the beaches

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

set ofNoah(bot­tom)

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