The land of fire and ice

Tom Cruise, on location for the 2013 movie Oblivion, at the Jarlhettur mountain ridge, Iceland

Tom Cruise, on location for the 2013 movie Oblivion, at the Jarlhettur mountain ridge, Iceland


Iceland, situated between Norway and Greenland in the North Atlantic, is one of the undisputed location success stories of the last decade. Despite being home to just 350,000 people, it has hosted a remarkable range of film and TV projects, including the Star Wars franchise, Captain America: Civil War, Interstellar, Black Mirror, Lost In Space, Sense8, Fortitude, Trapped and Games Of Thrones.

Iceland’s appeal also extends to commercials production, with a steady stream of international projects arriving on a year-round basis. Among the many clients to have visited in recent years are Audi, BMW, Guinness, Huawei, LG, Nissan, Pepsi, Samsung, Vodafone and HP. Explaining why, Iceland film commissioner Einar Tomasson identifies several factors: “The first, of course, is the range of locations. I think people new to the island are surprised at the incredible diversity of looks we have — everything from mountains and coastlines to volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, lakes and green fields.”

Productions requiring remote snowy or icy backdrops are, inevitably, drawn to Iceland and are able to find these pretty much all year round. “But the country also does very well with commercials that are looking for a very distinctive, otherworldly backdrop,” Tomasson adds. “Aside from all the snow and ice, there are black and white sands, lava fields, geysers, geothermal hot springs and sulphur mountains, which have some really unusual colour combinations.”

On top of all this, Iceland is popular as a location for doubling. “An example I often give of substitution is Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, which used Iceland to double for Greenland, the Himalayas and Yemen,” Tomasson says. “We’ve also had producers using Iceland for Alaska and Siberia, though perhaps the most surprising example was when Clint Eastwood’s feature film Flags Of Our Fathers used Sandvik to double for the Pacific island of Iwo Jima.”

Other factors that work in Iceland’s favour include the quality and work ethic of its crews, the ease of permitting and the logistics of shooting on the island. “There are several really great production-services companies here that are used to working on everything from blockbuster movies to high-end commercials,” Tomasson adds. “And all of this is supported by a really positive attitude towards filming.”

• Read the full article in the Lions Daily News, published here online, and in print throughout the city of Cannes, during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, from June 16 to 21

Harriet Palmer