Q&A with Directors Roenning & Sandberg
KON-TIKI was preceded by Thor Heyerdahl's Oscar-winning documentary about the voyage,
as well as his bestselling book on the subject. What did you want your film to bring to the
story that you felt hadn't been told?
Thor Heyerdahl lived an extremely well-documented life. The KON-TIKI book sold over fifty
million copies worldwide and his documentary about the voyage won an Academy Award.
Although it was a huge benefit to draw from all of this material, it was important for us to make
a new KON-TIKI chapter. We now have the technology to recreate the scope of this adventure
on the big screen!
You shot the film in both Norwegian and English. What drove you to create two versions and
how did it affect the filmmaking process?
Thor's playground was the world, and it was important for him that we would make the movie
in English. When it came to financing, it was paramount for the Norwegian funding system that
the movie was in Norwegian -- so we decided on shooting in both languages. As filmmakers, it
was daunting going into having to catch lightning in a bottle twice in every scene, but after a
couple of shooting days we really got into it with the actors and it went surprisingly well. It was
also a benefit that we could draw from both languages when rehearsing the scenes -- we
discovered different layers in the languages that we drew upon in both versions.
The film was being developed for many years before you finally shot it. Was Thor Heyerdahl
able to contribute to the filmmaking team's research before his death in 2002?
Yes. Petter Skavlan, the screenwriter, worked with Thor on the premise of the story prior to
Thor passing away in 2002. It was important for Thor that the story wasn't only about the KON-
TIKI expedition but showed a larger glimpse into why it all came together and why he became
the KON-TIKI man. It was important for him that his first wife, Liv, was part of the story. We
believe he really had a black hole in his heart because of how he treated her. Thor was a lonely
figure -- and that was the price he had to pay.
Your first film, MAX MANUS, deals with a famed Norwegian resistance fighter from the World
War II era. What draws you to stories about your home country?
They're great stories! That they both are true stories is just a coincidence -- but we believe that
that only makes them more interesting.
You chose to shoot the film in several different locations all over the world. What did this lend
to the final product in terms of authenticity and visual style?
We wanted this to be an exotic adventure, with nature in one of the major roles. We shot in six
different countries: Norway, Sweden, Bulgaria, Malta (and the Mediterranean Sea), Thailand
and the Maldives. These very different locations give the movie a rich look and enhance the
adventure. Shooting for over a month on the open sea also gave the actors the opportunity to
sail the raft for real and you can sense that in the acting. The Kon-Tiki raft in the movie is made
from the Tangaroa, a raft that Thor Heyerdahl's grandson Olav sailed from Peru to Polynesia in
2006. So the raft in the movie has actually made the voyage - it's almost the real thing. We hear
people say they think KON-TIKI reminds them of how Hollywood used to do movies -- that it's
classical in a sense.
What themes do you think resonate from KON-TIKI and what do you hope audiences take
from the story of Heyerdahl's journey?
We hope that it is inspirational. Thor Heyerdahl went on the voyage even though he was
terrified of water and could not swim - and that tells us something about what we can all do if
we overcome our own fears. Thor sold over 50 million copies of the Kon-Tiki book and that is
probably not because people are so into migration theories. It's because it's a real adventure
and it tells you that your life can be filled with more adventure too. We believe most people
have a dream of taking a few months off and go traveling -- do something extraordinary. And
hopefully this movie will inspire to actually do it.
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