A Different Kind Of Survival Story: Talking With The Director Of ‘Adrift’

Perhaps growing up in Iceland gave director Baltasar Kormákur (Everest) his affinity for survival stories. “I come from a country that basically it’s a survival experience to go to school in the morning!” he laughed while talking with reporters about his newest film, Adrift.

Opening on June 1st, Adrift is based on the true story of what happened to a young couple when a hurricane crippled their boat in the Atlantic. The story focuses on Tami (Shailene Woodley), who must navigate the damaged Hazana to Hawaii while her fiance Richard (Sam Claflin) is only able to provide advice and a sounding board.

Tami’s leading role in the Hazana’s voyage was one of the things that intrigued Kormákur when he first read the script. “I couldn’t come up with a survival movie that had a hero as a woman.”

He also expressed admiration for the real Tami’s abilities.  “I was really struck by the fact that a 24-year-old woman actually managed this. It is so easy to give up in those conditions,” he said. I’ll probably drown myself right there… (she is) incredible!”

He said he was also drawn by the couple’s love story, told in flashbacks to the past that inform the present. “It gives the movie more levity. It gives it space,” he said.

Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin star in ADRIFT
Courtesy of STXfilms

The mingling of the love and survival stories not only create lightness in the middle of a dire situation, but also set up a twist, which pleased Kormákur. “I love, as an audience, when there’s a little puzzle in front of me,” he said.

The Challenge Of Filming At Sea

Himself an experienced sailor, Kormákur said he knew from the beginning he wanted to shoot as much of the movie as possible on open water and not on a sound stage. “I believe and feel like that you should always aim for as much reality and gravity as possible in a film, and then you augment it with visual effects,” he said.

Sam Claflin and Shailene Woodley star in ADRIFT
Courtesy of STXfilms

There was some sound stage work, particularly the recreation of Hurricane Raymond, the storm that wrecked the Hazana with 60-foot waves. But most of Adrift was shot in the waters off Fiji, with more than a few pieces of camera equipment lost to the sea. Kormákur says he learned something important in those 49 days.

“You bow your head to Mother Nature and you take what you’re given. Don’t go up against it,” he said. “It’s kind of an organic and sane way of making a film. How can we work with this and still keep our schedule? And I think often you get something better than you imagined because you have to adapt to it.”

Adrift opens in theaters on June 1.

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