May 31, 2018 03:12 PM EST

Director Baltasar Kormakur Discusses Adrift and Why It Was Important to Shoot On Open Water

Director Baltasar Kormakur Discusses Adrift and Why It Was Important to Shoot On Open Water
Director Baltasar Kormakur loves nature. He will say he is passionate about it. "I grew up spending a lot of time in the Highlands of Iceland", he says, and it's not that he specifically picks movies that tell stories about man against nature but it just comes naturally (no pun intended) to him.  "I can't help it when I am passionate about something. I want to tell the story". It is this love along with his love for sailing, specifically sailboats, which led him to his latest project, the real-life story of Tami Oldham Ashford entitled Adrift.

Adrift tells the story from Tami's perspective as she survived, alone on a broken sailboat for 41 days until she made it to Hawaii after the boat was damaged in hurricane Raymond back in 1983.  Kormakur knew if he was going to tell this story he was going to do it the right way and convinced STX studios to let him film on the open water.

"I was very straightforward; this is the only way I will make this film", he told them, and luckily they agreed.  Kormakur continued, "The elements and being in the outdoors strips down the actors and makes their performances more real so even if we have to shoot some of the scenes in a studio they have the knowledge and experience of having been on the open water."  He stated they spent almost as much time on the water shooting as the real Tami Oldham did on her journey to survival (Hawaii).

When choosing an actress to portray the courageous 23-year-old, Kormakur commented, "She [Shailene Woodley] was my first choice.  She has a ‘West Coast energy' that is the same as Tami.  She is emotionally authentic as an actor and is headstrong like the character".  He also stated she received producing credit because she came in during the script writing process. "I wanted the voice of a young woman and she gave us that." 

Of Woodley's co-star, Sam Claflin, Kormakur said, "He had to have enough masculinity to portray Richard who was described as gentle, sweet-natured and sensitive like a woman".  He also complimented Claflin's abilities stating, "He has a generosity as an actor and I needed a male who wouldn't overtake the film, which is basically told from Tami's perspective".

While Kormakur doesn't like to speak for other people he said the feedback he received from the real Tami Oldham Ashford was positive.  "We Skyped a lot and I showed her drafts of the script.  She was very accessible and I could ask her anything."  He also wanted to be sensitive to her story, stating, "I needed to be respectful of what she has to live with".

As for the final product, Kormakur hopes, "every young woman and man will see a real superhero without a cape."  He wanted to show the strength of her character and told me, "Lots of men and women die attempting what she did" and, "I wanted to show the  ‘specificness' of her choices particularly sailing to Hawaii when the mainland was closer".

Adrift is a compelling story made even more so by Kormakur's visual choices.  He alternates from close-ups and underwater shots to wide-angle scenes depicting the vastness of the ocean surrounding Tami.  His passion comes through with every frame and Woodley captures Tami's determination and desperation in every moment.

Adrift opens in theaters nationwide June 1, 2018. Read FlickDirect's review of Adrift here.

About Allison Skornick-Rose

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