adrift.”
“Because we needed cranes out there. We were working with two different boats, one that had been destroyed, then you need a third boat for shooting. Controlling 3 moving elements on the sea was incredibly complicated.
“We’d sail out as far as we could, because we had to make sure that people didn’t see the land. Plus we had to get out of the reefs so that the water looks like deep water. Inside the reefs the water looks different, it is blue and shallow. Outside of the reefs, it is just dark.”
Eventually, though, Kormákur took his cast and crew from the water near Fiji to the safety of New Zealand to get certain shots. “Because we wanted to shoot a tragedy, not create one.”
But while the main thrust of the story is the power of nature against the brains and power of a young woman fighting for her and her partner’s survival, the biggest appeal for Kormákur was always the relationship between Tami and Richard.
“I wanted to do a love story, because I hadn’t done anything like that. And a love story set against survival was kind of interesting to me. Because it didn’t feel contrived.”
Thanks to Kormákur’s insight and eye “Adrift” doesn’t come close to treading such territory, instead it is a spectacular, captivating and emotional journey that you can take in for yourself when it is released on June 1st.