Making eat-the-rich comedy Triangle of Sadness, with a gross-out scene that rivals Farrelly Brothers movies, was simple for Swedish director Ruben Östlund.
“I wanted to create a roller-coaster ride for adults,” he said during a panel for the Neon movie during a panel at Deadline’s Contenders Film: The Nominees. The film follows an influencer fashion couple (played by Harris Dickinson and the late Charlbi Dean) who board the wrong the yacht of rich people. The ship’s fate is worse than that of those from Gilligan’s Island, with a drunk Marxist captain losing sway of the boat which crashes onto a deserted island. There on that isolation off at sea, the lesser of the crew becomes more senior in status in a swap between the rich and poor.
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The movie in its world premiere at Cannes last May left the Palais in rare stitches for its mid-scene, which has Woody Harrelson’s captain spouting Marxist philosophy with a Russian oligarch over a loudspeaker and the entire inhabitants of the yacht defecates and vomits. Triangle of Sadness went on to a Palme d’Or win and now has three Oscar nominations: for Best Picture, Best Director and Original Screenplay.
Östlund’s window into such calamity began with his fashion photographer wife, who opened his eyes to the inner politics and hijinks of that sphere. But key for him in what many perceive as a takedown of the one percent is that he didn’t want to play into stereotypes.
“I didn’t want to portray rich people as mean or egoistic,” he said. “When I was portraying the arms deal, I was thinking, let’s make them the most nicest characters I’ve ever done.” Context was key.
Östlund will be doing another class satire with the movie The Entertainment System Is Down, about an overseas flight that sees its passenger video system go on the fritz. The filmmaker has spoken about his desire to have Harrelson return for that movie, for which Östlund is now casting and writing the screenplay. Essentially, it’s about what happens to human beings when their distractions are taken away.
Also during the virtual panel, Östlund spoke about the late Dean, who died suddenly in August at age 32 just before the pic’s North American premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.
“The way I look at the movie — it reminds me of something that’s sad in many ways, but makes me happy that I was able to collaborate with her,” he says.
“It was a great thing to know Chalbi,” he said. “She was a precise actress.”
Check out the panel video above.
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