Icelandic Beauty Export: Anita Briem Makes a 3-D Debut in "Journey to the Center of the Earth"

Maui Time | July 2, 2008
Icelandic Beauty Export

Anita Briem Makes a 3-D Debut in "Journey to the Center of the Earth" (1401 words)

By Cole Smithey

An example of the famed Icelandic fact that its women are stunningly beautiful, Anita Briem is also a stage-trained actress, perfectly at home on a green screen set for a big Hollywood action/adventure movie. In this visually outrageous three-man showcase, Briem plays Hannah, the Icelandic adventurer who will guide American scientist Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser) and his flirty 13-year-old nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) to the destination of Jules Verne’s prototypical sci-fi novel "Journey to the Center of the Earth." Hannah reminds Trevor that her $5000-dollar-an-hour fee keeps ticking even as they are attacked by giant flying prehistoric fish and chased by one very large dinosaur. Needless to say, Trevor gets every penny’s worth of value from Hannah’s levelheaded resolve and quick thinking. Briem plays the straightman heroine opposite two boyish males intent on pursuing a journey that they are direly incapable of accomplishing without Hannah’s guidance. Hannah is the adult in the equation, and Briem carries off the role with a maturity that grounds the wild spectacle of the first feature-length Digital 3-D movie. Anita Briem knows how to break out big. You get the picture.

CS: Are you worried that there might be a sudden upsurge of tourists in Iceland after the movie comes out?

AB: I try to show everybody Iceland all the time. My people are like, “Don’t tell everybody the secret. It’s so peaceful and beautiful here!” It’s incredible; I go home and drive across country, and go to my mom’s place and it’s dark with the Northern Lights, and I like to sit in some hot springs.

CS: As a native of Iceland, how did you feel it was depicted in the film?

AB: There’s a reason why Jules Verne chose the place where the glacier was, where we start to descend into the center of the earth. That area specifically has magical powers and people come to this place from all over the world. I actually think that’s true of all Iceland. I think it’s so special, apart from the water and air being so clean. It was a great joy for me to develop a strong female character in the spirit of an Icelandic woman. Icelandic women tend to be very strong and very independent, and I think that came in very handy. As Hannah, the mountain guide, I often found myself in these very dangerous situations. On one hand I have a geeky scientist and on the other a small child and they are both about to get us killed, so I have to intervene and save the day, regularly. I think that’s where the strong sense of the core Icelandic woman came in very handy.

CS: You have strong background of theatre training.

AB: I come from a theater background. I was in the National Theater of Iceland from age nine, and my parents are both musicians, so I grew up behind my dad’s drum kit on studio floors. So this, as my North American debut, was a real surprise to me and I fell in love with this genre. I started watching incredible movies like “Back to the Future,” and the films of Tim Burton, and saw how magical the action adventure genre can be. But at the same time it doesn’t change for me, as an actor, the core of my character and how I structure and develop the character. You want to learn, and experience being taken aback by things. That’s the same as with every piece I do--whether it be in the Cherry Orchard or playing Jane Seymor in “Tudors” or Hannah in “Journey into the Center of the Earth.” So it was a beautiful journey, pun intended, into the world of cinema, and of that genre specifically.

CS: Do you have other movies coming out?

AB: Yes, it’s been a crazy ride. I’m just about to go and film another movie, but my head space is very much in the world of cinema and living in Los Angeles. People ask me, “What is it like?” with a negative tone. But for me, I’m surrounded by the most talented and passionate people in the industry.

CS: What’s the new movie called?

AB: It’s called “The Storyteller.” It’s with Wes Bentley, who is the writer to my illustrator. We create children’s books together. My character suffers from an extreme case of agoraphobia, so the family of Wes Bentley’s character starts to believe that I am a figment of his imagination. You know that there is something kind of magical.

CS: So the question is whether or not you’re really a figment of his imagination?

AB: Right.

CS: It sounds like a magical realist movie.

AB: Yes, I think that’s very well put.

CS: What was the most extraordinary thing about making “Journey”?

AB: “Journey to the Center of the Earth” was extraordinary because it was the first live action digital 3D movie in the history of cinema. You, as an audience get to be more immersed in a movie than you ever have been before. The movie is surrounding you creating extraordinary opportunities for both actors and directors. For an actor it’s incredible because you can create a relationship between the character and audience in a different, more intimate way.

CS: Any plans to do any stage?

AB: I love the theater; the theater sort of raised me. So I’m quite sure I will go back to the theater. Right now I’m sort of captured in the all-consuming, fantastical world of movies.

CS: Did you improvise any Icelandic quotes?

AB: I did. In the scene when they come knocking on my door, they told me just to just say something and the little demon inside me said “Oh what should I say?”

CS: What did you say?

AB: (Laughs) We have to maintain the mystery, we’ve only just met! But it was wonderful because I was involved in the process of this film in a peculiar way. I must have auditioned for this movie at least 25 times. This was a 4-month process. I have to check my sources on this but, I think I beat out Cameron Diaz’s record for how many times she auditioned for “The Mask,” with how many times I auditioned for this movie. But that gave me the privilege of watching the script in development. So by the time I got the role and we started researching and developing and rehearsing, I had a real sense of what I wanted to do. I really wanted for her to be a strong female presence that is not your damsel in distress – quite the opposite. I’m in fact saving the day – a female character that is driving the action. I think this type of character is somewhat lacking in the family action adventure. I think it’s important for young girls to see a female presence that is in control of the action.

CS: Do you know of any of the actress that you were competing with?

AB: That’s funny because every single actress that I meet socially and randomly go, “I met for that role! I read for that role!” I don’t think I’ve met one that wasn’t involved in the project in some way or another.

CS: How was the experience working with such complicated special effects?

AB: When it comes to acting on green screen, it doesn’t really make all that much of a difference to me because how you interact with your environment or characters is always dictated by your imagination. So when you’re acting against a green screen, you have more of an opportunity to create your own world. So what was magical throughout this process was watching this movie come to life with the 3D.

CS: How was it working with Brendan Fraser?

AB: It was wonderful. He’s a sweetheart and a gentleman. He has a lot of experience in this field with action but in a lot of ways we were all learning at the same time because it really is a new visual medium altogether. So we were all kind of discovering this world together. It was wonderful.

CS: You mentioned that your character is such a strong female presence. What, or who was your inspiration for that?

AB: The Vikings, things like that. “No, don’t tell them that. It’s a family film!” (Laughs)

CS: So what you’re saying is that you’re here to conquer us.

AB: Yes (Laughs)


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