At the beginning of July 2004, Canadian filmmakers Sturla Gunnarsson, Paul Stephens, Andrew Rai Berzins and Eric Jordan went to Iceland to make a movie, a co-production between Canada, the U.K. and Iceland. The cast included Gerard Butler (300, The Ugly Truth, Law Abiding Citizen, How To Train Your Dragon), Stellan Skarsgard (Pirates of the Caribbean, Good Will Hunting), Ronan Vibert, Sarah Polley, Eddie Marsan, Tony Curran and Ingvar Sigurdsson. It was the beginning of the most difficult project any of them had ever been a part of. …
…After moving the whole company to the town of Hofn on the east coast of Iceland, the production was sent off with a Pagan blessing, performed by Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson, a composer and the high priest of the ancient Norse Asatru religion. There he called upon Odin, Thor and Baldur to protect the production. Right at the end of the ceremony Sturla fell and hit his head on the rocky beach. His Icelandic co-workers eagerly shared the old Icelandic superstition that falling at the start made for a prosperous journey. Two hours later the Pagan priest himself slipped on the rocks at the Hofn beach and broke three ribs. The story of Beowulf & Grendel includes the introduction of Christianity into a Pagan society and the inevitable struggle between the two religions. That Saturday night, some of the producers started wondering if the Pagan ritual had angered the wrong god. Gerard Butler and the rest of the cast and crew started joking about the “curse” but as time went on the jokes gained a more serious undertone.
Getting a Viking boat replica to use in the film had proven to be extremely difficult and expensive, but sailing a Viking boat through an iceberg passage was one of the scenes that had Gunnarsson refused to give up. Only one of those boats exists in Iceland and even if it had been sailed across the North Atlantic to celebrate the Millennium, it had been in a museum for a couple of years and was drying up. The owners wouldn’t do any work on the ship till they had a guaranteed payment from the film producers, so the ship wasn’t transported to the filming location till the eleventh hour. Once it made it to the Iceberg Lagoon and was lowered into the water, it leaked so badly that it would have sunk in minutes. It had to be taken out of the water again and repaired. The film crew got ready for their only chance of filming a Viking boat sailing in between the icebergs.
On Sunday night, a passenger van carrying members of the crew on their way to the filming location had a head-on collision with an SUV on the longest single lane bridge in Iceland. Both vehicles were totalled, but for some unbelievable luck no one was seriously injured. That same night the crew received word that the Viking boat would actually be able to float, or at least appear to float when they were to start filming six hours later. The captain had managed to make the boat float by installing two industrial strength pumps, and they could not be turned off for more than a minute, or the boat would sink. The life expectancy in the Iceberg Lagoon is around 3 minutes, perhaps 4 if you keep your head above water and your arms close to your body. The notion that everyone was at the mercy of the elements and higher powers was evident from that first day of the shoot.
Buy or rent the movie online at the movies website: Wrath of Gods