Culture / Interview

“I Loved Being Put in Quarantine”: Ólafur Darri Ólafsson in Conversation

The star of Icelandic series Trapped and UK-Australian series The Tourist, ÓLAFUR DARRI ÓLAFSSON discusses his career at home and in the United States…

Darri, how did you get your role in The Tourist?

First of all, it’s the third time I’ve worked with Jack and Harry Williams, who produced the show. I was in the second series of The Missing and did a series called The Widow with them. To be honest, whenever they reach out, I’m tempted to not even bother reading the script and just say yes. I got an offer from them to do The Tourist, and I had time, so I agreed and went to Australia for about four and a half months.

You’re playing a Texan on a killing spree… you’re Icelandic, but you lived in America for a while, didn’t you?

Not really. I lived there until I was four years old, but yes, I’ve lived there on and off doing projects. I don’t think I’m getting ahead of myself when I say they wrote The Tourist with me in mind. Of course you get an Icelander to play an American in Australia! No, I loved the part… I thought it was phenomenal, and hopefully I get to do more stuff with them.

What was it like to film in Australia?

It was strange to go across the world and into quarantine for two weeks. But I really enjoyed spending a couple of weeks in my underwear, watching movies and ordering food. I went from Sydney to Adelaide, and the whole series was shot in South Australia.

You’re the first person to tell me you enjoyed quarantine!

I understand that! But I knew what I was going into, I had a nice place to stay… and at that time I really admired the Australians for keeping coronavirus out, much as Iceland did. On set, there were no masks… no-one had to worry because coronavirus didn’t exist in South Australia. The show was shot in Adelaide, then we travelled four hours further north, deeper into the state, to get into the outback. I’d never been to Australia before, and I thought it was incredible. Strangely, the quality of light reminded me of Iceland… maybe that’s because we’re on different extremes of the world.

Where did you stay in the outback?

We would travel, then stay in hotels… especially in a small town where many Australian films were shot, including Gallipoli (the old film with Mel Gibson). It’s a tiny town, and it took about ten minutes to walk through it. Most of my time, though, was spent in Adelaide.

Do you enjoy having both the Icelandic and international roles?

I really do. I didn’t start shooting foreign films until about ten years ago. I’d already had a long career in Iceland, and had performed with my company, Vesturport. We did a few shows in London (at the Lyric, Barbican and Young Vic). But I love working in my own language. Doing comedy in another language is particularly difficult (translating it, then translating it back).

What’s coming up for you?

I’m heading to Germany to shoot a film called Winterreise, which is going to be an incredible movie based on Schubert’s song cycle of the same name. That’s something I’m really looking forward to because I’m doing the project with good friends (Alex Helfrecht and Jorg Tittel). I worked with them on a film called The White King a few years ago. And then, of course, there are projects in the Fall I can’t tell anyone about. I hope I can continue doing both domestic and international films.

ÓLAFUR DARRI ÓLAFSSON is an actor. The Tourist is available now on BBC iPlayer.

This article is a Fika Online exclusive.

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