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CONTRABAND

About The Production
Iceland to Louisiana: Contraband Is Greenlit

In 2008, writer Arnaldur Indriðason and writer/ director Óskar Jónasson crafted the Nordic heistthriller Reykjavik-Rotterdam, developed and financed by the film's star and its primary producer, Baltasar Kormákur. The thriller follows a security guard named Kristófer as he is reluctantly drawn back into the world of alcohol smuggling when he takes a job on a container ship that departs Reykjavik, Iceland, and heads to Rotterdam, Holland.

A labor of love for Jónasson, Indriðason, Kormákur and their entire team, Reykjavik-Rotterdam was wellreceived in its home country of Iceland and throughout Europe. Two years later, Kormákur brought the idea of reimagining the film for English-speaking audiences to one of his agents. In turn, this led to British filmmakers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner deciding to develop the project as an English-language thriller under their production banner, Working Title.

Reflects Fellner: "It's not uncommon for a film to be reimagined for an entirely new audience. But what was interesting about the development of Contraband is that the original film's star, who was also one of its producers, wanted to change things up by directing the remake. Balt has long been known in Europe as a rising-star director. After seeing his other films, we had the utmost confidence in his ability to helm this project and tell a story that was a parallel to the one he had helped to create in 2008. With greater resources, we knew he could expand upon that world and create a thriller that audiences will thoroughly embrace.”

Alongside Working Title's Liza Chasin and Evan Hayes, two of the thriller's executive producers, Kormákur brought up-and-coming screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski onto Contraband to create another chapter in the tale. "Other companies and studios were interested, but I liked Working Title,” Kormákur compliments. "It's a fantastic company, and I've loved many of their films over the years. They put their hearts into what they're doing. At the same time, they have had much commercial success. Alongside Aaron's fantastic script, I had everything I was looking for, so it was a happy marriage.”

When considering their new setting, the team reflected upon Louisiana's role as a sizable gateway to the world's waterways, and the volume of the U.S. smuggling trade that passes through this region. Consequently, Kormákur, Guzikowski and the producers scouted the locale and decided that Contraband should be set in New Orleans, rather than Kormákur's native Iceland. "The story is universal,” explains the director. "It has nothing especially to do with Iceland or Rotterdam. Smuggling in America is more relevant than what we have in my home country.”

When producers Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson were given a copy of Reykjavik-Rotterdam, the two men quickly responded to the material and set up a meeting with Kormákur, Guzikowski and Working Title to discuss the possibilities of a partnership. Levinson walks us through Contraband's development: "Balt was attached because he produced the original film. I thought it was interesting that he produced and starred in the original but that he wanted to direct this version. He said that he only saw Mark playing the role that he originated, and that was a big endorsement.”

Wahlberg offers: "I loved Reykjavik-Rotterdam, and Balt and I hit it off instantly. He starred in and produced the original, so he knows the story inside and out.” As they agreed to the terms and began preproduction, Wahlberg knew that working with independent filmmaker Kormákur meant there would a unique energy on set. Says the actor/producer: "Balt had the same approach with Contraband that he's had with his movies that were a fourth of this budget. He was on set the whole time…jumping, running, showing me how to climb up things. He covers all the bases, and he's smart about the performances. I like his style.”

As his British and American counterparts partnered with him for the new thriller, Kormákur says that he didn't consider this iteration of the film to be a retread of his previous project. "It's a journey,” he offers. "I don't think of this film as a remake, but as an adaptation. I see it as one that has a story that has been used for another film. We created a new story out of Reykjavik- Rotterdam, and we used that as our inspiration for Contraband.”

Back in the Game: Casting the Action-Thriller

For Contraband, Kormákur employed the same casting technique he used during the years he made movies in his home country. Rather than choosing an actor by his or her looks, the director casts according to the performer's personality. "I like to find the core of people,” he says. "The outer appearance is less important. What is the person? You try to figure that out and make that right for the character.”

The first actor cast was the same man to whom the director brought his ideas for a film inspired by the one in which he last performed. Kormákur commends: "Mark has a mixture of boyish charm and toughness, and you believe him as a blue-collar guy. Chris has actually walked out of the criminal world, but then he's forced back in. That's the great thing about heist-thrillers. It's great to see people step outside the norm and do something that the rest of us wouldn't do.”

Describing his character, Wahlberg explains: "Chris is definitely a thinker, but he is not afraid to raise his voice or get his hands dirty.” For Wahlberg, when his character finds himself back in the game, and possibly over his head, that's when the fun begins. He offers: "Chris is continuing to try to figure out a way to survive, to still solve the problem and then get his ass home to his wife and kids.”

When it came time to casting the role of Chris' wife, Kate, a number of actresses were considered. None, however, brought the combination of beauty and iron will needed…until the performer who has handled the blockbuster Underworld series as effortlessly as she's helped create comedies and period pieces threw her hat in the ring. Of the production's decision to bring Kate Beckinsale onto the project, Kormákur says: "Kate was a good choice in many ways. She's obviously very beautiful, but, at the same time, very real. There is an interesting mixture of sensitivity and toughness in Kate, and her role is a bit different from the original.”

Wahlberg agrees that they wanted Chris' wife to have more of an attitude in this chapter of the Contraband story. "Kate responded to it right away and was hungry to do something different,” he reflects. "She reminds me a lot of Amy Adams in The Fighter. You're watching somebody you're used to seeing in a certain way completely surprise you.”

The actress admits that Guzikowski's taut narrative captured her attention. "Contraband has a gripping story and terrific characters,” she commends. "It created a world that I was interested in and one that was unfamiliar to me.” Of her role, the actress says: "She's a great character because she's loving and strong, tough and quite reactive.”

Beckinsale explains that because she is apart from her co-star for much of the film, she spent much time considering the relationships within her character's family. She says, "You have to fill in a number of things yourself so that when you show up to shoot, there feels like there's a history between your husband and yourself, or your brother, whom you've helped raise. It was important to feel that strong foundation there.”

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