I had the wonderful pleasure of interviewing David Williams, the Director/Producer/Co-Writer of Beyond the Pole starring our favorite guy Alexander.
He sent over such a vast amount of information that it’s taken me awhile to sort through it (this information however has just intensified my desire to see this movie as soon as possible).
David spoke of his time spent in Kap Tobin, Greenland. Dealing with the cold, the portable-potty (meaning bucket), the angry neighbors (meaning polar bears), and frozen husky poo.
AlexSkarsgard.Net: How did you and Neil Warhurst come up with the storyline and how long from concept to finished product? (When did filming actually take place?)
David Williams: Neil wrote a radio series for BBC and we (Shooting Pictures) optioned 2004. Script development then carried on until 2007 (we were doing other things quite at same time through development, production and post – in fact Ive shot in France, US, India, Liberia, UK etc…etc…since this shoot started!) when we shot first leg of film, raised more money, shot 2nd leg in 2008, raised more money post completed on film completed 2008 – 2009 picked up by Hanway Films during which they put together domestic and international sales, Festivals underway – nominations and awards from Warsaw International Film Fest and Special Jury Prize for Fort Lauderdale International Film Fest.
From David’s Production notes: “I was amazed how tricky the whole thing was. I mean I loved the radio series. That’s why I optioned it! But the more we worked on it the clearer it became that the screenplay had to be a very different beast from the radio play. In fact nearly everything that I loved about the radio play had to be jettisoned.”
ASN: What messages were you hoping people would take away from the movie?
DW: I want them to have good time and I want them to come away and feel that they are strong, and can change the world they live in. I want them to feel a connection to each other and to this new awareness that the world is in our hands and there is a real need to act. Not to rely on anyone else to act first.
ASN: How did you become involved with the Beyond the Pole project? Why did it appeal to you?
DW: I loved the characters. They were funny! Mark and Brian are these incredibly naive, flawed friends with flawed motives who decide that they are going to do something incredible and for which they are quite unprepared to do. Their journey was always funny but development for the screen was about finding the heart of the movie. Giving them a real reason to go to the North Pole and making sure they really went through the mill to get there. The radio series was nothing to do with global warming and was just a very silly great fun romp.
The film is much darker, more layered thing where the friends really have to dig deep and the film in the end of course has something to say about the biggest issue of the day but does it through a journey which is funny, and moving and incredibly dark at different points.
ASN: Why was that particular location chosen for filming ?
DW: Floating sea ice off the coast of Greenland deep in the arctic circle. The moving ice pushes and smashes itself into the most amazing structures that just seem to burst out of the sea. 300ft floating cliffs of sparkling blues and whites, fields of boulder ice and every shade and shape in between. Visually it’s stunning, stunning territory and for a film maker a wonderful experience. We were offered a glacier in Iceland (on land) which is flat, flat, flat but one of the very best decisions we made was to shoot in Kap Tobin on East Greenland. A wonderful place.
ASN: How was it working with the locals? Were there any communication problems??
DW: Yes – they couldn’t speak English and we couldn’t speak Innuit! The village has some 300 locals, all hunters and armed to the teeth and they drive dog sledges to get everywhere when on the sea ice. A smelly business as the dogs (about 30 to a sledge) live off seal fat and tend to poo as they run! Luckily we had Kristjan our Icelandic arctic adviser and he seemed to be able to speak every variation of the languages spoken out there.
“Kap Tobin was a village of 300 Innuit hunters where there was one shop that sold guns and a bar only open every other Friday because there had been too many shootings. We were 800 miles from the next nearest village. It was a land of towering Icebergs and glittering fields of boulder ice where one day you would see 50 miles of pack ice and the next there would be only sea right to the horizon. On one recce for locations we were invited in to one of the hunters homes to take tea. There on their living room floor were 3 generations of women, smiling and nodding whilst skinning a polar bear. A precious kill that might last them for months.”
ASN: Was the weather as cold as it appears? How did you keep warm? Was cuddling involved?
