After rocks from the mountain Åkerneset crumble into the fjord below, the townspeople of Geiranger only have ten minutes to escape a tsunami in The Wave, a terrific thriller out now in theaters and on VOD from Magnolia Pictures. Daily Dead recently had the chance to speak with The Wave director Roar Uthaug (who is also set to helm the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot) about filming in the actual Norwegian town where this disaster will one day occur and keeping the story character-centric amidst all the carnage.

Roar, thanks for taking the time to talk about The Wave and congratulations on the film. Have you always been interested in making a disaster film?

Roar Uthaug: Yeah, definitely. Those were the kind of movies I grew up going to see at the cinema—Twister and Armageddon and those kinds of movies. They definitely have been an inspiration on my filmmaking. When this story came along and I saw that we could take this genre and make it feel more Norwegian, I thought that was a great opportunity.

What was your experience filming in gorgeous Geiranger, and what made it the best place to set a disaster story?

Roar Uthaug: This [the tsunami] will actually happen there one day. There is this crack in the mountainside out in the fjord, and it keeps expanding each year and at some point it will cause a huge rockslide into the fjord and they will have ten minutes before the wave reachers Geiranger. So we wanted to stay true to the facts—to what geologists think will be the facts one day. And, of course, as a bonus it is one of the most beautiful places in Norway, so I thought the contrast between the spectacular nature and the destructive forces that it can cause made for some powerful images.

How did the locals react to a film being made about the destruction of their town?

Roar Uthaug: There was some skepticism when the news broke that we were making a movie about this. But when we went there and met with local politicians and talked to kids at the school, they saw that we weren’t making an exploitative thing out of it.

In the scenes of the film when people are running for their lives up the hill, all of those extras are local people and they came to me after the shoot and thanked me and said they had the greatest time. We also went there [Geiranger] with the movie before we had our nationwide premiere, we had the local screening for the people that lived there. That was definitely an emotional experience. There was a lot of gratitude for shining a light on this and hopefully it will contribute to more funding and a bigger understanding of this issue.

The Wave looks like it was a very physical shoot, complete with underwater scenes and a lot of climbing and running. Did you face any additional obstacles behind the camera due to the story’s intensity?

Roar Uthaug: The scene when they are running for their lives, we had to shoot that at a magic hour to get enough light so we could see the wave back in the fjord, but still dark enough so headlights of the cars would light up the scene and the actors. That gave us about a three-hour window to shoot. So we had to rehearse in the afternoon and when we shot it, we had to run back and forth and up and down that hill getting people back into place. Logistically, that was a challenge, and definitely working in and under water—everybody gets tired and it’s hard to communicate and things float around. Luckily my actors were real troopers and delivered each time.

The character-centric story and believable chemistry between the actors sets The Wave apart from big disaster movies that are more centered on the carnage. Why do you think the humanity within The Wave came through so well?

Roar Uthaug: Kristoffer [Joner] and Ane [Dahl Torp] are two of the greatest actors in all of Norway and Europe. They are spectacular and they bring a lot to their characters each scene. Also, we were lucky with finding the kids [Jonas Hoff Oftebro and Edith Haagenrud-Sande]. They all got along very well and that chemistry between them shows on the screen.

It was important to me that we approached this story from character-driven standpoints and give it a little more heart and warmth than some of the other movies in that genre, so that you really care about this family and these people when the catastrophe hits them.

This film is a great achievement, not only for you, but for all of Norway as well, as The Wave was the country’s submission Best Foreign Language Film in the 88th Academy Awards [unfortunately, it was not nominated]. What was your experience representing Norway in such an honorable way?

Roar Uthaug: It was definitely a great honor to be chosen to represent our country and I had such an amazing time going to L.A. and screening the movie to Academy members and meeting them and talking to them after the screenings. It was just a wonderful experience. I’m very grateful and honored to have been a part of it.

One of your upcoming projects is the anticipated Tomb Raider reboot. Can you give our readers a tease of what to expect?

Roar Uthaug: For Tomb Raider, I’m afraid I’m not allowed to say very much about it, but hopefully I will bring some of the same sensibilities that I brought to The Wave to the Lara Croft universe.

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.