Iceland craves attention and knows how to get it.
In 2008 all the banks collapsed overnight, making Iceland the canary in the coal mine, the first of many countries that would fall victim to the global credit crunch—of course, Iceland was helped by bad politics and bad business, fuelled by megalomania and greed.
In 2010, when the Icelandic banking collapse had stopped making headlines, Eyjafjallajökull volcano blew, smothering farmlands in south Iceland with ash.
And just to make sure the world wouldn’t miss it, the ash grounded aircraft in Europe and beyond for days.
Iceland literally became the hottest place on the planet and just as the attention was cooling down, Grímsvötn volcano took over with an eruption in 2011.
With no other volcanic eruptions scheduled for the immediate future, Icelanders had to come up with something else to make the world notice their quaint island.
And what better way to do so than through the entertainment industry? After years of wooing, Hollywood directors have come to realize that Iceland is a chameleon of a country.
You need to set a film in space? No problem. Iceland can double as the moon (it was used by NASA to practice the moon landing, after all), Mars, Jupiter, any other planet, or even Earth in the distant future.
This can be attested by directors Ridley Scott, who shot scenes for Prometheus in Iceland last year, and Joseph Kosinski, whose upcoming film Oblivion was partly filmed in Iceland.
Tom Cruise, the star of Oblivion, tried to keep a low profile in Iceland last summer but the media went crazy when he was reported to have shared his final meal with Katie Holmes before she filed for divorce at Sushi Samba in Reykjavík.
The inhabitants of Akureyri were hoping that Cruise might celebrate his 50th birthday in town as he was staying in a villa opposite it but they’re wish wasn’t granted. His birthday celebration in July was quiet and hardly a very happy one.
Russell Crowe, however, seemed to have a swell time in Iceland. He regularly tweeted about his stay, rode his bicycle around the capital, went to a public gym, took the time to chat with fans and played in concert with Alan Doyle and Patti Smith (!) at Reykjavík Culture Night in August.
He was playing Noah in Darren Aronofsky’s eponymous film that was to a large extent shot in Iceland. And so, despite the cooler temperatures, the country obviously looks like ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, or wherever the Sin Flood took place.
Ben Stiller has also been rather visible. He came to look for locations for his remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty last year, to the delight of inhabitants of seaside towns.
Stiller returned for shooting this year, Höfn, Seyðisfjörður, Stykkishólmur and Garður being among his locations.
I’m not quite sure where the film is set but I heard that Iceland is supposed to be Iceland in some of the scenes, while it is to double as Greenland and Nepal in others.
Iceland’s mountains aren’t exactly the Himalayas but anything can be done. Besides, the country’s hottest director Baltasar Kormákur (who boasts a Hollywood remake of an Icelandic film, Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg), is planning to shoot a film about Everest on an Icelandic glacier. Why not.
In Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers from 2000, Iceland’s black sand beaches turned into Iwo Jima and in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins from 2005 Svínafellsjökull glacier served as Bhutan.
Scenes for the superhero movie were also shot by Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. James Bond has twice made use of it, in View to a Kill from 1985 and in a solid frozen state in Die Another Day from 2002, and Lara Croft in Tomb Raider from 2001.
The glaciers are always popular. Vatnajökull and Mýrdalsjökull in South Iceland served as locations for Game of Thrones last year. The crew will return in November and this time around, shooting will reportedly take place near Lake Mývatn in North Iceland.
Their presence here proves that Iceland can also be a fictional country—and a mythological one. What better place to shoot Thor: The Dark World, which I assume is set in Ásgarður (Asgard), where the gods of Norse mythology reside.
Lead actor Chris Hemsworth has already arrived, so here’s another reason for the world—or at least the teenage girls the world over—to focus their attention on Iceland.
Hello! Here we are!
Come to Iceland, the land of rotten banksters, erupting volcanoes and Hollywood superstars.
Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – [email protected]