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Ólafur Darri Ólafsson’s roles range from macho marine engineers, to mentally-disabled gentle giants, to party-loving playboys. Through the lead in Baltasar Kormákur’s critically-acclaimed docudrama The Deep (Djúpið), which premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, he proved that he is among Iceland’s top artists. The film was selected as the country’s contribution for the 2013 Oscar race.
Published in the 2013 January-March issue of Iceland Review – IR 01.13. By Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir. Portrait by Páll Stefánsson.
With a genuine smile through his rough beard, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson welcomes me to the corner table where he is seated at the hip new eatery Bergsson mathús by the Reykjavík pond as I hurry inside from the pouring rain one gloomy autumn day. But before I get a chance to ask Darri, as he is called, about his latest film, a middle-aged woman hesitantly moves towards our table. “May I just say ‘thank you’?” she asks, explaining how deeply touched she was by his performance in The Deep, adding that she comes from the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar) where it is set. Darri humbly accepts her praise.
Highs and Lows
The film is based on the incredible feat of Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a fisherman in the Westman Islands, who swam three nautical miles for five hours in ice cold waters and then walked barefoot across a rugged lava field for three hours to safety, after his ship, Hellisey VE 503, sank one harsh winter’s day in 1984. The four other crew members perished.
“It was no easy task but a rewarding experience. All ocean scenes, apart from a few underwater shots that were taken in a swimming pool, were actually filmed in the ocean, under authentic circumstances. Special effects weren’t used to any extent. It was important to make the film as authentic as possible, not to give a fake picture of what it was like being a fisherman at the time. I was often at a loss and sometimes came close to giving up. I wasn’t really going to give up but it just seemed so impossible at times. Once when I hit a low, Baltasar [Kormákur, the director] told me to imagine how great it would be at the premiere to be able to say that we did it all for real—and he was right; we certainly enjoyed the fruits of our labor.”
You can read the remainder of the article in the 2013 January-March issue of Iceland Review – IR 01.13. Five times a year the print edition of Iceland Review & Atlantica brings you a wealth of articles on all aspects of life in Iceland including Páll Stefánsson's latest images of the country’s majestic landscape. Click here to subscribe and here to browse through a selection of pages from the current issue.