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Screen » Film

Encounters at the End of the World

Director Aaron Katz on Iceland, weirdness, and Land Ho!

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Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) doesn't really have a say in the matter. When he arrives at the Kentucky home of Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson), his former brother-in-law and a recently retired doctor, the reserved Colin expects to have dinner, catch up, and maybe talk about how he's doing after the death of his wife, or how Mitch is doing after his recent divorce. But Mitch has other plans: He's booked them two first-class tickets to Iceland. Promising "the hot springs, the juicy, fantastic lobsters, and the gorgeous broads," the rowdy Mitch won't take no for an answer—and soon enough, the two septuagenarians are rumbling through Iceland's primal vistas in a massive Hummer, living it up in Reykjavík, and getting lost everywhere from night clubs to tundra, all while making their way through Mitch's copious supply of weed.

In most ways, Land Ho! hews close to the map of the American road movie, yet two twists—the Icelandic setting and Mitch and Colin's ages—make this boisterous comedy, co-directed by Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz, into something fresh, earnest, and charming. I spoke with Katz—a former Portlander, and the director of 2010's Portland-set hipster noir Cold Weather—about how he made one of my favorite films of the year.

On co-directing with Martha Stephens:"Martha and I, as well as our director of photography Andrew Reed, went to film school together at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, so we've all known each other for a long time. She called me early last year with this idea. At first the idea of co-directing seemed strange to me, but I quickly realized that collaborating on this project gave us freedom to cut loose, to be adventurous, to try some weird stuff. On set we were frequently reminded of how important it is to actually consider every idea, no matter how crazy it might seem at first. A lot of my favorite things in the movie grew out of that approach."

On going from Cold Weather to Land Ho!:"In a lot of ways it was different and it was fun to make something that is, in some ways, a broad comedy. On the other hand, like Cold Weather, it's a take on a well-established genre structure. Also, like Cold Weather, we wanted the characters who inhabit that structure to feel like real people."

On Iceland:"Iceland was part of the idea from the beginning. Colder climates appeal to both [of us] so that was part of it. It worked for the story, too, because it traps these guys together even more so than if they were on a road trip somewhere other than a small cold island. We also liked the idea of contrasting juvenile jokes with a beautiful, otherworldly landscape."

On Earl Lynn Nelson and Paul Eenhoorn:"We wrote the parts for them. Earl Lynn is Martha's mother's cousin and he's a doctor in real life. When Martha initially called me to propose this idea she pitched it as, 'Let's take Earl Lynn to Iceland,' and we went from there. Around the same time I saw a great film called This Is Martin Bonner. Paul is in that and I thought he would be a great balance to Earl Lynn. Sort of like Steve Martin and John Candy."

On if Nelson and Eenhoorn hang out in real life (you'll want to know this as soon as you see Land Ho!, I promise):"Don't worry, the answer is yes. They live halfway across the country from each other, but when we're all together it's like a continuation of the movie. They're constantly ribbing and trying to one-up each other, but there's also real understanding and friendship between them."

Land Ho!

dirs. Aaron Katz, Martha Stephens

Tin Pan Theater

Opens Fri Sept 12

Speaking of Land Ho!, Tin Pan Theater

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