Morgunblaðið 23rd January 1980

Conversations with Ragnheiður Steindórsdóttir, about filming Út í óvissuna and more


Mannequin got into adventures whilst actors were sleeping!

“I was not a stranger to acting in front of a movie camera when filming of this drama began, however it is somewhat different to play in television dramas recorded in the studio, to those that are filmed on location,” said actress Ragnheiður Steindórsdóttir when we met her a few days ago, as tonight the screening of the British TV series Út í óvissuna [Running Blind], in which she plays a leading role, begins.

“What was very different from acting in this series and the Icelandic television dramas that I had made before,” said Ragnheiður, “is how incoherently the scenes were filmed. In this case, for example, the final scene was filmed first, whilst the others were filmed randomly, regardless of their sequence in the final film. In those that I had acted before it was more about filming whole scenes or longer sequences in context. In that case, the actor is much more connected to the play as a whole, rather than I felt in this film.

Now, I could also say that in this film that there was less importance placed on rehearsing the scenes, from a theatrical point of view, like in a theatre performance. The Director who directed this film is especially known for his so-called “action films”, where suspense and speed dominate more than “dramatic acting”. Various external conditions during the recording, such as hight time pressure and bad weather, also had an effect in the sense that everything was very fast when recording.

I did not see the film until the press conference in Glasgow shortly before it premiered, and then it was quite different from what I had imagined, for example, the speed of the events was faster than I had expected. Otherwise it’s difficult to judge the film or its quality as, naturally, I look at it differently to others, as various events that had taken place behind the scenes are recalled at the same time.

How this would be perceived in Iceland

Ragnheiður also said that she expected that Icelanders would view the film differently to foreigners. – For them, this was first and foremost another a popular novel, one more thriller, which was perhaps unique to the beautiful landscape of Iceland, which was much featured in this film.

On the other hand, there was a risk that Icelanders would find it strange to see shootings up in the central highlands, corpses thrown into Dettifoss or Jón Sigurbjörnsson and Flossi Ólafsson in the role of Soviet agents! – All this could attract the attention of the audience as well as the plot or performances of the actors in their roles.

There had also been so much been written about the film in Iceland that many people might already have formed opinions about what it was like, in addition to which, many had read the book, though the film was not as detailed.

Sailors danced with mannequin

“It was a really enjoyable experience to be in this film, and many unforgettable things happened. During this summer I saw a lot of Iceland that I had never seen before,” Ragnheiður continued, “such as the Central Highlands, Landmannalaugar and other places.

Also I met various actors and other people I’ve had contact with since; these were good people and fun, and it was enjoyable to watch them work and get to know them personally.

During filming itself, there were also many funny incidents, such as when three of us were stranded outside in a fast-flowing glacial river for almost three hours and couldn’t get ashore. It was both scary and exciting at the same time but funny afterwards!

One of the things that I particularly remember about the filming happened while we were staying at the Hótel Húsavík. Included in the luggage was a human figure mannequin that was to be thrown into Dettifoss during a filming sequence. The mannequin was stored on the roof of one of the cars, as it was not considered risky to leave it unattended, as it was also tied down!

But the next morning it was discovered that the mannequin had disappeared, and no matter how hard we searched, it couldn’t be found. After a long search, however, it was discovered the police had taken it into their custody. They said some drunken sailors had been having fun that night and spotted the mannequin. They probably needed a dance partner because they took the mannequin with them even though it was male! The police saw them and put the mannequin under lock and key!

Nothing came of the sequel

We asked Ragnheiður if there should have been a sequel to the series. – “Yes, they bought the rights to the story’s protagonists from the author of the book and a sequel has been written, which was actually supposed to take place in Spain. I was invited to continue playing the role of the Icelandic woman, Élin, but in the end nothing came of it. The British Actors’ Association opposed my work permit.

I don’t actually know the truth about what happened. I’m curious about that and although it’s a shame to say, I don’t know if this sequel was ever recorded or not.”

Although Ragnheiður said that she would have probably liked to play in the sequel to the previous series, she said that she had no intention of becoming famous around the world, and in fact she said that she did not consider such a thing desirable all things considered.

I’m going to direct myself

“I am now rehearsing a play that will soon will open at the Austurbæjarbíoí,” said Ragnheiður, when asked what she was doing at the moment. “This is a farce or comedy play, called Klerkar í klípu [‘Clergy in trouble’ original title See How They Run], Ragnheiður added, ‘and I have also recently been working on the play Er þetta ekki mitt líf? [‘Is not this my life?’], currently showing at the Iðnó. Then it’s possible I’ll go north to Blönduós and put on a play with the theatre company there, we’re considering the play Skáld-Rósa [‘The Poet Rosa’ – Rósa Guðmundsdóttir], which I played here at the Iðnó previously.

– No, I haven’t directed before, but I have experienced this side of theatre production when I assisted my father with two productions, and I have also taught acting in Garðabær.

Film acting? – No, I’ve not acted in a film since Út í óvissuna was filmed, except for one scene in the film Land og synir [‘Land and Sons’], which was filmed this summer. I went north to visit my husband, Jón Þórisson, who was involved in the film, and ran into the pass when a passenger went missing from a bus. It was a lot of fun watching the work up north and I look forward to seeing this picture!”

Ragnheiður ended by saying that she has great confidence in domestic filmmaking and said she hopes for better progress in the coming years. “In recent years, foreigners have come here to make films, use the land and its beauty as they see fit, without paying anything for it. Maybe this could be limited in the future or a fee should be charged for such filming, which could then be used to strengthen domestic fimmaking”.

Image titles:

Ragnheiður Steindórsdóttir at her home in Brávallagötu in Reykjavík. Photo taken by Ragnar Axelsson.

This scene is from the first episode, which will be shown tonight: The lead actor, Stuart Wilson, kicks Steindór Hjörleifsson, who plays Soviet agent. The photographs were taken by August Baldursson.

Stuart Wilson fully armed at a summer house by the Þingvallavatn. Real guns were used for film shooting, but in most cases powder shot was used!

Here is one of the actors, George Sewell, along with the mannequin, who later “ended his life” in Dettifoss, but had previously danced with some sailors in Húsavík.

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  1. ‘Spjallað við Ragnheiði Stendórsdóttur um kvikmyndun Út í óvissuna og fleira’: Morgunblaðið, 23 January 1980, p. 11; © / Árvakur hf.