DW: Not MUCH cuddling! Lots of jumping around, hot tea, hot gruel. Yes very cold (minus 20) and then sometimes very hot as the sun reflected off the ice. But very changeable. Had to be very careful about temperature as getting it wrong could be very dangerous and very difficult to warm up again once core temperature dropped.
ASN: What were the greatest challenges for the actors? What was the greatest challenge for you as the director?
DW: For the actors I’d say it was improvising at sub zero temperatures without time to relax. This I think was very tiring. The days are long and they’ve got a director who sometimes is floating away from them saying that’s great – one more time! That’s tough I think as the concentration levels need to be maintained. They can’t have downtime where they can relax and switch off because when they’re not being used they have to make sure they stay warm. More difficult than it sounds because as soon as you’re not busy your temperature starts dropping.
For myself, as director/producer of an indie film in extreme conditions it was making sure we were telling the story, getting the performances we needed, trying to keep them focused, but also ensuring we were keeping everyone safe, fed, warm etc…etc. The weather changed abruptly and the ice was always moving, we were in polar bear country and it was dangerous. You didn’t always feel this either so it was making sure we didn’t get too complacent too. A very difficult balance I found. Making sure everyone was okay and also making sure we got through every day with the material we needed to tell the story of the film. Also because we were improvising and things were changing every day (some days the pack ice would be there – sometimes it would not! Sometimes the hunter/guides would be there – sometimes not!) It meant you really had to be prepared to change your plans at short notice. To find opportunity in adversity.
And this is what we pretty much did. Every day – because it was just that kind of environment. This also is very tough on a crew who make plans for one eventuality and then have to accommodate new weather conditions, new challenges. Really the brief was be prepped and ready for everything to change because we will not, under any circumstances, miss a shoot day. Because if that happened we would not complete.
ASN: Was free lancing/ad libbing permitted or encouraged amongst the actors? Were there any scenes that were enhanced as a result? Can you describe?
DW: We improvised around the script in every scene and the whole film was enhanced because of this. The trick on the shoot and in the edit was ensuring that the actors knew the function of each scene – where it was going. The trap was to be in awe of their skill and just let them go off on tangents that were funny but didn’t serve the film. That was a real learning curve for me because these actors are GREAT but they are like thorough breds and you really have to keep them running in the right direction – otherwise your lost.
ASN: When you weren’t shooting, what did everyone do to entertain themselves?
i.e. Snow angels? Snowball fights? Polar bear wrestling? Tongue to metal adhesive games?
DW: Well I was busy throughout (20 hour days for me) so I’m not sure there were too many games but I remember a wonderful evening where we built an igloo together at twilight after a very hard days shoot. That was amazing because the aurora came out too. Another time I remember drinking the arctic sea – due to the temperature the salt content is very low and I just felt I wanted to be part of the environment in some way. That was quite a moment for me. There was lots of laughing despite the long hard days. Though. They were a wonderful crew.
ASN: How did Alexander get involved in the production? Was Terje written with him in mind or did Alexander make Terje his own and how?
DW: Well we lost a very famous and well respected Swedish actor at the last minute and we were actually on the ice when I said lets get the guy who was voted 5x sexiest Swedish man! I looked at his pictures and thought: he’s gorgeous, he looks like an Olympian (6ft 4), I know he can do comedy Zoolander) – get him – he’ll be great and we’re bound to sell to Sweden – which we are doing! So…actually as it turned out we struck lucky. Alexander is a huge talent. He walked onto the ice after we’d been there several days. We’d already bonded, were working as a unit and these gorgeous gods walked out and it was just clear to me that they were such an amazing visual contrast to Mark and Brian that we were already ahead of the game.
Our boys looked ridiculous next to them! All the actors could see this inherent contrast and they all instinctively used it – I simply had to steer the boat: nudge them one way or another. Most of the work was done in the casting. Alexander actually was very diligent and wanted to know everything about his character, where he had come from, etc…etc and I have to say I pretty much resisted this! Instinctively I just felt the less we discussed it the better as the magic was always going to be in the freshness of their interaction. I went through the lines with them. I said don’t be afraid to improvise a little and if someone goes somewhere don’t block anything. Just go with it. Best direction I ever gave because their scenes are magic!
