Horror fans were introduced to Roar Uthaug in 2006 with his directorial debut Cold Prey; an impressive slasher film that pitted a group of snowboarders against a psychopathic killer in a hotel located somewhere in Norway’s Jotunheimen mountain region. The film spearheaded a resurgence in Norwegian genre cinema, and was followed by two entertaining sequels helmed by different directors. However, despite having a prominent role in putting the country’s horror industry back on the global map, Uthaug’s sophomore effort Magic Silver saw him expand into family-friendly territory, with a Yuletide fantasy adventure about gnomes. This was followed by Escape, a chase thriller that boasted universal appeal, serving as a stepping stone to grander scale projects. Viewing Uthaug’s films, it’s clear to see that he’s a filmmaker with monumental ambition and sky-is-the-limit capabilities. Therefore, it comes as no surprise to know that his most recent feature The Wave conquered the box office of his homeland in 2015 and was put forward as their Oscar entry. Now, with its release overseas and his appointment to direct the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot, he looks set to take Hollywood by storm. In light of the release of The Wave, we caught up with Uthaug to discuss his disaster epic and his plans for the future.
DIABOLIQUE: The Wave is one of the more grounded disaster blockbusters we’ve seen in a while. Was it a conscious decision to balance the cinematic adventure while also highlighting ecological issues?
Roar Uthaug: Yes, I wanted to take the familiar disaster genre, put it in a very local setting and give it characters you would identify with and invest in emotionally. It was also a great opportunity to bring attention to a serious situation that not many know much about.
DIABOLIQUE: Part of the reason why the movie works so well is because the characters are so believable. How difficult was the casting process to find the right actors for their respective roles?
Roar: As soon as we put Kristoffer Joner and Ane Dahl Torp in the same room we know we had found our leads. The authenticity, warmth and energy they bring to their work is really a rare find.
DIABOLIQUE: There’s a real sense of community among the characters. How reflective is that of life in Norway?
Roar: I think that is pretty reflective of how Norwegians interact. We are a very democratic country with a really flat structure. So most people feel that we are all on the same team pulling a common load. We even have a word called “dugnad”, which is an event where neighbours or colleagues meet to do voluntary work together.
DIABOLIQUE: The film was made on a very modest budget, especially compared to similar movies of this ilk. What were some of the biggest challenges presented to you?
Roar: The biggest challenges were definitely working in and under water. Everything moves a lot slower and people get tired very fast. Luckily I had a very dedicated crew and cast that made it a lot easier than it could have been.
DIABOLIQUE: What are some of your favourite disaster movies?
Roar: Maybe not a disaster movie per se, but Spielberg’s Jaws has definitely been a great influence on me. His portrayal of family and the small town is just beautiful. And the constant presence of the ocean reminding us of the threat lurking. Those were things I strived for when making this movie as well. Keeping the fjord and the mountains present to create a feeling of uneasiness.
DIABOLIQUE: Throughout your career so far, you’ve tackled a variety of different genres. Is there one you’re itching to approach you haven’t yet? Also, do you see yourself ever making another horror movie in future?
Roar: I would love to do a big monster movie or a superhero movie. I think that would be really fun. And if the right horror movie should come along I wouldn’t shy away from going back to that genre as well.
DIABOLIQUE: Your next movie is the Tomb Raider reboot. It must be exciting to have been approached to direct a movie in such a popular franchise. Can we expect anything new we haven’t seen before from the series?
Roar: Yes, it’s very exciting. And I definitely think our reboot will bring a very fresh and new perspective to the series.