Palme D’Or Winner Ruben Ostlund Talks Returning To Production On ‘Triangle Of Sadness’ During Covid Pandemic

Woody Harrelson and Ruben Ostlund
Woody Harrelson and Ruben Ostlund on the set of Triangle Of Sadness. Plattform Produktion

Palme d’Or winner Ruben Ostlund (The Square) resumed shooting in Sweden last week on his satire Triangle Of Sadness, following a three month break due to COVID-19.

With a budget of more than $11M, the project is one of the biggest European movies to get back underway since the pandemic struck.

Ostlund’s first English-language feature is a satire that takes on the world of fashion and the super rich. The film follows model couple Carl (Dickinson) and Yaya (Dean) who are invited on a luxury cruise. But as the yacht sinks, they are left stranded on a desert island with a group of billionaires and a cleaning lady. In the fight for survival, hierarchy is turned upside-down.

Cast includes Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean and Woody Harrelson (pictured with Ostlund on set). But the crew got just 25 days in the can before the decision was made to halt production.

Director Ostlund told us: “The pressure was building all the time while we were waiting to return to shoot. I started to feel like maybe the film wouldn’t happen. But then, when we worked out we could get Woody Harrelson here things changed and progressed. We got so much energy and I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun on a shoot as I have in the last days.”

The Force Majeure filmmaker said he learned a few weeks before the re-start that he had developed anti-bodies, which made him feel less anxious about returning to set and working with some of the older actors.

“The set was divided into groups,” Ostlund told us. “As soon as the actors came on set we all put on our masks. There were a number of procedures we put in place.”

Producer Erik Hemmendorff admitted getting back into production was a significant challenge, but agreed with Ostlund that the production gained energy from the context when it came to the shoot: “It has been one of the most fun experiences I’ve had actually. The energy coming back; it felt like a triumph to be back again. We left not knowing whether this would ever re-start or whether we’d have to take down our set in the studio. From the first take everyone was energized and focused. Economically it has been a bit of a disaster but it really felt so great to be back. The Swedish Film Institute and other financiers have been very supportive. There is a lot of money on the line.”

Actor Harrelson, who at the final hurdle was almost blocked from boarding his plane to Sweden due to COVID-related paperwork issues, commented: “Not a lot could have pulled me half-way round the world in these uncertain times but to work with the genius Ruben Ostlund, what a privilege. It’s already been one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve ever had.”

Imperative Entertainment will present the film with Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas and Ryan Friedkin as executive producers in association with 30WEST, whose Micah Green and Daniel Steinman will also serve as executive producers. 30WEST and WME will co-represent the sales rights in North America. International sales are being handled by Philippe Bober’s Coproduction Office. SF Studios has Nordic rights to the film, BAC has rights in France and Alamode in Germany.

The multi-faceted co-production is being produced by Plattform and co-produced by Film I Väst, Essential Films, Coproduction Office, SVT, BBC Films, Arte France Cinéma, and ZDF/Arte, Swedish Film Institute, Eurimages, the BFI (awarding National Lottery funding), Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Danish Film Institute and Nordic Film & TV Fund. It is being produced in association with Bord Cadre Films, Sovereign Films and Piano Films.

Among the co-producers are Marina Perales Marhuenda, Giorgos Karnavas, Konstantinos Kontovrakis, Per Damgaard and Julio Chavezmontes. Mike Goodridge is among the executive producers from Europe.

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