“And of course then there are the Norwegians who just light up the screen every time they come on. Alexander Skarsgard is a true star and Lars so wonderfully grounded. Together utterly believable and utterly priceless. Casting these two was equally unorthodox. Terje, we wanted to be much more glamorous and twinkly. Not camp, but definitely the younger, brighter of the two. Alexander Skarsgard has this quality, which we remembered in Zoolander. An ability to play comedy without signposting it as such. The clincher was when we found out he had been voted Sweden’s Sexiest Man for the gazillionth time.”
ASN: How many days did Alexander actually have filming??
DW: Crikey – 1 or 2 – not many. But we were working very fast.
ASN: What was happening in the scene when Alex was walking over the broken ice? Was there really a risk for Alex falling into the water or was this how he was portraying his reaction in that scene?
DW: Ahh – you’ll have to see the movie! Yes it was dangerous – that ice wasn’t there the day before as it moves every day. We were on floating sea ice in polar bear country. But we had arctic experts and Innuit hunters guiding and watching out for us and doing their best to allow us to do our job but I was never unaware that we were in an extreme environment.
That particular picture was taken immediately before he took his place on the edge of the ice for a scene where his character has to swim to the next ice floe because they have run out of ice. Dramatic and very funny scene.
ASN: Is there anything you found out about Alexander that surprised you and you can share with us?
DW: He was playing an Olympic skier and he’s never been on skis in his life! Somehow because of the pressures of production and because he was Swedish we had overlooked to ask the simple question! I groaned, I laughed – and then we got on with it and it was fine!
Thank you David for that fabulous insight into the making of this much anticipated movie!!!
BEYOND THE POLE
Beyond the Pole is a boys own adventure comedy which follows two hapless friends as they set out from the suburban Midlands to the frozen wastelands of the North Pole. Shot between Staffordshire, England, and a sheet of floating sea ice off the east coast of Greenland, BEYOND THE POLE has been described as Touching the Void with laughs. Funny and subversive, it’s the story of two men trying to find their place in the world before the end of the world.
And it asks one question of us all: How far would you go to save the planet?
Brian and Mark are setting out on the first Carbon Neutral, Vegetarian, and Organic expedition ever to attempt the North Pole. As a world first they have high hopes of getting into the Guinness Book of Records and, if all goes well, of saving the planet from Global Warming.
Unfortunately they have never done anything like this before. And they hadn’t reckoned on the polar bears, the competitive gay Norwegians, or on Mark’s rapidly loosening grip on reality.
No one said saving the planet was easy, but does it have to be this hard?
By Lisa Fields
Beyond The Pole 2009 Ft. Lauderdale Screening Please share with everyone….
The Movie was wonderful. Expressive, incredibly funny, sad, and bittersweet about life. It’s so much more than what the preview’s show. Two great friends making it alone… They experience life, they have fun, go a little mad at times and then….. I cannot spoil the entire movie no matter how badly I want to tell all. This was an excellent movie and deserves to be seen by everyone, so they can experience how well played out it was.
Alex plays this kind, caring, sensitive Norwegian who has just broken up with his “Boyfriend” who also happens to be his partner in all the expeditions plus the one he is on now. Really funny storyline. He and his ex-lover have a lover’s quarrel in Norwegian. LOL They are a world famous gay expedition couple…
The occurrences leading up to the biscuit scene are hilarious. The wonderful duo of Rhys Thomas (Brian) and Stephen Mangan (Mark) are un-supported in their journey across the Arctic, which means they are not allowed to accept any help from outsiders. Well, needless to say, one of them wants a biscuit bad because he is upset that he is circumcised and no one else is and he needs comfort. LOL… That scene just tops it off. Alex jumps on him and turns it into a slumber party romp. The sound of Alex’s laughter is hilarious.
