The island’s unmatched vistas are a sci-fi cinematographer’s ultimate reality.
Associate editor Sarah got a little dramatic by the sea while visiting windswept North Carolina
It’s otherworldly”: That’s how Árni Páll Hansson, a producer and co-founder of Truenorth, Iceland’s go-to production house, described the scenery as he showed me around the island’s sites—glaciers, waterfalls and frozen lakes accessed via a customized “monster truck”—that have been immortalized on film. He knows the movie landscape well: His company has helped the earth (and ice) double as out-of-this-world (and alternate-world) locations in sci-fi extravaganzas like Prometheus, Oblivion, Thor: The Dark World, Transformers 4 and Noah, to name but a few.
Janet Graham Borba, an exec at HBO Films, oversees Game of Thrones, which filmed parts of its second, third and fourth seasons in Iceland. She has called the land “shatteringly beautiful, barren and brutal.” I couldn’t put it any better. Many of my set-jetting stops—the Skógafoss waterfall ( Thor: The Dark World, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), for example—have already racked up multiple onscreen credits. (Even the monster truck— a super-suped-up six-wheel-drive Ford van—that took us to the base of volcano-ash-covered glaciers has made an appearance on 60 Minutes.) But there is so much insanely breathtaking scenery on offer that it’s hard to believe there’s ever a need to film the same place twice.
With a few minutes to spare after checking out yet another stellar waterfall (Seljalandsfoss—as seen on The Amazing Race 6 and which you can walk behind), I wandered a few hundred metres north and came across another one—this one tucked away behind towering grassy cliffs. As I hopped from stone to stone through the narrow opening in the bluff where the Gljúfurá River trickled out, I entered an alternate-reality version of the winding, craggy passage leading to Petra (as featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)— but instead of being carved out of pink granite and blanketed by sand, the waterfall was protected by layers of crooked walls covered in thick green moss and surrounded by mist.
How was this waterfall mecca not yet on my setjetting itinerary? As far as I can tell, the Gljúfrabúi waterfall, as it is called, has no movie credits. Perhaps it will make an appearance in one of the upcoming Icelandbacked top-secret flicks soon to hit theatres: Interstellar, Jupiter Ascending— and, rumour has it, maybe even one of the new Star Wars movies. (I think the Ewoks would feel right at home perched in the cliffs of Gljúfrabúi.) h
Just some of the Icelandic landscapes that attractHollywood, including theGljúfrabúi
waterfall (above) and theSkógafoss waterfall
(far right); TomCruise filmingOblivion (below); DarrenAronofsky on the