The director, David Williams answered questions after the showing but no one ask any questions regarding Alex. I sat waving my hand and the guy never chose me. However, afterwards, I managed to get into the Courtyard among others and started a conversation with none other than David himself. Minutes later I was smitten. J I think it’s the British turn of phrase that tickles me and turns me into a giggling school girl. He apologized for the “fruity” language in the film and explained that it was British humor at its best. (Example: when the woman rolls down her window in her Range Rover and says to Mark, I quote “Bugger Off you Twat”, I thought the audience would lose it)
David actually brought up the topic of Alex first. He asked, “Did you happen to see Alex Skarshgourd in the movie”? He pronounced his last name correctly. “He is new, and up and coming in America I think.” Well, needless to say he was quickly filled in on all the excitement surrounding Alex here in the states and everywhere else.
David went on to say how great Alex was and how he came on the set with ease and expertise and just fit in. Alex wanted to know in detail how everything was going to go but David said “just go with your feeling” and Alex was so in tune he nailed the atmosphere right away.
David also described how it was to meet Alex for the first time: “He is so magnificent and intimidating in person. He walks up to me, all six feet four of him. He kind of reminded me of a God.” I kind of swooned just hearing the description. He also stated that Alex was incredibly, unbelievably nice and gorgeous.
Interesting Note: Alex took the same pay as the extra’s and other actors, and the crew. I think he said maybe 12 or 13 guys in all. They were all paid the same amount. They were all in it together all alone on the ice for 15 days. The silence at night was nothing they had ever imagined. I think he said the budget on this film was around 400 or 500K American dollars.
Extra funny as shit moment: At one point in the film Mark was lying on the ground and Brian thought he might be dead. He spit in his mouth to get a reaction. LMAO!! I asked David if this was real and he said and I quote, “You cannot fake something like that, I made them do 3 takes in all”.
There will be an outtakes reel in the DVD release and there are plenty from what I gathered. YAY
No date on the release of the DVD yet. They are only showing screening’s in limited release.
It was a great movie and a fantastic way to get the message out about our planet. I also got to meet a couple of great Skarsgirls and took a couple of pics of the shirts. Big Kram for that. It was nice to talk to someone face to face who shares in my craziness for Alex.
Alex was wonderful in the film and made the most out of his part. It was small but somehow when he was on screen, his presence just drew you in away from the other actors. He definitely has that quality. Yes, you actually get to see him in all his glory, in the Red Suit, and a Wetsuit as well. Needless to say, I was thinking >>>>> Yippee, Yummy, Yikes…………………
I’m sure I missed several items but cannot remember them all, however, the main thing is:
BE IMPORTANT NOT IMPOTENT
Puss Och Kram
Silva wrote: I saw the movie yesterday! It was awesome! Seriously I expected something funny but not that funny with a deep message which isn’t ecology in the first place. After the screening there was Q&A with the director David L. Williams and I actually asked a question about his work with Alex during this film and I admitted I’m a fan (duh!) he smiled and said it was LOVELY! My question “Hi, I’m actually a fan of Alexander Skarsgard can you tell me how was it, you know, to work with him?” And I was so freakin nervous cause you know it was a person who knows Alex (I think that’s the closest I can get). He said “lovely” everybody laughed but he added, “He’s just a lovely guy and it was lovely to work with him but I have to extend that. Alexander is based in LA right now and when he came from there to shot Beyond the Pole” he was thinking like American, you know. He wanted to know everything, what’s his character’s background, what he feels, he wanted me to give him some guidelines but I wanted it to be fresh and natural so they [actors] had the script and I told the actors to behave how they want to like in the cookies scene (there’s a scene when Brian – one of the main charaters want to take a cookie from one of these Norwegians [not Alex] but because it should be without any external support Mark – his friend – tries to take the cookies away so he fight with Brian and Terje [Alex] “hugs” one of them). It was all natural we laughed so hard during shooting this scene and the whole film. It was a great fun and working with Alex was great”.
BTW. This can be a spoiler but…
Alex plays Norwegian Olimpic Skier who’s gay LOL…
Seriously if you’ll be able to see it in USA you should I laughed to tears…
Click Link Below
SOURCE: Thank you David!!
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